If you didn’t already know, I started this blog as part of a continuing education course I was taking. The course, which just wrapped up last week, was on digital communications and social media – a field I’m really interested in, but only had a general knowledge of.

I remember reviewing the course description the week before class began and getting really nervous about some of the unfamiliar things I would be doing. So much of it was uncharted territory for me.

Weekly online class time via webinar? Would I have to be on camera too?

Using Twitter? I don’t know anything about Twitter!

Writing blog posts? What would I write about?

A group assignment in an online class? How on earth would that work? How would we pick our groups? What if I was picked last?!

When the class began, I was still nervous, but mostly nervously excited about stepping out of my comfort zone for something that I knew would be worth it. As you know, outside of your comfort zone is where the real magic in life happens.

I’m not a huge risk taker. Most people know this about me. I’m an introvert who often prefers observing over participating, listening over voicing a strong opinion. And I love hanging out in my comfort zone.

Leaving that cozy bubble of comfort is hard to do — I feel scared, vulnerable, and sometimes a little sick to my stomach. I’m sure you’ve been there.

But when I finally do push past those nerves, and take that leap to try something new, I get a huge thrill. That fear of the unknown becomes the thrill of the possible. And suddenly I can’t wait to find out what is around the corner.

I felt that same nervousness and fear of the unknown when I first joined a gym. I bet most people feel the same way. Gyms can be intimidating places filled with equipment you’re unsure how to use, and people who seem a lot more experienced than you. A lot of thoughts run through your head when you walk in for your first session or workout:

What kinds of exercises should I be doing?

That equipment looks too complicated. Am I using this properly?

I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel really silly.

Those thoughts are uncomfortable and also very natural. But fear not! Here are some suggestions and things to keep in mind if you’re venturing out of your comfort zone and trying out in a gym for the first time.

Have a plan

You can’t bake a cake without a recipe or get to a new destination without a map, so why walk into the gym without a plan? My number one suggestion for people who feel uncomfortable stepping into a gym alone and aren’t sure what to do is to find a program to follow. Whether it’s a book, an online program, or an app, find something that will help get you started and keep you on track. Just make sure it’s appropriate for your fitness level and remember to listen to your body first. Also, jot down your progress each time so you can see the results of your hard work from week to week.

When I joined my current gym five year ago, I photocopied all of the workouts from Female Body Breakthrough, by Rachel Cosgrove, and took them into each workout with me. I was the newbie in the room, but I felt more confident and focused because I knew exactly what I had to get done each time.

Enjoy your time

If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you won’t stick with it, right? Fitness shouldn’t feel like torture and you didn’t pay all that money to dread every gym visit. You’re not there to punish yourself, you’re there to move and challenge your body in a way that makes you happy. Try different equipment and machines and find out what appeals to you. Not sure what to do with that medicine ball or stair climber machine? You can find YouTube instructions for almost any piece of equipment in your gym.

Try a class

If you prefer to work out with others but you’re not sure what you’ll enjoy, try a few different classes. Most larger gyms offer a variety of classes featuring everything from yoga to Zumba to boot camp. See what gets you excited and keeps you motivated.

Everyone starts at day one

Always remember – every single person in that gym was once a newbie too. They each had their own first day in the gym, or first day in Zumba class, or first day of lifting weights. Everyone starts at day one, and the only difference between you and them is that they are just at a different point in their journey.

Learn the rules

If you’re a rule follower like me, being aware of the written and unwritten rules of the gym will help you feel more comfortable in your new surroundings. The gym likely posts its house rules, such as wiping down your equipment after you’ve used it or returning weights to the weight racks. But there are other unspoken rules that you’ll want to follow such as don’t hog too much equipment, especially when the gym is busy. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and you’ll learn these rules quickly.

Ask for help
Source: GraphicStock

Don’t be afraid to ask gym staff for help when trying out a new piece of equipment. Or better yet, if you can afford the time and money, find a personal trainer who can teach you about good form and help you meet your goals. Be sure to find a trainer who is supportive and makes you feel good about yourself and what you’re trying to achieve.

You deserve to be there too

Remember that no matter where you are in your personal fitness journey, you deserve to be in that gym, working towards your personal goals just like everyone else. You might feel awkward and uncomfortable during your first couple of visits. But if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, magic will happen.

Have more tips? Please share them below!