If you’re an introvert, going to the gym can take you out of your comfort zone.  The idea of working out in a group of strangers can be stressful. In fact, a 2016 survey found that four out of 10 Canadians are intimidated to go to the gym, and nearly two of those four (19 per cent) found the experience to be very intimidating. Chances are, many of these Canadians are introverts.

But going to the gym remains one of the most effective and motivating ways to stay physically active. Here are 5 tips for introverts to make going to the gym more comfortable and enjoyable.

Remember, they’re not judging you
It’s easy to imagine everyone is watching and judging you when you walk into the gym. The reality is that at least half the people in the gym are also introverts, and the remainder are likely more focused on their own workouts and appearance to notice what you’re doing.

Join a group fitness class or team training camp
Joining a group fitness class or a smaller team training camp will help you feel more comfortable at the gym. Group fitness instructors and coaches are always welcoming, and there is safety in numbers. You’ll blend in with the other class participants, who are all focused on the instructor’s moves and not you as you gain confidence in your knowledge and get one step closer to your health and fitness goals. In addition, most gyms offer guest passes for friends and family, so bringing a workout partner with you to a new class can lend some much-needed support.

Keep your workouts short
If too much time working out in a group of people leaves you exhausted and unmotivated, try working with a fitness professional to come up with structured, more efficient workouts that give you more bang while you are in the gym. Shorter strength training sets with heavier weights and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programs are examples of effective workouts that take less time.

Do what you love
Find your favourite activities and stick with them. Mix up your fitness routine to build strength and endurance. Consider checking with a personal trainer or other fitness expert at your club to learn more about different fitness options, including weight training, hot yoga, group fitness, boot camps or team training classes.

Bring your headphones
Sometimes the music and noise can be distracting. Consider investing in noise cancelling headphones and working out to your own energizing playlist. That way, your workouts can be time to re-energize and re-connect with your thoughts.

There’s no need for introverts to hide out at home any longer. Check in with a fitness professional at your club to develop a comfortable, effective fitness program that balances your need for ‘me time’ with healthier habits.