How to Overcome Barriers When Getting into Fitness

Offered By RJ Fitness and Wellness Coach

We all know the benefits of regular exercise, but biting the bullet and committing to getting more active can sometimes get in the way of our inner intentions. Our minds can naturally think of lots of reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t try something new. As creatures of habit, trying to rewire our mindset can sometimes be one of our biggest challenges.

Happy mixed group in gym setting.

If we explore the most common barriers a little bit more and reframe how we approach them, then perhaps we can reset our attitude and feel more confident when it comes to getting active.

As a personal trainer, I have helped a wide range of clients overcome a number of barriers that have held them back from getting more active and subsequently reaping all the rewards that increased physical activity can bring.

‘It’s intimidating’ 

Many people can feel intimidated by going to the gym or joining a group or class. Let’s be honest, it takes guts to try something new. From equipment you might not know how to work, keeping in time with the beat of the music to even understanding what the instructor is saying – just what do some of those phrases mean?

Firstly, as a fitness professional, let’s start with how amazing it is that you’ve shown up. No one was born knowing how many reps are required, or just how each piece of equipment works. We all started at the beginning. Even the fittest of gym bunnies took their first tentative steps feeling unsure and out of their comfort zone. You may be surprised to learn that in every gym, whether they say it or not, there are lots of members pleased to see you arrive and are secretly cheering you on.

Smiling mature male in fitness class.

A great way to overcome feelings of intimidation when it comes to starting fitness is to realise you are just launching your relationship with fitness. Now, this should never be rushed. Understanding your starting point is one of the most important factors to getting to where you want to be.

You see, even the most accomplished athletes started at the very beginning and didn’t rush their training. They made achievable goals and focused on those until they were ready to move on to the next challenge. Your relationship with fitness isn’t a sprint, it’s ideally a life-long investment in yourself, so easing yourself in gently is a perfect start.


The nerves associated with starting something new can range from mild to severe and many clients I have worked with have struggled with this at some point. There are some great tips to overcoming feeling nervous:

  • Plan your day - ensuring you are not rushing is a great start, allowing you to arrive in good time and therefore minimising stress.
  • Arrive a few minutes early – most coaches or trainers should be setting up before the class or session begins, so it’s a great opportunity to let them know that you are new and allows them time to explain what the class or activity involves. Never underestimate how excited us professionals get when it comes to welcoming someone new.
  • Don’t place too much expectation on yourself – learning a new activity is quite the sensory overload. Not only are you learning new moves, taking on new instructions but trying to keep the two coordinated. Each activity gets easier with time.

Female concentrating during fitness class with resistance bands.

Remember when you started learning to drive? You weren’t changing gears smoothly to begin with, it took time, practice and patience. Allow yourself the same grace and acceptance with fitness.

Your Own Cheerleaders

Believe it or not, some of my clients have previously struggled with the lack of support offered to them by their nearest and dearest, and if you find yourself in the same boat, know that you are not alone.

Now, this may not be a conscious lack of support but changes to routine can disrupt the status quo. It’s important to understand that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm or desire to make changes, so really defining what this change means to you and using this as your motivation is crucially important. Getting fitter and more active is an act of self-care, and carving out time for you is never selfish, it is essential when it comes to being able to give to others.

Mature male being guided by personal trainer with hand weights

The benefits associated with increased activity, such as mental health benefits, improved sleep, mobility and cardiovascular health can be life-changing and inspire others to follow suit.

Lack of Confidence

If you are struggling with confidence levels, it could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s down to your basic level of fitness, body shape or perceived level of strength. It’s important to understand that the vast majority of those who either attend a gym or fitness class are all at different levels of fitness and come in all body shapes and sizes. That’s what can make a gym or class a brilliant community – it’s all about variety.

It's also essential for you to understand that all of these things are fluid and not set in stone. The amazing thing about your body is how unique it is and how it can change. Once you get to grips with how your body can embrace fitness, suddenly there seems little to hold you back.

Female weightlifting with PT instructor

You may think that others are watching or even judging you, but perhaps really what is happening is that you are being seen as a goal-getter, someone who is passionate about their health and inspirational for taking action. In groups that I lead, you are also seen as an exciting new member of the team.


With our interconnected lives and extra demands, finding time for fitness can easily sink towards the bottom of our to-do lists. Whether you have a demanding job, a busy family life or are juggling studies, finding time can be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to getting more active.

Nationally, adults in England should aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, accomplished in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Depending on your circumstances this may be easily achievable whereas for others this will take planning, but either way it still takes commitment.

Woman rehydrating whilst in a group cycle class.

When you are starting out, be careful not to overload yourself or over-committing to a set number of hours. The key is to build your activity levels into a sustainable routine that can be built upon. Equally as important when it comes to time, is finding something that you enjoy – this way it doesn’t have to feel like a chore or something you have to endure for a number of hours. Variety also helps, not only from a motivational point of view, but also in developing other muscle groups, strength and stamina.

There are so many options for you to explore whether on your own, with a coach or as part of a class. The infectious nature of classes can not only inspire you to keep going but also the opportunity to make a whole new group of friends, whilst a coach can give you the dedicated time and expertise to help you start, maintain and reach your goals.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”


Interested in learning more about the author?  Read more about Rachael Jackson, founder of RJ Fitness & Wellness Coach.

Active Health and Fitness Women's Health

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