Whether you are stepping into the gym for the first time or stepping in the gym after a long period of being away, it can be quite daunting. Even with my decades of fitness experience, many competitions under my belt, and podiums I’ve stood atop, I STILL get anxiety about walking into a gym. It became most apparent after my 5-year hiatus from the typical gym scene while I was starting a family.
‘Gymtimidation’ is real! You walk into the gym, see the expansive amount of equipment, or equipment you have never even seen before, crowds of people, or no people at all, even the mirrors reflecting your every move can make your heart race and your palms start to sweat. The anxiety and the stress set in, causing you to want to leave and never come back. These feelings can prevent you from achieving your fitness goals and that is the LAST thing anyone should want or allow.
The gym, a place meant for self-improvement, can paradoxically become a source of unease, affecting not just physical well-being, but also mental and emotional health. One of the most common sources of anxiety at the gym is the concern over body image and/or body dissatisfaction. Many people feel self-conscious about their appearance, worrying that they don’t measure up to the ‘fit’ and/or muscular individuals around them, or the ones that they see in perfectly curated, lighted, angled, augmented social media posts. These concerns can be particularly difficult to confront, especially if you’ve been away from the gym for a while and have let your fitness level slide.
While the fear of judgment and negative self-talk can be crippling, we must all remember we have to crawl before we can walk. Walk before we can jog. And jog before we can run. Some of us may not even want to run, and that’s ok! You do what is right for YOU.
I know, I know. It is easy to say all the typical clichés: “Do not compare yourself to others”, “This is your journey and no one else’s”, “We all had/have a day one”. But it is just as easy to fall into self-doubt and question whether you ‘belong’. Save this article and read this as many times as you need to: You belong. You.Belong. You. Yes, you! You, there reading this article on this beautiful Sunday…YOU BELONG! Today and EVERY DAY, at any and every hour, every minute, every second. You belong!
The true irony of gymtimidation is that to combat stress, anxiety, and depression, we need exercise. To exercise, we need to go to the gym, or wherever our particular choice in fitness may be. It is quite the vicious cycle we can trap ourselves in.
It is essential to understand that every person in the gym was once a beginner, and they, too, had their first day in the gym. Everyone’s fitness journey is unique, and it is all about progress, not perfection. I know, more clichés, but these ring true!
If the gym environment still feels intimidating, consider shopping around for a gym that suits you best. Look for a facility that aligns with your goals and comfort level. Some gyms offer orientation sessions or foundation classes for beginners, which can help you become familiar with the equipment, proper form, and etiquette, reducing the uncertainty and fear associated with working out.
Remind yourself that you are there for your own well-being and self-improvement, not to impress anyone else. The most important impression you can make is on yourself!
Fitness is for everyone, but it is not a one-size-fits-all. Find activities that you genuinely enjoy and make you feel good, whether it is weightlifting, pilates, swimming, walking, or group fitness classes. The goal is to become healthier and happier, not to conform to someone else’s ideal of fitness.
Focus on your personal journey and your own well-being. The gym is a place for growth, both physically and mentally, and with time and perseverance, the initial fears can transform into a sense of empowerment and accomplishment!
Need some fitness quotes to get you motivated? Here are a few of my favorites:
Fitness and health are not a destination. They are a lifestyle!
I do not have to workout, I GET to workout.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” -Theodore Roosevelt
One small positive thought in the morning can change the entire outcome of your day.
Respect your body. Fuel your body. Challenge your body. Move your body. And most of all, love your body.
And for my mamas:
I thought about giving up, but then I remembered who was watching.
Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kid(s).