It doesn’t matter how badly you want to work or what your fitness goals might be. When you’re shackled by self-doubt, it’s nearly impossible to break free from gym anxiety. While anyone can suffer from this toxic cycle, it’s especially difficult for women to break free in such a male-dominated space.
Sam McGowan, a Good Prep ambassador and online women’s fitness coach, has been there before. Even though she has total gym confidence now, she too, has fallen into the trap of gym anxiety.
We spoke with Sam to learn more about her gym journey, how she broke free from the self-doubt cycle, and her latest fitness advice.
Sam McGowan on Women’s Fitness and the Secret to Gym Confidence:
Let’s talk about what you do. How do you inspire gym confidence in women, and is there a one-size-fits-all formula?
I always go back to how my journey started out with the gym – I used to hate it and couldn’t think of anything worse.
So when I was actually shown how, why, and what to do … I fell in love.
That’s what I want for as many women as I can reach. Your physical and mental health defines how you live your life, so giving women the confidence to enjoy and thrive in a gym environment is my mission. Everyone should feel they have a place in the gym.
There’s never a straight answer I could give that would work for everyone, but I will say that most women who feel lost in the gym would benefit from a plan and some support.
That’s why I do what I do. Oftentimes, it really is that simple – so, I do my best to help as many women as I can feel badass in the gym.
What do you think is the #1 cause of gym anxiety and how do you recommend tackling it?
Everyone’s experiences and fears are unique, but I’d say the most common factor of gym anxiety is the fear of being judged or feeling self-conscious in a gym environment.
It’s a real shame to know that so many women feel this anxiety. It can stem from concerns about the way they look to not knowing how to use equipment to worrying whether their technique is correct.
Too often, they feel like they don’t belong compared to other members in the gym. Overcoming the fear doesn’t happen overnight, but it could quite literally be life-changing.
Here’s where you can start:
- Have a positive mindset by remembering everyone is focused on their own journey
- Educate yourself about gym equipment and exercises
- Set realistic goals and celebrate your progress
- Find support with a gym buddy, a personal trainer, or by joining group classes
- Start with less crowded times and gradually challenge yourself to busier ones
- Focus on your own progress instead of comparing yourself to others
- Have a plan of some kind before you even step foot in the gym – start with things you’re already comfortable with, then introduce something new when you feel ready
Be patient and be prepared to feel out of your comfort zone at times. But remember that we all start somewhere.
How much of a role does nutrition play in what you do? Do you meal prep?
I love food, does that count?
Jokes aside, I don’t believe you can look at training without looking at nutrition.
It doesn’t matter if you’re training for health, performance, or a physique-based goal. Your diet plays a huge part in your success.
For me and my clients, a lot of it is about the quality of food and being consistent. In order to get the most out of your training sessions, you need to be fuelled. There’s nothing worse than making the effort to go to the gym and feeling like you have no energy to do anything – that’s super common.
Right now, I’m actually training for a triathlon, which means I’ve really had to step up my training. Without proper nutrition, it simply just wouldn’t happen, so I’ve roped in the support of The Good Prep to make sure I have food ready to go at the right time.
I love cooking my own dinner in the evening, but having ready-to-go food that I know will support my goals is a godsend.
What do you typically eat in a day to support your weight training?
I have the right tools and education now to know what my body needs and when. I tend to focus on 3 good quality meals spread evenly throughout the day, with a snack or two in between. I often have a sweet treat post-dinner too.
For my main meals, I simply focus on a good balance of everything, and I make sure I get enough of it too. Protein, veg, carbs, and fats – I don’t overcomplicate it.
The most important thing is that I’m consistent, as not planning ahead can end up with me being under-fuelled, and that sucks. I’ve been guilty in the past of not being prepared enough with healthy meals; when my job is so active, it means I have no energy to train, and my mood is heavily impacted too.
That’s not fun for everyone, so having meal prep really takes that away so I can focus on the fun stuff.
Talk us through a day of your favourite TGP meals…
Ooft! Honestly, I pick different meals each week because I love all of them.
I’d say my favourite day of food would be:
- Nutella bagel
- Biscoff protein ball
- Lemon pepper chicken and herby potatoes
I’m excited to try the new muffins for breakfast too.
Do you track your food intake? And how strict are you about meeting your macronutrient goals every day?
No, I don’t. I guess I ‘track without tracking,’ but the focus is ensuring I’m being consistent with food to feel fuelled and energised.
Tracking can be a great tool if used in the right way, and only ever as a short-term solution. But with time, you learn to be able to do this without needing to log everything in an app – this is what I teach my clients.
I know the types of food I would benefit from in each meal, and I know how much, but I also find the issue isn’t what you eat or how much, it’s just doing it.
Being prepared, being more organised, and doing it when you don’t feel like it? That’s the hard part. I know what I’m doing, but sometimes I can be caught out when I’m busy or tired. That’s why I love having meal prep (although I often forget to order it in time too…oops).
Do you supplement your meals with any nutrition or sports supplements?
No, I’m a big fan of encouraging actual food over supplements. Food is great – we should be enjoying it as well as it simply being good for us. Nothing can replace good quality food, it’s that simple.
Supplements should only ever be used as additional support, rather than replacing anything.
What is the best fitness advice you can give to beginners in weight training and nutrition?
Pick one thing that you could work at, and get really good at it. Stop trying to do it all at once and overwhelm yourself with everything you feel you need to do.
Just pick one thing – one simple thing – that would have a big impact; for example, eating more veggies, or trying one exercise with weights.
Once you’ve nailed that, pick another. It’s way more fun, more successful, and a lot less overwhelming.
Thank you so much to Sam for sharing her insights! To learn more about Sam’s journey and tap her for fitness advice, be sure to follow her on Instagram @samsays_pt and check out her website www.samsays.co.uk.
To follow in her footsteps and implement health meal prep into your diet, build your custom plan at The Good Prep today!