It’s no secret that exercise does wonders for both your physical and mental health. But working out in front of others—especially if you’re just starting out—can stir up anxiety similar to stage fright. This anxiety is called “gymtimidation.” Thankfully, there are ways to get around this. Let’s look at gymtimidation and how to face your fear in greater detail.
What Is Gymtimidation?
Gymtimidation is anxiety about working out in public, usually stemming from a fear of being judged by others. Despite the name, it isn’t specific to a standard gym—gymtimidation can accompany any physical activity.
There are several factors that contribute to gymtimidation impact. These include your gender, your comfort level with certain exercises or equipment, or even your mood. Thankfully you’re not the only one experiencing gymtimidation.
For those of you who have nervously looked around the gym and felt like everyone else knew what they were doing when you didn’t or they appeared more in shape, then gymtimidation may resonate with you. According to one survey, 50% of Americans stated that even the thought of working out in public was enough to stir up anxiety. Does this sound familiar?
7 Ways to Show Gymtimidation Who’s Boss
If you’re eager to embark on your exercise journey but feel that stage fright is holding you back, it’s time to take action. While it’s not recommend that you picture your entire gym community in their underwear, there are a number of other strategies to help navigate feelings of gymtimidation and prepare yourself for the gym. Fitness and psychology experts suggest the following:
Get In To Your Routine #1 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
Arguably one of the hardest parts about going to the gym is actually “going”. But you’ll find that each time you do go, it gets a little easier.
In his New York Times bestseller “Atomic Habits,” James Clear explores several strategies that help with habit formation. The first is called habit stacking—attaching your new habit to an existing one. For example, when you take off your work outfit each evening, try changing directly into your gym clothes.
The magic behind habit stacking is that instead of introducing an entirely new element to your routine, you’re tricking your brain into merely adjusting an existing one.
Finally, give yourself time (and patience). It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit. So start small, but stick with it. You may even find that as your habit solidifies, so does your confidence.
Work On Your Confidence #2 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
While gymtimidation manifests differently for everyone, feelings of vulnerability or perceived inadequacy are common threads. It’s natural to compare ourselves to others who we believe are more experienced or confident, especially if we feel we’re being watched as we stumble through our exercise. Not caring what others think of us is easier said than done. But we’ll let you in on a little secret: You’re not being watched or judged.
Psychologist Mandy Kloppers says the fear of being watched or judged, while totally normal, is usually unfounded. She also suggests we combat this fear by facing it directly—that is, going to the gym anyway—and that the more we go, the more our confidence will grow.
It may also help to remember that goals don’t have to be lofty. That’s where the SMART goal method comes in: Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, instead of saying, “I want to be a gym rat who’s super strong,” simply aim to attend the gym three times a week for two weeks. In other words, it helps to break your overall aspiration into actionable bite-size pieces with reasonable deadlines. It’ll feel great to meet your goals, and you can then set new benchmarks.
With dedication, you, too, can achieve your goals with confidence.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help #3 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
A major reason behind gymtimidation is a lack of knowledge of what to do while you’re there. Large, heavy equipment is daunting when you’re unfamiliar with it.
There’s no shame in asking for help from a gym staff member, a personal trainer, or even a fellow gym-goer. This can be a great way to build connections in your new fitness community, and you’ll likely find that your peers are more than willing to offer a hand or piece of advice.
Instead of seeking help from strangers at the gym, you can also ask your friends and family for advice, recommendations, or other pointers. Additionally, the internet is the biggest resource for anyone starting a new hobby. You can find message boards, articles, and support groups to answer your questions.
Give yourself a chance to achieve your goals by giving someone else a chance to help you with them.
Practice Before You Go #4 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
Okay, so there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to exercise. Your best at any given time is perfect enough. But it does take some practice to learn the ropes and build confidence. After all, there’s a reason it takes months of practice behind the wheel to get a driver’s license.
Practicing doesn’t have to mean doing five sets of reps every day or pushing the limits of your stamina. You can do simple movements in front of a mirror at home to practice your form, research various exercises with online videos, and do some light stretches or weights to keep yourself active.
Get In Your Zone #5 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
What pumps you up?
The right music creates the perfect background noise for your workout. Some people want something light and melodic to help them focus; others go for heavy metal to feel adrenaline. If you’re heading to a Zumba class, maybe you want to get in the groove with a playlist of songs your booty can’t help but shake to.
Whether you press play on showtunes, top 40, rock, or even a podcast, the perfect workout isn’t complete without the perfect soundtrack. Go ahead and put on your favorite guilty pleasures—no one can hear them through your headphones anyway.
Go With A Friend #6 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
Everything’s better with friends. If going to the gym feels scary and isolating, the companionship in working out with a loved one can help mitigate this discomfort. Not only can a workout buddy spot you if needed, but they can also help hold you accountable to go to the gym in the first place.
If you’re not quite sure where to start with your exercise journey, invite yourself along with a friend who goes regularly. You may even find a new activity you enjoy, and you’ll have a buddy built in already.
Find The Right Environment For You #7 Gymtimidation And How To Face Your Fear Tip
“Going to the gym” doesn’t have to mean running on a treadmill or lifting weights. Maybe you enjoy the puzzle of a bouldering wall or the thrill of a good dance routine. Maybe you’re looking for a spin class or yoga group to call home.
None of these options are better than the other—remember it’s all about you and what you enjoy. So, as long as you’re moving, you’re good. That’s why so many different opportunities exist. Explore your favorite way to get exercise and then pick a place you like. You’re more likely to go when you enjoy yourself and feel safe and comfortable.
Choosing The Right Gym For You
Some helpful factors to consider when settling on your favorite gym include:
- Convenience: Is the gym easy to travel to? Is it open when you want to go?
- Conditions: Is it clean? Does the equipment seem well maintained? Do their pandemic considerations meet your standards?
- Culture: Is it noisy? Do the gym-goers seem accepting? Is equipment hogged or shared fairly?
Remember, your fitness journey is exactly that—a journey, and yours to take. Wherever you start and wherever you end up are unique to you, and that is a powerful thing! For more insight on gymtimidation, check out the infographic below, courtesy of Tommy John.
Gymtimidation and how to face your fear: Key Takeaways
Sure it’s easier to let your fear take control of your actions. But by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone you become what you aspire to be and you’re successful at anything you set your mind on. Open your world to new opportunities and embrace the unknown—you have everything to gain.
Just to recap gymtimidation and how to face your fear essentials include:
- Know what gymtimidation is and be aware how it makes you feel so you can overcome it.
- Establish a solid workout routine and leave gymtimidation behind.
- Work on developing your confidence to give gymtimidation the flick.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help to overcome gymtimidation.
- Practice before you go to the gym and laugh at gymtimidation.
- Get in your zone by listening to your favourite tunes or tuning in your mind to focus on you and your body, so you block everything else out including gymtimidation.
- Go with a friend to the gym—there’s safety in numbers right?
- Find the right gym environment for you to kiss gymtimidation goodbye.
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