Let’s Talk About “Gym-Timidation”

Gymtimidation– What to do if the gym intimidates you

What to Do if the Gym Is Intimidating

Overcoming fear and intimidation in an industry that feeds on it is challenging. However, regardless of your age, gender or ability, or any other factor, you can overcome gym-timidation. Here's how. 

What is gym intimidation?

Gym intimidation is the anxiety present around being in a public fitness space. The feeling varies in intensity, duration, and cause. 

first-time jitters

Many first-time gym-goers have anxiety about what their experience will be like. There is no way of knowing what awaits. The first time often means being unsure of the equipment, the environment, the rules, and the intricacies of exercise. It's easy to get overwhelmed in a new place while you learn your footing.

returning to the gym after a break

Returning to the gym can be a heavy task whether your break was intentional or a consequence of chance. You might wonder if others will remember you or if you'll be judged for your time away. Beyond that, people returning to the gym following a break typically have an internal struggle with gym intimidation. It can make consistency and accountability difficult.

returning to the gym after an injury

Returning to the gym when you don't have the same strength or abilities may also invoke anxiety. You may feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed that you are incapable of the things you once were. Returning, relearning, and rebuilding should be your focus, but instead, you worry about how others will view you.

What causes gym intimidation

There are two main fears that fuel gym intimidation - judgment and vulnerability. We compare ourselves to others, so we're not sure we want them to see where we really stand.

Fear of judgment

A gym is a place where you often walk in and immediately look at everyone else. Our first thought and largest misconception are that, since we're looking at everyone else, they are also looking at us. And we equate those looks with judgment. The truth is that the amount of people in the gym judging others is grossly overestimated.

When you're looking around the gym at everyone else- the runners, the bodybuilders, the parents, the bros, the seniors - who are you judging the most? Yourself. 

You will always be the one judging yourself the hardest. Regular members are far more likely to help you with equipment or tell you about the gym's culture than to make negative comments.

Fear of vulnerability

Unfortunately, pride and ego play large roles in the fitness world and make it difficult to express vulnerability.  Acknowledging the truth of your obstacles and allowing others to see you where you are is frightening. But there comes a time when even the most researched and disciplined fitness professionals must seek help.

Whether you're struggling with accountability, understanding, or knowledge, the gym is a space where vulnerability creates growth. 

How to overcome gym intimidation

Everyone's a little different in how they cope with the pressure of a difficult environment. For some, being prepared is the best way to go. For others, not being alone makes all the difference. Here are just a few methods you can use to overcome gym intimidation. 

Go in with a plan

Most of us can attest to winging it through a workout. But creating a game plan as you go is stressful. Sometimes the machine you wanted is taken, while other times, you don't know what to do next. Either way, you're left walking around aimlessly, feeling out of place. 

Try to have a plan when going to the gym. It can be as simple as knowing what muscle groups you want to work on and how long you want to spend on each. On the other hand, you could plan out a detailed schedule of the exercises complete with the reps/sets necessary to achieve a specific objective.

find a gym buddy

Finding someone who can go to the gym with you is a great way to reduce gym intimidation. You're less likely to feel alone around someone with similar goals, skill levels, and gym experience. They provide a sense of belonging in a sometimes unfamiliar environment. In addition, they offer accountability in a more effective way. They're investing their time and energy into you, as you are into them, for absolutely nothing other than mutual betterment.

Tune it out

People are likely to glance in your direction at the gym. While most of these looks are meaningless accidents, they can be difficult to interpret when you're anxious. Listening to a podcast, audiobook, or music is a great way to tune out your environment. Zoning into one of these media forms can help distract you from possible anxiety triggers. This is especially helpful if you prefer to work out in isolation rather than in company.

try before you buy

Be it a day or a week, many gyms offer a free trial. These trials allow individuals to experience various fitness environments and workout styles before committing to a gym. Our advice is to explore your options and find an environment where you can succeed.

An ideal gym is one that:

  • Respectfully holds you accountable
  • Appropriately addresses your goals and concerns
  • Provides honest guidance
  • Encourages healthy habits

Seeking out a gym that lives up to these fundamental principles will be well worth the time you spend gym-hopping. Your workout environment should invoke feelings of comfortable exploration rather than fear. In other words, it should allow you a safe space to be vulnerable and learn.



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