“How do I gain enough confidence to go to the gym?”

—Blake M.*, Santa Clara University, California

Gaining enough confidence to start going to the gym could be one of the best things you do for yourself all year. If you have the desire to be physically active, don’t let a lack of confidence keep you from reaching your goals.

Typically, a lack of confidence comes from focusing too much on the unrealistic expectations or standards that you think others may have. Going to the gym should be something you do for yourself, to make yourself feel good and to contribute positively to your overall health. Here are two ways to help you combat lack of confidence and get to the gym:

1. Set your own realistic expectations This starts before you even go near the gym. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Different people are going to have different goals. Some people might be trying to build muscle while others are trying to lose weight or gain flexibility. Some might be recovering from an injury or an illness and are trying to gain back endurance and strength. You don’t know everyone’s story and they don’t know yours. Decide what you want to improve on and go into the gym with a plan to achieve that goal.

2. Learn proper form Another contributor to a lack of confidence is not trusting your abilities. The workout world can be intimidating, from all of the different types of cardiovascular and weight machines, to free weights, to a variety of classes in yoga, spinning, kickboxing, etc. It can be difficult to figure out what will work best for you and how to perform that specific activity. To help you get started in the gym with a specific plan, seek out the help of a personal trainer, a coach, or a friend who knows what they’re doing. Many fitness centers have someone on staff who provides complimentary sessions for first-time gym goers to help them learn what’s available and how to properly perform various moves.