I’ve had my share of negative thoughts when it comes to doing any kind of physical activity; especially when it comes to working out around others who may faster, more experienced or in “better” physical shape than I. Deciding to take the step and start an exercise routine is a choice you should make based on what’s right for your body, what’s going to improve your health and what’s going to make you feel good about yourself. However there’s something that many who want to begin running, going to a gym, swimming or any other type of exercise often lack: CONFIDENCE.
Working out in a public place can be especially challenging. Many people who are new to a gym, a fitness class, or even a running/walking path seem to focus their attention towards those intimidatingly “perfect” athletes, overlooking the fact that there ARE people of all ages, shapes, abilities, sizes, fitness levels and body types working out right alongside them!
When I first starting becoming more active, I remember feeling completely terrified of being laughed at, doing something wrong or having my flab jiggle much more than my so-called peers. It took me some time to figure out that I was being silly, and once I was able to find the athletic confidence to quiet down my insecurities, I was able to walk into a gym, public track or lap pool without fear or anxiety.
So how do you move past the nerves and find the courage to start?
7 ways to boost your athletic confidence
1. Use the buddy system. Grab a friend and get moving together! I’ve found in times when I’m most nervous, having a familiar face can be just the thing to get you settled into a strong workout routine. Working out with a friend or family member can also provide you with support and motivation throughout your journey!
2. Dress comfortably and wear clothing that fits. When you exercise in clothing that fits, feels good and looks good, your athletic confidence instantly boosts! It’s hard to enjoy a workout session when you’re feeling self-conscious about stuff riding up, rolling down, or making you look like a sack of potatoes (think big cotton t-shirts that you hope hide your fat– been there!). Invest in a few mix-and-match outfits, and as always, shoes that are appropriate for the workout you are doing. Bonus tip- always head into a workout with a sweat towel, deodorant in the pits, fresh and clean clothing and limited perfumes/scented lotions. Nothing will destroy confidence faster than feeling self-conscious about your hygiene during a workout!
3. Set goals. When you set a goal, and visualize yourself achieving that goal, you’ll instantly feel a boost in confidence. Sign up for that 5k. Register for that group fitness class. Join that gym. Once you’ve set the goal, share it with the world! You’ll gain accountability, tips, and maybe even a few workout buddies as you create connections with other like-minded people.
4. Speak and think positively about yourself. Share your successes with others, call yourself a runner if you run (even if it’s just a slooooooooow jog!), believe that you ARE an athlete, call yourself an athlete, and never, ever talk negatively about yourself and your abilities! It’s ok to be a beginner. Even the most experienced of athletes is constantly trying to better themselves!
5. Knowledge is power. Starting a workout routine can be intimidating, no doubt. Especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been there and have had all those questions of doubt floating in my head too: “Will I look stupid?” “What if I don’t have the right form?” “What if I get in the way of more experienced people?” The more you learn about exercise, the more comfortable you will be working out consistently. If you are able to add a trainer into your budget, even for just a month or so, you’ll automatically boost your confidence knowing that someone is there to help you every step of the way. Someone like Coach Becky Fox, from Fox Fitness, is a perfect example of someone knowledgeable, patient and experienced in the fitness field. She’s able to make her clients feel like they have control over their fitness and health by explaining every part of her program in depth!
In addition to working with a professional, consider reading some exercise books, blogs or watching videos to help you learn good form for any exercise you want to try. Also- don’t be afraid to ask others who are working out around you. You’ll be surprised to find that most people are willing to help! Become a pro at recognizing non-verbals to help you identify who you may think will be helpful, and of course, don’t forget to smile! If you’ve just joined a gym, it’s probably a good idea to take a tour or go through the facility’s orientation, so you’re able to learn as much about the gym as possible and boost your confidence.
6. Clear your mind. When you walk into a gym, or head to the local park for a few miles around the track, try to clear your mind and only focus on the goals you have set for this workout. People who are out there working out are there for the same reason you are. That focused runner on the path, the sweaty weight lifter working on reps, that person on the rower stopping for a water break: they’re not there to pass judgment on anyone. They’re trying to fit in a workout and improve their health- just like you. And many of them also deal with insecurities of their own! It’s human nature. Always keep this at the forefront of your thoughts and walk into a workout with a clear and confident mind. A good playlist of your favorite tunes or an affirmation you repeat to yourself will also help get you in the clear zone! I like to repeat the word “JUST GO” over and over again when I’m running- especially on those longer distances when I’m losing the motivation to keep pushing!
7. Smile, feel good and have fun. A workout doesn’t have to be “work.” Of course you want to get the most out of a walk, run or gym session, but it shouldn’t be a miserable experience that makes you NOT want to return the next time. Make sure you are well rested, well fueled and well hydrated before you do any exercise. That will help with the “feel good” part. As for the fun part goes, if you hate running, don’t run! Not a fan of the treadmill, try a fitness class (think Zumba or Orangetheory!). Don’t force yourself to do something you aren’t going to enjoy. A good rule of thumb is to give it 2-3 weeks before saying you’re not a fan. Give it time, recognize there’s a learning curve for all activities and give it a chance. And a smile? A smile is an instant confidence booster. Every. Single. Time.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Do share!