How to Deal with Gymtimidation
Yep, you read it correctly - GYMTIMIDATION - and yes, it’s an actual thing!
Have you ever felt too scared to join a gym? Self conscious about the way you look (or the way you think others will perceive you), embarrassed by your less-than-olympic fitness level, or intimidated by the picture perfect bikini models in crop tops? Do you think you’ll be stared at, laughed at, judged? Or are you just worried you won’t have a clue how to use the machines and you’ll look like a complete tit? That my friends, is gymtimidation, and I’m pretty sure it’s something that is more likely to affect us women.
I’ve been there, when I first joined a gym a few years back after having my third baby. I remember it clearly - standing in the changing room before my first gym session and looking down at my post-baby muffin top bulging out above the too-tight lycra of my pre-baby gym leggings. I hoiked them up to conceal the muffin top and, oh great - hello camel toe. Thanks for that leggings, you fucking bastards. Shuffle them down a bit - welcome back muffin top. Back up again, camel toe... Can’t fucking win. What’s worse out of the two? I can’t remember which one I favoured in the end, but I recall feeling very self conscious and actually working up a sweat before I’d even left the changing room.
Hello camel toe!
I remember worrying that I wasn’t fit enough or experienced enough to be at the gym. During the preceding six years I’d either been pregnant, breastfeeding, or eating cheese.
I still felt like the world had just fallen out of my fanny and I wasn’t entirely sure what day it was.
I’d conjured up images of perfectly toned women, effortlessly climbing the stairmaster without even breaking a sweat. Meanwhile I’d be stuck defenseless on some sort of contraption, trying not to fart or piss myself, or I’d fly off the end of the treadmill in true Bridget Jones style. (Guess what, none of that actually happened).
Anyway back to the point - I’m here to say, if you really want to try the gym for the first time (or you used to love going) but you’re feeling self conscious, scared or intimidated, it’s time to stand up to gymtimidation, and not let it deprive you of the enjoyment and health benefits that going to the gym can yield.
So how can you overcome Gymtimidation?
- Firstly, choose the right gym for you. Do your research online, look at reviews, and ask friends for recommendations. Go and physically look around a few different gyms - you’ll know if it feels right, depending on what’s personal to you (i.e. are the staff friendly, what are the changing rooms like, do they have a women only section, is it full of wankers, do they offer a free induction / ongoing support?)
- Treat yourself to some good fitting, flattering gym gear that you’ll feel good in. Avoid wearing your hubby’s oversized Star Wars t-shirt (like you would) or your smelly old nursing bra. And don’t forget to shave your pits! No-one needs to see that when you’re doing an overhead press
- Understand what your goals are and write them down. Is it overall weight loss? Do you want to increase your cardio fitness? Lose the baby belly? Banish the bingo wings? Get yo’self a J-Lo butt? (If you say you want a butt like Kim Kardashian, we’re not going to be friends, ok?)
- Book a proper induction so the instructor can create a plan that’s in line with your goals, and show you how to use the machines / do certain exercises confidently and correctly
- Go with a friend or book a PT session (check out the Personal Trainers at the gym - read their bio’s / reviews and choose one that you think will suit you)
- Go during off peak hours if you want to avoid the crowds, or use the ladies only section if that feels more comfortable
- If you’re trying a class for the first time make sure you get there early to avoid being flustered. It’s a good opportunity to secure a good spot and you can speak to the instructor if you have any questions or concerns
- Go to the gym ready, if you’d rather avoid getting changed in front of people
- Prepare a motivational, inspirational gym playlist with songs that boost your confidence and enthusiasm. Gloria Gaynor? Flashdance? Beyonce? Whatever gets you fired up!
- Remember everyone starts somewhere, and no matter how great you think other people look, I guarantee they will have some sort of body hang up (third nipple perhaps?) and if they don’t, are they actually human?
- Remind yourself that in reality, no-one’s actually looking at you - they’re too busy focusing on themselves. Forget about them, focus on you
- Remember that not everyone who goes to the gym is fit, lean, toned and gorgeous! There will be other people in there who have just started their journey too - people of all shapes, sizes and abilities, each on their own, individual journey (probably feeling just like you)
- Don’t compare your beginning to other people’s middle or end. I follow this advice in business, not just fitness. They may have been going for six months, a year, five years. Imagine where you’ll be in that time?
- Don’t be afraid to ask instructors if you need assistance with machines - that’s what they’re there for, and they’re usually more than happy to help
- Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little - if you get bored of working out on the gym floor, try a variety of classes, you might find one you absolutely love!
- Find your best time to workout - are you a morning person, or more energetic in the afternoon? Are you more likely to go straight from work, or do you prefer Saturday mornings?
- Remind yourself of your goals. Use an old photo of yourself if you’re wanting to get back to a certain shape or size, or use a picture of someone you’d love to look like. Shakira (in a gold bikini) was my screensaver for a while - yep, I did that, and people probably thought I was a lesbo but who cares, it served as a reminder of what I was aiming for, even if it was a little optimistic! #BodyGoals
- Accept there will always be at least one or two annoying bell-ends who love to strut their stuff, whichever gym you go to
Once you‘ve been a few times you’ll find your rhythm, and any feelings of gymtimidation will soon disappear as your confidence grows. You’ll feel liberated, and you’ll soon become addicted to the feel good hormones that are pumping around your body in full force. Remember to be proud of yourself and pat yourself on the back, even if you don’t feel or see immediate results. Recognise the small achievements not just the big gains. And remember DO NOT compare yourself to other people - you might not be the fittest, strongest, fastest, leanest person at the gym, but you don’t have to be! You just have to feel good about YOU!
Worst case, if you really can’t get into it after a certain amount of time, and you decide the gym is just not for you after all, you’ve tried it and now you know for sure! Now you can look to find other forms of exercise that you WILL love! Walking, swimming, climbing, cycling, squash, rowing, horse riding… the list is endless. Just make sure whatever you do, it makes you HAPPY.
Much love, Fran xxx
Have you ever experienced Gymtimidation? How did you overcome it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x