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Overcoming Gym Intimidation

Updated on February 8, 2018
Megan Csanyi profile image

A business student; an avid researcher of health/fitness topics; a competitive figure athlete.

the gym was a place I needed to go, but a place I could not bring myself to land

— Megan Csanyi

You have good intentions, but can you put them in action? You have all this built up motivation to get to the gym and sweat your butt off, but when you go to grab your keys; you stop. Frustrating, right? Trust me when I tell you it’s perfectly normal and you’re not alone.

Recently I had a close friend tell me that the gym is an intimidating place - an almost horrific flashback to my early gym days.

I remember my high school uniform; a kilt. I was teased for having big legs. Growing up, I played many sports; hockey, soccer, track and field, horseback riding. My mom always told me I had an athletic build and strong legs, but still I was convinced that I needed to change.

I just needed to fit in. I wanted skinny legs in that hideous kilt; maybe skinny legs would at least do that horrific uniform some justice? The gym was a place I needed to go, but a place I could not bring myself to land. There were so many thoughts that intimidated me: judgment, questioning, criticism. I was intimidated by everyone around me. From the bubbly girl at the counter when I walked in, to the janitor cleaning the mirrors, to the old man at the water fountain; it did not matter who it was, people in that weight-filled room were downright terrifying.

There were days I spent 20 minutes in the gym and days I spent 2 hours in the gym. When the gym was busy, I was quick to leave. When it was not so busy, I like to think I overstayed my welcome. Eventually, this changed. I can recall walking into the change room one day when I came to realize that I was letting control me. I was letting other people dictate whether or not I put in the work to accomplish my goals. Gym anxiety is a normal feeling, especially in the beginning! But what helped me was recognizing that I was in a room full of like-minded people with similar goals.

Although difficult, overcoming gymtimidation has honestly been the best thing I have done for myself. From a timid gym goer, to a competitive figure athlete, I would not change those intimidating moments for anything. It has helped me grow not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. If I could give you any advice - quit starting over. The gymtimidation will be there when you start again. It will not go away until you allow yourself to overcome it. There are amazing things waiting for you once you break through your comfort zone. Here's a few ways to get you started::

  • Remember why you’re at the gym. You likely have a goal: lose weight, gain muscle, increase activity, run a marathon. Whatever it is, remember your why. As long as you remain focused on your goal, and you genuinely want to achieve it, the gym will quickly become your outlet.
  • Hire a personal trainer. Does your intimidation come from not knowing what on earth to do with all those weights and weird-looking machines? I suggest hiring a personal trainer, even if it’s just for a couple months to help familiarize yourself with the equipment, motivate you, and cheer you on. A trainer can also customize a workout and nutrition plan tailored to your goals, whatever they may be.
  • Go with a friend. So you want to go to the gym, but you need someone to kill your nerves. Grab yourself a gym buddy and be intimidated together — just kidding. You will feel much comfort in having someone with you, even if neither of you know what you’re doing.
  • Attend group classes. These are fun! I’m not kidding. Yoga is the most hilarious reminder of how flexible I am not. Seriously, Yoga and I are not friends. Zumba, on the other hand, I have that in the bag! Whatever the class may be, give it a shot. When keeping to myself gets boring, I throw myself in a group fitness class to change things up and socialize. Most gyms offer a variety of group fitness classes and you’ll likely make a friend or five along the way!
  • Dress to your own comfort. So there’s that girl in the crop top or sports bra with a six-pack, and the guy in the cut-off with massive arms. Intimidating, do you agree? You want their confidence, right? Far too often people assume that this is the expected gym attire. Wrong. There is no such thing. I wear either 3/4 length or full length tights, a tank, and a hoodie; and rarely does that hoodie come off. By all means, flaunt it if you got it and you’re comfortable doing so. Ultimately though, wear what you are most comfortable in; it’s not a “who can show more skin” competition.
  • Hide in the back row. This is my favorite! In my early gym days, I had no idea what I was doing in the gym and I had no desire to pay a trainer. Instead, I hid in the back row on some cardio equipment and observed. Sounds pretty creepy, but a lot of what I learned, I learned by watching others. It was my idea of perfect; I comfortably hid and broke a sweat while learning how to lift things. I gradually became more comfortable with the gym and at sloth speed, ended up moving towards the weights. Now I can’t leave them alone!
  • Go during “valley times”. Just like a mall, the movies, or a grocery store, a gym has busy and slow times. If your gymtimidation is heightened by a busy gym, try avoiding the “peak” times and go during the “valley” times. Quick tip: If you Google search the gym you’re going to, it will often provide a live update of how busy the gym is.

Remember, everyone starts somewhere. Regardless of how many times you let the gymtimidation keep you away from the gym, you’ll face it when you try again. Each and every one of those people in the gym started somewhere, and they were probably intimidated at some point too. Quit letting gymtimidation rob you of your goals - own the gym and make your goals reality!

- Meg

What intimdates you about the gym?

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© 2018 Megan Csanyi


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