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Do You Avoid the Gym Because You Feel “Gymtimidated?”

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Try These Confidence-Boosting Tips.

It’s no surprise that gym memberships spike in January when millions of Americans make fitness their New Year’s Resolution. What may surprise you, however, is that 80 percent of people who join a gym in January quit their routine by month five. For many, it’s not the sore muscles or even the membership costs that cause people to bail on their annual commitment. It’s a genuine emotional factor: gymtimidation. It’s a state of nervousness and anxiety that keeps people out of the gym and missing opportunities to get the 30 minutes of regular exercise that we all need three to five times per week. If you’ve found yourself avoiding the gym because you feel less fit, less capable, or uncomfortable in the gym environment, you’re not alone. But that anxiety ends here.

Why Do We Feel Gymtimidation?

Causes of gymtimidation are many and various. A survey conducted by a women’s magazine found that:

  • Two times as many women as men experience feelings of insecurity and intimidation at the gym
  • 44 percent of women fear the weight circuit specifically
  • 14 percent of women are made uncomfortable by glances from male gymgoers
  • 20 percent of men and the majority of women are most afraid of appearing out of shape compared to peers

There are many ways to get your 30-minutes of daily exercise, including walking, using fitness videos at home, and jogging in your neighborhood. However, if your schedule and lifestyle make the most convenient and safest environment to get fit, then don’t let your fears or insecurities keep you from pumping iron, taking a class, or hopping on a treadmill. Instead, try these gymtimidation-reducing techniques to take control of your confidence and max out your reps.

  1. Find a Gym with a Comfortable Vibe. Every gym—from international brands to local, privately owned businesses—has its own unique culture. Some create environments for people looking to maximize muscle gain, while others foster a culture of acceptance. If a you-do-you atmosphere is what you need to succeed, then shop around until you find a gym that fits your needs. For women, if a female-only gym would help you avoid insecurities around men, there are options available to suit your comfort zone.
  1. Take Advantage of Your Free Training Session. Most gyms offer new members a free personal training session to help them learn their way around the equipment and train them on how to use the weight machines with proper form. Take advantage of the freebie session and learn how to properly use the machines so that you don’t find yourself avoiding them out of uncertainty or insecurity.
  1. Go With a Friend. If the idea of braving the gym (and that strange machine that looks like a torture device) makes you squirm, then take your best friend with you. Take a class together, use side-by-side ellipticals, or master the weight machine circuit as a team. By leveraging the buddy-system, you’ll feel less alone and exposed and can focus on the reason you’re at the gym in the first place—your heart health.
  2. Scope it Out. If walking into a gym and seeing dozens of people confidently and competently doing their things makes you want to turn around and run back out, take a breath, and tell yourself that you don’t need to rush or immediately jump into activity. Take a lap around the gym. Learn the layout of the room. See where all the equipment is, and decide what you want to focus on (Cardio? Strength training? Stretching). By giving yourself time to acclimate and assess, you can overcome your initial flight reactions.
  3. Remind Yourself that Many of Your Fears are in Your Head. Confidently tell yourself that no one is judging you. Honestly. Most gymgoers are focused on their personal goals—not the progress of their peers. Sure, you may find yourself catching sideways glances from Zumba classmates, and you too may find yourself marveling at the fittest man or woman in the room, but unless anyone actively harasses or intimidates you, your comparison fears are in your head. Of course, if someone does harass you, report them to management. That breaks the unspoken gym code.

Everyone has the right to feel good, be healthy, and be confident. Never let anyone intimidate you in a way that creates barriers to healthy lifestyle decisions—even if that person lives solely in your head. By remaining confident and giving yourself time and space to acclimate to the gym environment and learn how to optimize your time, you’ll soon be in a position to help out other newbies when they have questions or concerns. Now, won’t that feel good?

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