Training | POSTED February 27, 2023

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