How to Survive Going to the Gym When You’re an Introvert

All that noise? All those people? Gyms can be an introvert’s definition of hell on earth!

If you want to get fit, lose weight, build muscle, or tone up, going to the gym can help. Gyms have all the space and equipment you need to reach your fitness goals. However, if you are introverted, the prospect of going into a roomful of sweaty strangers can be very off-putting.

And, to make matters worse, while you are sweating and contorting your body in undignified ways, it’s very likely that someone will try to engage you in conversation. While usually well-meaning, such an advance can be enough to make you want to pack up and go home, especially if it’s a common occurrence. 

To get any benefit from exercise, you need to do it often enough to work, and that means you need to hit the gym several times a week. If you find the entire gym environment off-putting, that’s a lot of stress to have to deal with. It could even be enough to put you off going for good, and that means you’ll never reach your fitness goals.

I’m a long-term introverted exerciser, and I know firsthand how uncomfortable unsolicited conversation makes me feel. If you feel the same way, here are my top seven strategies for making going to the gym easier for us introverts.

7 Tips for Introverts to Make Going to the Gym Easier

1. Familiarize yourself with the facilities before your first workout. 

If you’re in the market for a new gym, once you have chosen somewhere you like, spend a few minutes exploring the facility so when you come back to work out, you know exactly where everything is. That way, when you return, you should feel more comfortable and are less likely to have to ask for directions to the bathroom or group exercise studio — a daunting prospect for many introverts.

2. Plan your workout in advance. 

If you’re anything like me, the idea of asking for help is almost unbearable. I’d rather spend an hour driving around in circles than ask a stranger for directions! Also, if you look a little lost in a gym, invariably, someone will come up to you and offer well-meaning if unsolicited advice. That’s something else that can make an introvert feel uncomfortable. 

You can avoid both of these problems by arriving for your workout with a plan. Go online and find a workout that’s right for your current fitness level and training goals. Next, fire up YouTube and check some instructional videos so that you know how to do your chosen exercises. 

Having done your homework, you can now cruise through your workout like a boss — and without having to resort to asking an instructor for help or looking lost.

3. Arrive ready for your workout, then shower at home. 

Gym changing rooms are often full of people passing the time idly chatting about nothing very important. This mindless chatter is part-and-parcel of most group environments but can make us introverts feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable. 

Avoid this danger zone by arriving at the gym in your workout clothes and then, if possible, heading home for your shower. This may necessitate a quick change of t-shirt to save staining your car seat with sweat, but that’s a small price to pay for avoiding unwanted small talk.

 4. Wear headphones. 

Nothing protects you from unwanted interactions like wearing headphones while you work out. It’s generally accepted that other gym users should avoid talking to people wearing headphones. It’s the fitness world equivalent of a porcupine raising its spines!

Wearing headphones also allows you to drown out the usually bland and generic music that most gyms pump out 24/7. The right music can enhance every aspect of your workout, and it’s a real joy to know that every song on your specially procured playlist is one that you love.

5. Try the “one set and done” workout method. 

If you lift weights, you probably do several sets of each exercise in your program. Maybe you do three sets of ten reps, four sets of eight, or two sets of 20. It all depends on the programs you are following. 

It’s unlikely that anyone will roll up on you and start a conversation while you’re exercising. However, when you stop to rest between sets, your defenses are down, and you are a prime target for some banal conversation. It can be hard to break off these uninvited chats without seeming rude, even though your two minutes of rest are up, and you really want to get back to your workout. 

Avoid this problem by using the “one set and done” workout method. In simple terms, become a workout butterfly and move from one exercise to the next after only doing one set. This makes you a continually moving target — and one that’s hard to ambush with unwanted chitchat.

This method is ideal for beginners and those of us training for weight loss. However, if you are into bodybuilding-type training, this method may not work very well for you.


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6. Be an off-peaker if you can. 

Even if you put these tips into action, you may still find yourself in a crowded, noisy gym where everyone except you seems to be super fit and knows exactly what they are doing. This can be very intimidating and could even be enough to put you off the gym for good. 

Avoid being made to feel like this by hitting the gym during off-peak hours. Most gyms publish attendance figures so you can see when they are busiest. If you can, go when the gym is quietest. This may mean going at unsociable times, such as very early in the morning, but you’ll be rewarded with a much more relaxed workout atmosphere.

7. Consider alternative introvert-friendly workouts.

While gyms are great places to exercise, as an introvert, you may decide that you feel so uncomfortable that you’d prefer not to put yourself in that position day after day and week after week. I don’t blame you!

The good news is there are lots of ways you can work out, get fit, lose weight, and tone up that are ideally suited to introverts. Good examples include:

  • Walking, jogging, and running
  • Kayaking and paddleboarding
  • Cycling
  • Swimming 
  • Rollerblading

Alternatively, you can set up a home gym relatively cheaply and work out in peace on your own. If you have the space, you should be able to get everything you need for no more than a couple of years’ worth of gym membership. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can have a great at-home workout with nothing more than an exercise mat, a jump rope, and some cheap resistance bands.

If you care about your health, exercise should be part of your lifestyle. However, being an introvert can make some types of exercise uncomfortable. I’ve worked in and around gyms most of my adult life, and I still feel self-conscious and wary when I go to the gym. I have no doubt that a lot of other exercisers feel exactly the same way.

I hope these tips help you make the gym more introvert-friendly. And if it doesn’t work, it’s good to know you can always work out alone at home or go for a walk or jog instead. Introverts, what tips would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

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Written By

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and freelance writer who specializes in exercise and nutrition. He has authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos. Always practicing what he preaches, Patrick has competed at a high level in several sports including rugby, triathlon, rock climbing, diving, trampolining, and most recently, powerlifting. When not training, researching, or writing, Patrick is busy enjoying the sunny climate of Cyprus where he has lived for the last 15 years. His favorite companions are his Great Dane dogs and his wife Viki who understands that his introversion is what makes him such a great listener!