How To Not Look Like An Asshole At The Gym (In Just 4 Steps)


One of my deepest fears has always been that I’m going to look like a complete moron whenever I try to do something new. So, I’ve always opted never to try anything different. Guess where that got me?


Dropping out of high school, working dead-end jobs, making friends with people who had a lot of drama, only attracting losers to me as partners, and weighing 300 pounds.


Not a glamorous or even enjoyable life.


Slowly, I started working on that part of me that doesn’t want to look like an asshole. A huge part of that came with getting my first gym membership when I was 26 years old and finding a way to pursue my dreams while minimizing how much I was going to embarrass myself in the process.


If you can relate to this, you’re in the right place.


For many women (and men) who struggle with being significantly overweight, it feels like a never ending internal battle to fight the negative self-talk voices in our head that tell us not to do it because we’re going to be made fun of and be rejected by others.


We don’t want them to see us huff and puff (and sweat),

We don’t want them to see how far we’ve let ourselves go,

We don’t want them to see how much better at exercise they are than us,

We don’t want them to see our fat rolls bouncing (or any skin that should be covered up),

We don’t want them to feel sorry for us (or glad they aren’t us),

and maybe the most egotistical reason: We don’t want them to know we know we need help.


But you’re in luck! You can put a muzzle on some of that negative self-talk by not drawing attention to yourself while in the gym. If you follow these four steps, you’ll be on your way to getting those thoughts out of your head and start making progress towards your dreams (like I did eight years ago).


Here are 4 things that will help you to not look like an asshole at the gym:



1. Choose the Right Gym for You


Hold up! Picking the right gym isn’t based on the fact that they have $0 enrollment, no contract, and charge $10 a month. When it comes to your gym, research and financial sacrifice are worth it. Cheap usually causes more pain. Think of it like dating. You don’t want to be chained to an a-hole you can’t stand to look at and won’t get a job.


-Do you know what your goal is (weight loss, strength, flexibility, social interaction,

endurance training, etc.)?

-How close is it to your home or workplace?

-Do they offer classes as part of the membership?

-Do they offer guest passes for you to bring a friend?

-Is it open access to the gym or do you have to call ahead?

-How important is it that your valuables are safe while you exercise?

-How important is competition against others to you?

-How important is having a predictable environment to you?

-Do you need access to a personal trainer (not just a “helper”)?

-How important is it that the facility is “family friendly”?


THE BOTTOM LINE: Gyms are designed to suit certain personalities, lifestyles, and goals. You WILL feel out of place if you’re stepping into a gym for the first time, you’re an introvert, your goal is to lose weight, AND you stupidly signed up for a Crossfit membership. You’ll have to push yourself even harder to get in there because it causes you more emotional discomfort than a YMCA (or traditional gym chain) would. Do your detective work and check out your local gym’s websites and social media. Get a feel for what they offer before you go there and get suckered into their marketing speech. Click here to learn more about getting the most from your gym experience.



2. Go During Non-Peak Hours


The timing of your workout is imperative as you’re building your fitness confidence. Going when the gym is at the peak of craziness is asking for punishment. You deserve better than that. If you want to practice using a piece of cardio or weight equipment that’s baffling to you, it’s always more zen-like to do when there aren’t 50 people staring you down waiting for their turn to use it.


Ask the front desk person when the fitness club seems to be least busy. They should know better than just asking a gym goer. If you want to be weird about it, ask them what time of day they run out of complimentary sweat towels the fasted (and then avoid that time of day).



5-6:30am 9-11am 2-4pm 8pm-close Weekends: just about any time


Click here to get more sneaky hacks to improve your gym confidence.


3. Learn from The Regulars


Most of us learn through mimicking others. I learned how to use (just about) all of the equipment at my gym by watching others perform the task first. Even a personal trainer shows her client how to use a machine or perform an exercise by first demonstrating it.


Here’s how you do it without being called out as a copycat: Find a treadmill or stationary bike near a piece of equipment you want to know more about. Walk or pedal slowly as you survey the gym environment. Pretend to watch the television monitor in the gym or look at the console of your treadmill or bike. As someone approaches the piece of equipment you want to learn more about, watch how they get on the equipment, what buttons they push, and the movement they make on it.


From this day forward, make it a point to choose different equipment to spy from. If you have a big gym, you’ll have opportunities to spy on other’s fitness routines from many spots in the gym—all without having to say hello first. Just remember to keep your creepy vibe to a minimum by actually focusing on your own workout, too.


Equipment you’ll want to learn how to use: stair master/stair mill, all the different ellipticals, treadmill, row machine, spin bike, and the weight machines typically found in a circuit. There are more, but these will be your basics that will help you gain confidence quicker. Click here for more how to’s on gym etiquette.


4. Rehearse Your Moves


Before debuting new exercise moves at the gym, try them in the security of your own home. Studying and practicing increases your badassery so that you don’t look like a jerk. You can learn just about any exercise move known to man on websites like or clip them out of your trendy fitness magazine.


And whatever you do, don’t break gym rule #1. Wait until you have a little more pep in your step before you straddle the adductor machine at your gym. Nothing causes more panic for everyone involved when you’re on that machine and making uncomfortable eye contact with strangers as they pass by. I promise it’s not desirable or enchanting. Just don’t do it. You’ll thank me later. Click here to find out what else to avoid at the gym.


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