Do you face gym anxiety whenever you think about working out in a public place? You’re not alone. People commonly call this “gymtimidation.” Luckily, there are ways to fix this. In this article, we go over what gymtimidation (a.k.a gym anxiety) is and how to fix it.
Let’s talk about it.
What is Gymtimidation?
Does the thought of going to the gym fill you with dread? You aren’t alone. Nearly 50% of Americans experience nervousness around group workouts, unfamiliar equipment, and the presence of fit strangers - particularly strangers of the opposite sex. This phenomenon is known as gymtimidation.
At best, gymtimidation is uncomfortable. At worst, it’s paralyzing. Left unaddressed, it can cause well-intentioned people to avoid healthy routines, plateau in their current regimens, or give up on their fitness goals altogether. In short: gym-related anxiety is bad for our collective mental and physical health.
The Top 6 Reasons People Avoid Going to the Gym
Reason 1: They are Self-Conscious
Comparison is the thief of joy, and the gym is rife with it. We’re confronting our physical limitations in mirrored rooms, next to people who may be stronger, faster, or better conditioned than we are. It’s enough to make even the most upbeat among us succumb to negative self-talk once in a while.
While there is no cure for self-consciousness, you do have the power to rewire your inner monologue. When negative thoughts arise, seek to replace them with affirmations. Remember that you’re only competing against yourself, and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
Reason 2: They Don't Have the Time
Contrary to popular belief, a workout doesn’t have to be long in order to be thorough. In fact, squeezing in ten minutes of exercise between meetings is better than planning to spend an hour at the gym, and then not following through. Set a realistic workout schedule, and increase your training intervals as you’re able.
The TRX app offers hundreds of short, effective workouts that’ll get you sweaty in under twenty minutes. The best part is that they can be completed at home, on your schedule, with minimal equipment.
Reason 3: Worried about Judgement
While it may be tempting to imagine that prying eyes are judging your every rep, the truth is as blunt as it is freeing: no one cares. The fittest folks at the gym are there for one reason, and one reason only - personal improvement. They are infinitely more concerned with their own gains than yours. So carry on.
Ideally, the gym should be a source of social connection and camaraderie. Consider reading reviews or completing a trial run to check the vibe before joining. If there is no supportive gym community near you, you can always create a home setup that takes other people out of the equation entirely.
Reason 4: Too Crowded
Gyms get crowded, particularly around the first of the year. In addition to tying up equipment, crowds can amplify feelings of gymtimidation, making it harder to get - and stay - motivated. Consider scheduling your workouts to avoid peak times. You could also explore alternative workout spaces (i.e., going for a run outdoors instead of on the treadmill), or invest in building a home gym that works for you.
Reason 5: Lack of Motivation
Nothing kills motivation faster than unachievable goals. Set yourself up for success by breaking your big dreams down into manageable steps. Then, log your progress, and celebrate each milestone.
If you start to feel bored or catch yourself plateauing, seek variety. Hire a trainer for an hour. Tackle a new machine. Book a group class, or bring a friend to the gym for a more social experience. Don’t be afraid to switch up your routines, even if they’ve been working well for you. You’re more likely to stay engaged if your workouts feel fresh and fun.
Reason 6: Don't Know How to Use the Machines
Gym equipment can be intimidating if you don’t know how to use it. Consider hiring a personal trainer to show you the ropes, polish your form, and maximize your results. If that’s not an option for you, ask gym staff for a quick demo. If all else fails, try the internet - online tutorials are free, informative, and abundant.
Like any new skill, the key to mastering unfamiliar machines is starting small. Stick to simple exercises that boost your confidence, and ramp up as you get acquainted with the equipment.
How to Overcome Your Gym Anxiety
Familiarity will do wonders for your confidence in the gym: the more you go, the easier it gets. Start with short workouts, and gradually increase your exposure as you get comfortable. Remember to set manageable goals, and give yourself credit for achieving them. Showing up is a victory - celebrate it.
Finding the Right Gym
If your gym does not feel supportive and welcoming, it’s time for a change. Check online reviews and try a few options before settling down. Consider joining a facility geared toward your specific interests (i.e., a kickboxing club or a yoga studio), and remember that it’s never been easier to get fit at home with equipment like the Pro4.
Bringing a Workout Buddy
Fitness is a lot more fun with a friend. Find a workout buddy whose goals are similar to yours, and cheer one another on. New challenges won’t feel nearly as intimidating with someone supportive by your side.
Knowledge builds confidence. The more familiar you are with etiquette, equipment, and best practices, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel in gym environments. Ask questions, read blogs, and follow inspiring trainers on social media. Seek constructive feedback from coaches, peers, and people you admire, and treat every experience as a growth opportunity.
Incorporating Mindfulness Techniques
Your lungs may very well be your best defense against gymtimidation. When you start feeling anxious, tune in to your breath - inhale slowly, and exhale completely. Mindful breathing will slow your heart rate and calm your nervous system. The more you tune in to your body, the less attention you’ll give to external pressures, real or imagined.
The bad news is that gymtimidation is real, common, and bad for both mental and physical health. Whatever your reasons for avoiding the gym, know that you are not alone - your feelings are valid, and millions of people are right there with you.
The good news is that you have plenty of tools at your disposal to fight gymtimidation. Find a positive gym environment (or create your own) and commit to showing up consistently, mindfully, and with realistic goals. Remember that the people around you are likely battling similar insecurities, and show yourself as much grace as you would give them. It won’t be long before you feel right at home in gym environments.
Above all, keep the big picture in mind: the goal of exercise is to stay strong, mobile, and healthy for life. Embrace what furthers that goal, and release what doesn’t. Goodbye, gymtimidation.