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Will I Fit In At The Gym? How to Kick Gymtimidation’s Butt

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Simmons chapter.

It’s hard enough to make the decision to join a gym. Whatever reasons compel you to make the decision earns you respect. Kudos on making time for exercise! However, the unfortunate phenomena of “gymtimidation” has people all over the world either reconsidering this decision or not going as much as they’d like. It’s not hard to see why gyms are scary, even experienced exercisers can feel out of their element when standing next to muscle heads pumping hundred pound weights. The open spaces gyms provide makes you feel like the center of attention and the various machinery causes confusion and the fear of looking dumb by using them incorrectly.

The sad reality is that many times the blame is put on the victim for “not having good enough self-esteem” or “not trying hard enough.” Ignoring the issue and shift blaming helps no one. Remember when playmate Dani Mathers took a snapchat of a naked woman in the locker room with the caption “if I can’t unsee this then you can’t either” or when bodybuilder Diana Andrews took a demeaning photo of a woman on a treadmill with the caption “I bet she’s ordering burgers for delivery”? These are examples involving celebrities, which is why you’ve heard of them. In reality according to fitnessmagazine.com, 65% of people avoid the gym for fear of being judged. It does not have to be this way. Nobody should let anxiety make them give up on their fitness goals. In order to continue living your best life, here are some tips to combat gymtimidation.

Understand what fuels your gym fear

Everyone has a different gym fear. Each one is completely valid. Some people are afraid of doing exercises wrong in front of people. Others hate the feeling of being stared at. Others feel that they are being judged based on their fitness level. No matter how you feel, gymtimidation is confidence-crushing and puts people astray from their health goals. Gym anxiety affects everyone. All genders, ages, and body sizes struggle as they try to feel comfortable exercising with others. However, the first step to overcoming gymtimidation is analyzing what makes you most afraid. Understanding the problem can help you pinpoint real solutions.

Listen to music

Nothing drowns out your surroundings better than good music. A good playlist full of fast and upbeat songs can boost both your mood and your motivation to exercise. Keeping your earbuds in will also make those around more likely to respect your need for seclusion.

Bring a group

Exercise is always better with companions. Having someone who can relate to your fears is a comforting feeling. Bringing a group can boost both your physical and emotional confidence by merely having someone to lean on. Working out with a partner can also bring extra motivation which can lead you to work out more than you would have if you came alone. If your friends know more about exercise and the various machines, ask them for help. If they are new to the gym, you can be clueless together. Try taking classes together or preparing a workout before you come in. Prepping before the gym will help you maximize your time and avoid the struggle of looking for something to do.

Ask for help

There is never shame in asking a gym trainer for help with a machine or exercise. Trainers are experts and should be utilized as a resource. Their years of schooling and experience can be incredibly helpful when you’re in need of tips for simply someone to watch your form. Using their knowledge will help you become an expert in your own right. Trainers are also professionals whose job is to be non judgemental. After all, they are the face of the business. If so inclined, try a workout class or personalized training session. Doing this can gage what you’re doing well at and what you could improve on in terms of strength, cardio, core, etc. Telling the trainer your gym fears before the class can lead to a more open and accommodating experience.

Focus on ONLY your goals

You should never assume that everyone is at the gym for the same reasons. Many gym-goers have the same mentality as you. They want to reach their fitness goals and focus on themselves. We must remind ourselves that most of our gym peers do not judge us. Their focus is on exercising, not the progress of the person next to them. Unless active harassment is going on (which should be reported) comparisons are all in our heads.

Research, research, research!

Various gyms cater to different public goals and values. If you still get anxious when you walk through the doors, this may be a sign that the gym is not the right fit. Look online at other gyms around the area. There are many specialized gyms that tailor the equipment and staff training to a certain population. There are women-only gyms. There are gym specialized for people trying to lose weight (as well as there are gyms specialized for body-builders). There are gyms tailored to older people (as well as those tailored to young adults). Gyms provide different atmospheres, some may blast music, some dim their lights. Gyms can also specialize in certain exercises. Some put more emphasis on weight training and cardio, others focus on the mind, body, and soul. Gyms are offered in a variety of locations, such as recreation centers and hospitals. If switching gyms is not an option, googling peak times of your gym could help you avoid a crowd. Usually, gyms are less busy during mid-afternoon and late night periods.

And most importantly: Do not become the problem

Those who are comfortable at the gym may have never heard the term “gymtimidation.” This is no excuse to make the fitness environment less inclusive. Here are some tips to go by. In general, treat others as you would want to be treated.

  1. If someone smiles or engages you in conversation, feel free to smile and talk back. If they are avoiding eye contact, on their phone, listening to music, or give you no inclination that they want to talk, leave them alone.
  2. Don’t give random advice unless someone specifically asks you for it. Leave that to a personal fitness professional.
  3. If someone looks confused on a machine, it’s okay to politely ask them if they need help. However, if they say no, don’t keep trying.
  4. Never assume anyone’s fitness goals.
  5. Use good gym manners. Re-rack your weights properly, wipe down your machines, keep your hygiene in check (use deodorant), and give other gym-goers personal space.
  6. Keep your eyes on your own workout, staring too long at someone else is rude and can lead to intimidation (even if you did not mean it).
  7. If you see hostile behavior, call it out or at least let a staff member know. Not doing anything will only enable the activity to continue.
  8. Be discreet about selfies. Try not to take them in the locker room or places where you would put someone in a vulnerable position.





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Sarah Mariski

Simmons '22

Sarah Mariski is a junior at Simmons University working towards a BSBA in business management and marketing. She loves traveling, swimming, cuddling cats, making Sweetgreen runs, and playing for the Simmons tennis team. Big fan of both Mamma Mia soundtracks and could watch Crazy Rich Asians all day. Aspires to work on the business side of aesthetics as well as to be the next bachelorette.