Gymtimidation. It’s a very real issue that lots of people, especially women, face. Why woudn’t we? If you’ve never before worked out at a gym, the people in the gym might seem big and smug, and perhaps you have no idea how to use the gym properly (or at least, without embarrassing yourself in front of all the “fitness gurus”). And don’t even get me started on the free-weight section. So, how the hell are you supposed to get started with all this fear and intimidation weighing you down? So, you decide to skip the weights, perhaps hop on a cardio machine instead, or maybe you skip the workout all together.
Going to a gym for the first time can cause so much nerves, and it is one of the reasons why many of us never attend. The fear is also exemplified if you’re attempting to go on your own. And it is even worse if you are a woman wanting to lift some (relatively) heavy things, since the gym is a male-dominated space. The truth is, this fear does not disappear until you face it. Sometimes it even lingers for days, weeks, or months of regularly attending the gym. Sometimes it leaves but then returns when you transition to a new gym. The difference between someone who starts attending the gym and someone who never does is not intimidation or lack there of. It is the response to the intimidation. Discomfort is a funny thing. People do not change or grow without ever feeling uncomfortable. The key is to welcome the discomfort, embrace it, and realize that any fears regarding the gym are completely irrational. That fear is only as powerful as you allow it to be.
So let’s say that you’ve faced your fear, and you’ve gotten yourself to the gym. How do you work out with all these ripped buff guys around you, staring you down? First, you must acknowledge that people’s opinions/thoughts about you don’t really matter in this scenario. Your goal at the gym is to get healthy through fitness, and whether or not Mr. 400lbSquat thinks you’re an idiot is not going to affect that (unless you allow it to do so). It also helps to ask yourself why you’re so concerned with how others see you. Is it because you find them attractive? Is it because you find self-worth in what others think of you? Once you answer this question, you can begin to address the root cause of your discomfort and change your perspective.
With all that being said, what are some practical tips for feeling a bit more at ease while working out at a gym?
1. Ask for a tour.
Ask the front desk associate if you can have a tour of the gym. This will help you get familiar with the kind of equipment that is available to you and give you the opportunity to ask questions about how to use it. It will also keep you from wandering around in search of a specific machine/tool mid-workout.
2. Have a plan.
Decide what exercises you’ll be doing ahead of time. Walking in to the gym with a plan always beats wandering around trying to figure out what to do next, especially for a first timer.
3. Wear something you feel confident in.
If you do not have an outfit that accents the parts of your body that you love, then invest in one. This will help you with my next tip.
4. Be confident.
If you’re afraid and embarrassed, don’t be. And if you are, don’t let that be reflected on how you carry yourself. Walk around with your head held high and with confidence in every move you make. Remember, you’re working on your health, which is amazing! This will empower you to feel good about yourself and encourage you to continue attending.
5. Get to know someone.
Whether it’s an employee or another gym-goer, challenge yourself to get acquainted with someone. Having a familiar face to greet every now and then will help give you a sense of belonging. It can also help keep you accountable.
6. Go with a friend.
This tip is great for accountability. Some people have a much easier time keeping commitments to others rather than themselves. Also, if you “look stupid” while working out, at least you “look stupid” with a friend! Misery loves company.
As time progresses, and you continue to attend the gym, you will find that it becomes more of a habit. Consistency is key. Eventually you’ll realize that gymtimidation doesn’t sway you as much, even if it is still present. Its power over you dwindles the more you practice overcoming it.