Trying to conquer gymtimidation? Whether it’s related to the stigmatization of different body types, the fear of unknown workout equipment, or a lack of confidence in your own fitness levels, you’re not alone. Many of us shy away from exercising in gyms, pools, or other public settings.
“Gymtimidation” comes more from your self-limiting beliefs than your lack of physical ability, says Emma Middlebrook, a Portland, OR-based personal trainer and health and wellness coach with more than 15 years’ experience. She shared 6 tips with The FruitGuys Magazine that will help boost your confidence and get your body moving.
1. No One’s Looking at You—Seriously!
Taking a group class or working out at a big gym might make you feel self-conscious as if others are watching your every move. The truth is—they’re not. “Everyone at the gym is doing their own thing,” Middlebrook says. “They are thinking about what they’re doing and not watching you.” Once you start to focus on your own routine and form, you’ll notice yourself getting into the “zone.” Your attention will shift away from other people, and toward your own workout.
2. Don’t Get Bent out of Shape About Not Being in Shape
“I’ve had many people tell me that they want to go to the gym and get in shape before they come to [a personal trainer],” Middlebrook says. “That makes no sense!” If you feel like you don’t know proper form and technique, or just want to understand different equipment, she advises going to a trainer first. “They can teach you proper form and get you going. Then you can take that knowledge out and do it on your own.”
3. You’re Never “Too” Anything
It’s easy to come up with reasons for why we don’t want to exercise—I’m too big, I’m too old, I’m too fill-in-the-blank. Treat yourself with kindness for where you are now, and be patient. Everyone starts somewhere and everyone can improve. For instance, Middlebrook says, “I’ve got several elderly clients. There are a couple who when they first came to me they were pretty restricted in what they could do, how they could move. Now they’re doing two-minute planks. There are 35-year-olds who can’t do that!”
4. The Right Trainer Goes a Long Way
One of the best ways to get over gymtimidation is to find the right trainer; someone who will coach you. This can take some time and research, but it’s worth it. “I’ve had clients who’ve come in and felt they’re too ‘overweight’ to get started,” Middlebrook says. “The first thing I do is sit down and have a conversation with them. If their goal is to lose weight, we talk about what’s held them back, what they want to change.
Often, it requires a mindset change, which means really talking about it and listening.” You can ask at your local gym for trainers that specialize in your personal goals, such as weight loss, strengthening, running, etc, or try The National Federation of Professional Trainers, which has a database that lists certified fitness coaches. Middlebrook says to ask active people you trust for their recommendations. “Word of mouth is really one of the best ways—ask friends or family first.”
5. Shyness Is Ok
Group classes aren’t for everyone—and that’s fine. “There are so many resources now where you can get started on your own,” Middlebrook says. “There are apps where you can communicate with a trainer simply by text. You can do yoga on YouTube right in your house.” In fact, YouTube has a Fitness channel where you can subscribe to instructors of almost any kind of exercise routine you might want to try.
6. Reach out to Work Out
Once you’ve gotten started and feel more comfortable in your training routine, it can be incredibly motivating to help other gymtimidated friends begin their journey. “Share what you know,” Middlebrook suggests. “Take a friend—’hey, I’m gonna go work out, want to come with me?’ You can show them that it’s not this big, scary, intimidating thing. And helping someone else get started can be doubly motivating for you.”
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.