Getting in shape ain't easy.
Doing it without a workout buddy? Even tougher.
But you know what, there are actually a lot of benefits to standing alone while facing the fitness grind.
For one, you won't have to work around anyone else's schedule except your own. If your accountability partner is busy, or sick, or just feeling lazy, your won't have to worry about your own progress suffering.
Ultimately, you do fitness for you, and for you alone. So it makes sense that you'd go to the gym by yourself.
Still, that doesn't make it easy or any less intimidating.
Here are my best tips for how to go to the gym alone (and not be afraid).
1. Start Small
If you're new to the gym, and going by yourself, there's no rule that says you have to get in there and dominate on day one.
You don't have to be the toughest or fittest person in the joint.
Your first goal should just be getting over the barrier of going at all, and getting used to working out in a public setting.
Just get in there and do some light cardio or lift some light weights. Get a feel for the place. Start to get comfortable there.
(Hopefully, it'll be your second home for a long while to come!)
Take the pressure off of yourself to impress everyone.
2. Have a Plan
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
I used to occasionally get inspired to go to the gym. I'd get there and warm up on the treadmill for a bit. Then I'd wander around the weights section hopping on different machines, just kind of fiddling around until I was starting to feel fatigued.
Then I'd cool down and leave.
As you can guess, I never saw any progress doing this, and my motivation to keep going would go right in the toilet.
Do yourself a favor and find or come up with an actual workout PROGRAM, meaning, what will you do, exactly, when you step foot in the gym? (And how will you eat when you're at home?)
What's your goal for that gym day? A certain distance on the treadmill? A certain mile time? A new PR on the bench press?
Having a specific plan will make it much easier to keep going.
It's also really important to have some kind of training you actually like doing. Some people love working up a sweat with cardio. Others love lifting weights. Others get their best workouts from playing raquetball or pick up hoops.
If you're dreading going to the gym, it'll be that much harder to go alone.
(This complete workout and nutrition program was amazingly easy to follow... just three 1-hour gym workouts per week... and helped me finally get lean and toned at 30 years old.)
3. Pick the Right Gym
This is a big one!
Don't just pick the closest gym to your house or work, though convenience is certainly important.
It's crucial that your gym be a good fit for you, your style, and your goals.
Some gyms cater better to women. Some cater to powerlifters. Others are awesome for pick up sports. Still others are chock full of group classes and workouts.
Figure out what you like in a gym, take some tours, and spend some time on this decision. It'll likely have a huge impact on how consistently you make it to the gym.
(Check out my gym comparison guide if you're trying to decide between 2 major chains.)
4. Go at the Right Time of Day
If you're new to the gym and don't have a partner in crime, it can be intimidating to go AT ALL, let alone during peak hours when the place is packed and every piece of equipment seems to be in use.
Big gym crowds are a huge bummer, a major confidence killer, and can make you want to just turn around and leave.
If you have the flexibility to do it, consider going to workout during off-hours: usually mid day or late at night.
(Most people workout before or right after work.)
With less crowds, you'll feel less like people are staring at you.
5. Look Good to Feel Good
There's not really a whole lot of equipment you need to get a good workout, save for a decent pair of sneaker or workout shoes.
Ratty old shorts and a tank top are pretty effective at the end of the day.
But treating yourself to some nicer gear definitely has a positive impact on how you see yourself, and it'll boost your confidence when you walk into the gym alone.
Don't be afraid to splurge a little on some nice workout pants or a high-end tank. Anything that makes you feel good.
It'll pay off in your workouts!
6. Practice at Home or Outside
If you'd really rather 'get started' with a little more privacy, you could always do some workouts at home (or go running outside) to get in the swing of things before braving a commercial gym.
7-minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts are awesome routines you could do quickly at home and get great results in terms of strength and stamina.
(Check out the official 7-Minute Workout app)
If you're more into strength training and getting toned at home, you could start with this popular free bodyweight routine put together over on Reddit.
Or just get outside and run, jog, or sprint!
There are plenty of ways to build your workout confidence before you ever step foot in a gym.
7. Ask for Help
Those employees you see at the gym? They don't get paid to sit around and occasionally put some weights back!
If you aren't sure what to do, where something is, or how to use a piece of equipment, go ask them. They'd be happy to help (and if they aren't, you need a new gym).
It doesn't make you a loser or newbie to be a little confused and disoriented your first couple of times in the gym alone. Reach out for help when you need it and you'll get comfortable a whole lot faster.
8. Hire a Personal Trainer
If you've got the money for your own personal drill sergeant, it's hard to find better motivation than that.
Someone's who's going to hold your ass accountable for missing gym time or skipping workouts.
But even better, they'll go to the gym with you and show you exactly what to do and how to do it, properly, safely, and with perfect form.
That's worth shelling out a little dough for, though completely optional.
9. Follow Gym Etiquette
In other words, act like you belong.
Wipe down equipment and benches after you use them. Put your weights back. Don't hog machines for an excessive amount of time.
Don't be a jerk.
There's nothing more embarrassing than someone tapping you on the shoulder to call you out for some uncool gym behavior. So if you're trying to get comfortable, better to be on your best behavior.
10. Don't Hesitate to Take Up Space
Repeat after me: You have the same rights as everyone else in the gym.
Membership levels aside, there's no piece of equipment, no weight, no mat, no nothing you're not allowed to use because you're a beginner.
Just because you're lifting light weights on a machine and some huge muscle dude wants to use it doesn't mean he's entitled to make you feel rushed. He doesn't have more of a right to that machine just because he's a gym veteran.
This is especially true for going to the gym alone as a woman. Bulky dudes have a way of lording over the free weights section like they own it.
But remember, they don't.
11. Make Friends
So you don't have a gym buddy in your regular life, that's cool. Maybe you can meet one at the gym!
There's a guy at my gym that I occasionally spot for, and we make small talk about lifting or whatever else. It's really nice have a friendly face in the crowd. And there's another guy who likes to talk to me about the Baltimore Orioles (after he saw me wearing a shirt one time).
Go ahead, strike up a conversation with someone, as long as you're genuine and friendly, and it'll put you at ease.
Gym friends are great because they can give you energy and motivation without all the complications of trying to schedule gym time with your real life friends.
(Important note: The gym is really not the best place to hit on girls, guys. We're all there to work and get things done. Just be mindful of your actions and try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable or unsafe.)
12. Take the Plunge
Just go. Just do it!
Don't think, just go!
Get in your car and drive to the gym right now. Rip the band-aid off, my friend.
Muscled-up actor Terry Crews has famously talked about how important it is to just get into the gym and make yourself comfortable there, even if you're not ready to work out in front of other people yet.
Go grab a coffee from the lobby, sit down and read a book. Or just walk on the treadmill and watch TV or listen to music. You don't have to do anything you're not ready for, but taking the first step is critical.
13. Build the Habit
It takes time and consistency to build a habit. So the biggest thing you need to do is force yourself to keep going to the gym early on.
Those first few trips to the gym by yourself might be really hard and uncomfortable, but the more successful sessions you can string together (even if you do nothing but drink coffee there or walk on the treadmill, or just listen to music through your headphones), the closer you are to feeling at home in the gym.
If you're consistently going to the gym and feeling good there, that is a HUGE win. It's impossible to overstate how huge that is. Most people don't even get that far before they give up.
But you can be different, and you don't need anyone else but yourself.
(If you're looking for a freaking amazing workout plan to get you going and get fast results, take a look at the one that finally got me a flat stomach and toned muscles!)