Whether you’re planning a trip away or are braving the possibilities of heat on home soil, for many of us, the anticipation of summer also comes with the desire to add some tone to otherwise unexposed body parts. Perhaps you’ve ran through one too many home workouts, you require an external motivator, or a friend is pressuring you to accompany them for an hour or so of what you fear might be hell: but the time has come upon you, that now, you should go to the gym.

The decision to enter a gym is not one taken easily. Aside from the costs, the effort of signing up, and even making the time, it is also a place where many of our own insecurities are exacerbated. Whether we are unconfident about our level of fitness, our strength, or even our general appearance, it is easy to visualise the gym as being a space filled with smug, perfectly muscled star athletes, with all the maturity and sensitivity of Hollywood-esque frat bros. We fear that our poor form will be laughed at; that our red, sweaty faces will ignite whispers, stares and sniggers. Depending on where the gym is located, we might even be afraid of being spotted by someone we know.

While most of these worries are baseless, they are perfectly valid. Going to the gym can be incredibly anxiety-producing. Even regular attendees can still experience the same painful self-doubt, when trying out a new workout or a piece of equipment. This is why I have compiled a list of tips, based on both my own experience and advice provided by experts, to help you cope with your gym anxiety. If I can muster up the blind courage to perform a bunch of hip thrusts in a male-dominated weights room, I promise, so can you.

Tip One: Do your research.

We fear what we don’t know. So that’s why it’s a good idea to do a little practice run-through of what exercises you want to try and what equipment you want to use. YouTube is a fantastic resource for quickly picking up the basics of using different machinery, as well as outlining the correct form for certain moves. Just make sure that if you’re really unsure of something, you ask one of the members of staff around you for advice; a little undue embarrassment is definitely worth saving yourself an injury.

Tip Two: Give yourself time to feel out the equipment.

Don’t feel pressure to launch straight into a ninety-minute intensive workout plan the second you step into the gym. Allow yourself a couple of sessions to take the opportunity to go through different exercises slowly. No matter how much prior research you’ve done, trying out something new in a public space is always going to be a little intimidating.

Tip Three: Bring a friend.

As they say, there is safety in numbers – being embarrassed with someone is definitely better than suffering through it by yourself. Plus, if you are fortunate to have a companion more versed in fitness knowledge than you, they can also help advise you on both exercises and form.

Tip Four: Keep going.

This final tip is simple, but, ultimately, the most important. Even if for the first two or three trips, all you can bring yourself to do is jog on the treadmill or mess around with the five kilogram free weights, the best thing you can do is to show up. The more you expose yourself to the environment, no matter how painfully self-conscious you feel, the less scared you’ll become. Eventually, who knows, you might even slowly, slowly edge your way towards the heavy weights area, where the sculpted, hardcore gym-goers reside. It is