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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Temple chapter.

I was never really a ‘sports kid’ in high school. I particpated in theater and student government, but I was technically a student athlete. I was my school’s field hockey goalie every fall before my senior year. Though I was in no means the most “in-shape” person on my team, I absolutely loved playing. I also never gave it enough credit for how good it was for my mental health. The exercise I got out of it was my sole outlet to de-stress after a school day and to take my mind off of any personal anxieties I had going on.  

Due to my huge workload, I couldn’t continue playing my senior year of high school. Though I have since gotten help with my anxiety disorder, I definitely felt the toll of not having an outlet like exercise to help with my mental health.  

I was never someone who could go to the gym. Team sports were a great way for me to stay active because everyone there was doing the same workout with the same goal in mind. Going to workout at the gym is a completely different boat. In fact, it took me three years to finally feel comfortable enough to go.  

Gym-anxiety, or “gymidation” is real and incredibly debilitating for someone who wants to maintain a physically active lifestyle. At least 50% of Americans are too intimidated to visit a gym. 

There are so many different ways to exercise, with vast amounts of gym equipment, that it can be overwhelming for beginners just trying to stay in shape. I don’t know the first place to start when it comes to establishing a gym routine, yet everyone around me seems to know what they’re doing. Is there some secret knowledge that I don’t have about how to work-out? Well, that’s what it feels like, at least. 

Gym etiquette rules can also be confusing for beginners who are not equipped with this unspoken knowledge. In the age of TikTok, I am terrified of accidentally walking through someone’s video, or getting in the way of their lift session, that I’m clowned on the internet for something that I wasn’t aware I was doing wrong.  

The most pressing thing that keeps me from the gym is insecurities in my body image and how out of shape I am. I struggle with body dysmorphia and I don’t consider myself to have a ‘gym body’, and I feel out of place surrounded by people who do. In addition, being around others who are able to have more intense workouts than I am, makes me feel like everyone at the gym is judging me. I can’t even go to the gym with someone because I’ll feel a pressure to keep up with their routine, even if it doesn’t fit my fitness needs or levels.  

After three years of avoiding the gym, and exercise in general, I finally started going this semester. I just had to change my mentality.  

We have to get out of the mindset that exercise needs to be about pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Exercising is about movement, no matter what that looks like. Walking the treadmill to my favorite album is still a productive gym day. I don’t need to PR on my bench press every single time.  

In reality, every single person at the gym is at a different fitness level – from the ones just starting out, to the gym rats. Everyone else is so focused on their own workout that no one actually cares what I’m doing there. On the rare occasion that someone does, they’re the weirdos.  

Even though it’s hard for me to workout with others, I’ve found it’s important to go with someone that I trust. It’s such an important asset for me in understanding things like gym etiquette and how to use the free weights. In addition, going with someone I trust leaves me with no pressure to keep up with them. I get to do my own thing, and so do they.  

Exercising should be fun, and the societal pressures that come with gym anxiety need to be erased. If we want to keep people active, erase the stigma of starting out on an active lifestyle.  

Gianna is a staff writer for Her Campus at Temple University, and a sophomore at Temple University. She usually writes under the Health section, and often covers her personal struggles with mental health and body dysmorphia. Gianna has loved writing ever since she was little. In high school, she had an internship with her local newspaper, also writing for the health section. In college she writes The Temple News and the Templar Yearbook. Her home is in Southern Delaware with her three dogs (who she misses dearly) Keno, Caesar, and Nero. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ggvogess