Gymtimidation: How I Conquered My Fear Of Exercise

Gymtimidation and how to get over it

This week, I attended my first (outdoor) exercise class since the lockdown and truth be told, I was terrified. 

Partly because it was spinning and I know from experience that it basically destroys me. But mainly because I felt I was going back to square one. 

Just before lockdown, I’d really gotten into the gym – I was going 4 days a week, and whilst still not ‘fit’ I was seeing improvements and loved how it made me feel so much more energetic and confident in general. 

My gymtimidation was a thing of the past… but now it’s back and lurking at the side-lines so I figured it was the perfect time to share a post I’d drafted some time back, but never got round to posting.

……

Up until the last few years, I was somebody who hated exercise. I had a bad case of gymtimidation – and truth be told, any form of working out would make me nervous.

And I mean genuinely hated it… I wouldn’t run, even if it meant missing my bus. Whenever I looked back on my past experience with exercise, the picture was pretty clear: it just wasn’t for me.

Most people cringe when they remember being chosen last in PE, but I would wholeheartedly agree with the people that didn’t choose me. I was inarguably shit at it. So much so that when I would ask if I could ‘revise’ instead the teachers wouldn’t bother to argue – they could tell I was a lost cause.

So now it seems strange to think that in the past 2/3 years I completed a Couch to 5k programme, joined a running club and once that subsided joined a gym.

If I’m honest, the idea of me joining a gym isn’t that strange – I’ve joined numerous gyms in the past and went about twice before being scared off and falling victim to gymtimidation – I guess you could say I’m easily gymtimidated!

But for the last month, I’ve been eagerly going to the gym a minimum of four times a week. And now I am a woman obsessed: I talk about my workouts, I eye-up leggings when I shop and daydream about all the classes I could attend if I didn’t have to work.

And this is because I managed to overcome my gymtimidation. (And probably the extra endorphins)

It sounds silly doesn’t it, being scared of going to the gym and exercising in general. But I was scared, and I was embarrassed about being scared.

I was scared of not knowing what to do and how I was supposed to do it.

I was scared of not being able to do it.

I was scared of using the complicated machines wrong and looking like an idiot.

I was scared of what people would think of me – specifically the regular gym-goers who looked as if they had been weightlifting and running since birth.

I was scared of failure – promising myself that I would go get fit, and then not getting fit. Instead of just giving up after a session or two like I normally did.

 In a roundabout way, I was scared of letting myself down.

I might be totally misguided here, but I don’t think I’m the only one with those fears and many others fears besides them. When society only shows us images of people exercising who are already super fit, it’s easy to feel like we don’t belong.

But I got over my fears, and you will too. So, without further rambling, here is how I got passed gym intimidation

  1. Choose the right gym

I’ve been to a few in my time, and looking back I can see why many didn’t work out. The one I use now may not be the most flash, but the people are ‘normal.’ They span all ages/genders/shapes/fitness levels and whilst many are phenomenally fit, most don’t look like the next big fitness influencer. Also, the instructors don’t just presume you know what certain muscles or movements are.

It probably says more about me and the internal work I need to carry out, but when I started working out there was nothing more intimidating than lycra-clad gods/goddesses who knew exactly what they were doing and expected you to know too. It was like these people were specifically designed to trigger gymtimidation.

Many gyms make you sign up for a monthly membership, but if it’s not the gym for you have no shame and cut your losses. Cancel the direct debit and try a different one.

2. Go to the induction.

Sounds basic I know, but I guess I was too big-headed to think I needed one.

I figured it would be a walkthrough, where they told you what each machine was and where the fire escapes were. I mean its always good to know where the exits are but I was pretty sure I would just forget how to use the machines if I used them at all.

My gym basically doesn’t let you attend any classes without an induction, so I was forced to go and I am so glad I did. Rather than just telling you about the machines, it’s a chance to actually use them with someone showing you how (this helped me remember the instructions a lot better!) and it’s an opportunity to become familiar with the staff so next time you go, there’s at least one friendly face.

3. Invest in some sportswear.

I say invest, but that doesn’t strictly mean spending loads. When I first started I bought some cheap gym kits because I didn’t want to spend loads on something I wasn’t sure I’d actually use. However, I’d strongly suggest buying something, mainly for its mental effects.

Getting changed into gym clothes has become a bit of ritual for me when I wear them I began to feel more energetic and ready to kick ass before I’ve even worked out.

You know that one dress that makes you feel like you may be named FHM’s sexiest woman of the year in a shocking twist of fate? Well, it kinda works like that but in a sporty sense.

Full disclosure, I may have ruined this one by living in leggings over lockdown, but I’m hoping to recapture the magic now I’m back at work.

As it comes to the end of this post, I guess the tips aren’t that groundbreaking, but I just want you to know you are not alone in feeling nervous about exercise and there is no shame needed.

If all else fails, try to ignore the looming sense of gymtimidation, take some headphones and focus on how smug you can feel afterwards.

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