Are You Experiencing Gymtimidation? We’ve Got The Solution For You

What is gymtimidation?

Strained breathing and laboured grunts, the clang of metal plates sliding onto the bar and the sound of techno music blasting through the group fitness studio. Gyms are a sensory overload. For many, they can understandably be off-putting. Colloquially the term used to describe hesitation to go to the gym is “gymtimidation”. For many we wouldn’t be surprised that it’s more about fear of the unknown. Today we will unpack some common gymtimidation scenarios and discuss solutions to overcome it.

“We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown.”

Teal Swan

Feeling self-conscious in a public space

Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of awareness of oneself. For some, self-consciousness manifests itself when attempting to exercise in a public space. Fear of looking uncoordinated, unnatural or weak causes many to simply not try at all. 

If you relate to this feeling, you’re not alone. We suggest:

  • Consider working out in the comfort of your own home. We wrote an article a while back on home workouts and how you can structure them (even without any equipment). You could also jump on YouTube and follow a guided workout on your TV. YouTube has reported that there are over 30 million fitness videos, so it’s safe to say you won’t be stuck for options.
  • Joining a group class with a friend. Getting involved in physical activity with someone that you feel comfortable around can make all the difference, and if you need an escape plan from the class it’s a lot less awkward bailing on the class with someone else (we’re speaking from experience here).
  • Working with a Personal Trainer is a fast way to squash any gymtimidation you may be feeling. You will learn basic technique and proficiency, and you’ll likely build your confidence with training in the process. Many of our clients have never stepped foot in a gym before, and our aim is making them feel comfortable and welcome in their initial sessions.

Becoming proficient (which does not mean perfect) is simply a matter of practice, exposure and repetition. Basic resistance training revolves around some fundamental movement patterns that don’t require extreme positions or coordination. If you’re feeling lost in the gym, a great place to start is with some Squats, Bench Press, Deadlifts, Shoulder Press, Rows and Pulldowns.

Fear of injuring yourself

Rightly so, no one wants to get hurt. Unfortunately, as Personal Trainers we deal with misinformation about exercise and injury daily. Resistance training is incredibly safe [1] and outweighs the potential risks of inactivity [2]. However, aches and pain, perceived tightness and discomfort makes exercise feel hard to start. Daniel Lieberman in Exercised discusses the concept of virtuous and vicious exercise cycles [3]. These concepts highlight how at first exercise can be uncomfortable, but with persistence, becomes more rewarding (at a neurochemical level) and easier to adhere to.

Some individuals have also had bad experiences with participating in programs that are simply too hard. If that’s been you, consider the following the next time you train:

  • Start lighter and with less reps than your maximum ability.
  • Start with fewer sessions a week and gradually increase that number.
  • Do higher amounts of easier things like walking before harder activities and higher intensities.
  • Follow a structured program that a trainer can develop for you.

Many individuals simply need guidance and starting with the correct entry point. Slow and steady wins the race. The human body is not fragile, it is incredibly resilient. That being said, you can’t expect to go from doing little to lots, without it taking its toll – if you rush.

Gender preferences in trainers

We’ve checked the stats in our studio, and 10% of our clients requested a female trainer during their first contact with us. Rachael even started out with a female Personal Trainer at her local women’s only gym because she was nervous about her first gym experience. We are sensitive to preferences and understand individuals may feel more comfortable, especially in a new environment with a trainer of the same gender. That being said, very often being matched with the right trainer for you is more about personality and rapport. There are some special exceptions however:

  • Cultural exceptions.
  • Negative prior experience with another trainer.
  • Pre and post-natal women might prefer working with a Personal Trainer of the same gender. In contexts such as these, some individuals may feel more comfortable discussing their physical limitations or concerns with another female. With that said, all of us have experience training pre and post-natal women.

Our goal at Ivy Training is to best cater to your needs within what we can practically provide. Building trust and rapport is a key focus for us. We believe fantastic trainer/client relationships can be built on the basis of respect, good communication and care. Moreover, professionalism in conduct is essential for all clients to feel like they can participate in a safe and welcoming space.

From gymtimidation to no limitations

Overcoming gymtimidation is a huge step towards lifelong adherence to physical activity. We understand not every environment will be welcoming, but we aim to provide one such environment here at Ivy Training. If you take away anything from reading this, let it be this: you are capable of learning, you are inherently resilient, and there is no need for you to feel embarrassed in your gym environment. Lastly, if it’s any consolation, most people in the gym are less cornered about others as they are their own workout.

Resources

  1. Patient safety ward round checklist via an electronic app: implications for harm prevention – PubMed (nih.gov)
  2. The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Exercised by Daniel Lieberman

Let’s Walk You Through Your First Few Months at Ivy Training

You’ve just clicked submit on our personal training enquiry. Leading up to this point perhaps something has motivated you to reflect on your current health and future goals. So, what happens next? What will your first few months at Ivy Training look like?

Your first foot in the door

Well, it all starts with a Personal Training Consultation. This sounds formal but, it’s ideally anything but that. Our goal is to help you feel comfortable with the environment at Ivy Training. After all, this is a place where you’ll be laughing, sweating and probably grunting! Our goal during the consultation is to learn a lot about you. This includes covering information such as:

  • Your schedule
  • Work/life balance
  • Exercise and diet history
  • Injury history
  • …and more!

Ultimately, it’s a chance for us to show that we are interested in meeting you where you are at. At Ivy Training we believe in a simple quote that guides this process:

“People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Your first session

This is where the rubber meets the road, or more accurately, your feet meet the floor. Accordingly, our first session is a probing session. This isn’t some bizarre alien abduction (although if you’ve never worked out in the gym before, it can feel strange)! Really, we are finding out what your current physical ability is. This can be informed by many things including:

  • Sport and exercise history
  • Injury history
  • Previous exposures to concepts and environments concerning exercise and fitness
  • Prior beliefs about the human body, fragility and ability

We will aim to instruct you on how to perform a few basic movements or patterns. Chiefly, these include some form of Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press and Rowing movements. These patterns will train a large amount of the musculature through a long range of motion. In training these, you will be providing the best overall stimulus to your body during a personal training session. Because people have varying abilities, a probing session will help us best determine where to start with these movements or patterns.

During this session you’ll also get familiar with some of the language we use around body positions (such as “hinge”), how we describe difficulty (such as “RPE”) or other concepts like resting between sets and breathing. It’s a lot to take in, but like all things, start small and build up gradually. Our aim isn’t to make you sore and sweaty in your first session (although this naturally may occur), but we are trying to familiarise you with the training process, find your starting point, and also get to know you a bit better.

Your first few months

By now you’ve settled in. You’ve committed to a consistent schedule (for many, we recommend strength training two to three times per week). In doing so, you’ve managed to add weight to the bar, reps to your sets and improved your cadence with your aerobic work. As a result, you’ve noticed in the mirror your body is starting to change. So, does it just go on like this?

In some ways… yes, but there’s more. At this point in time, we’ll typically ask for your feedback on your training and make any changes to your program if necessary. For many, especially if they haven’t already indicated, after a month or so we believe it is a great time to start diving into nutrition habits. For those interested in changing their body composition from the get-go, we certainly do so sooner. However, many people are looking to simply “get fitter” and aren’t in as much of a hurry to modify their dietary preferences.

We will begin by asking clients some questions regarding their nutrition habits week to week and may also ask for some form of food log if that’s appropriate. It may also be worth discussing food preparation skills and eating environments. At this point we additionally try to encourage clients to increase their activity overall. We love strength training, but know it isn’t enough by itself. Whether it’s dance, swimming or walking, the opportunities to be active are endless. They should also be fun for you.

Start strong, keep getting stronger

You’re probably already more capable than you think. Whether you’re worried you wont be strong enough, fit enough or disciplined enough, don’t doubt yourself. Many people we find simply need direction. Our goal is to help clients be self-aware about all the processes that influence their health outcomes and start developing long-term, sustainable habits that support one another.

Once you’ve settled into your first few months, we start to consider more ambitious targets. Have you always wanted to do a chin-up? Run a marathon? Or even just get better at prepping meals throughout the week? Nothing is too big or too small to be considered important. At Ivy Training we will use the first few months to set you up for a lifetime of success. This will include education, instruction, self-reflection and effort, but we promise you, it’s all worth it.