Gym-timidation: Getting Over the Fear of the GymPhoto provided by Clarity Fitness
Special promotional content provided by Clarity Fitness
By Abbey Griffith, Owner & Founder of Clarity Fitness
As a weight-inclusive, eating-disorder-informed, and body-positive fitness center owner, I can assure you that you are not alone when it comes to being afraid of the gym. Even as a fitness professional, I still get butterflies when walking into a fitness space for the first time.
We hear concerns from potential new members daily: “Will I stick out as a beginner?” “Will people judge me if I don’t know how to use every piece of equipment? Or any equipment at all?” “Will trainers shame me for my body or abilities?” Unfortunately, these fears are all too real, and we hope this blog can help you navigate releasing some of them!
Without further ado, here are a few steps you can take to recognize, respond to, and potentially move forward from your fear of gyms!
Recognize the Trauma
Let’s call out the obvious: the fitness industry is NOT known as an inclusive, accepting, and/or gentle space. Trainers worldwide have been taught the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. People with bigger bodies can be massively discriminated against in gym settings and health facilities at large. The media, medical practitioners, and today’s social climate praise small, able bodies as “better, healthier” bodies, even when heaps of data demonstrate that health is independent of the shape, size, and ability of the body.
In addition to these injustices, we regularly hear stories about being singled out in gym class, enduring toxic behavior from coaches in sport settings, and being pushed to the point of injury by unqualified or overzealous trainers. While these may be common experiences, this doesn’t make them any less impactful on peoples’ relationships with movement.
By recognizing the impact negative experiences in your fitness journey may have on you up to today and seeking support or brainstorming their impact, you can make massive shifts toward a more empowered relationship with movement on your terms and in a gym setting that feels uplifting to you.
Release Comparisons of Others First, THEN Yourself
Lead by example. It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry, they’re not judging you!” (which most likely is true), but if you are even unconsciously judging others in the space around you, it can make your fear of that judgment being reciprocated even louder.
If you notice yourself getting into a headspace of judging others or comparing yourself to them based on their outfit, the shape and size of their body, their form, or their ability, it can be helpful to replace that with something you like about them or yourself. Maybe if a comparison thought of “wow, that person is running so quickly and making it look so easy. I’m a terrible runner” pops up, you could shift to “I’m really happy that I got more comfortable with my form today!” and bring the focus back to yourself. On the contrary, if you notice thoughts of judgment such as: “Eek, look at that person squatting, I’m so happy I have better form than that!” you can shift to “I remember when I was learning squats and good for them for taking a stab at them!” to return to an energy of compassion and empathy for your fellow gym compatriot. We’re all in this together!
Learn Basic Movements and Form Techniques
Back flat, knees in line with toes, and shoulders away from your ears. Voila! You just became a personal trainer! (Just kidding) However, these form queues are a huge chunk of the battle in the early chapters of mastering the form of many exercises.
Most facilities have a no-obligation introductory session with a trainer which you can use to learn how every piece of equipment around the facility works, dive into the basics of form, and get some inspiration for workout programming regardless of if you think moving forward with personal training is right for you.
You’re never too advanced or not advanced enough for a personal trainer. As a trainer myself, we hear that misconception regularly! Personal trainers are there to help you, regardless of your experience or fitness level. It is an incredible investment as long as the trainer builds you up, respects your boundaries, and leaves you feeling empowered!
Find Your Joyful Movement
At the end of the day, going to the gym is not the “right”, “best”, and certainly not the only way to move your body and/or achieve fitness goals.
Read: you don’t have to go to the gym!
Have some fun playing with movement. Through curiosity and exploring the world, you will find movement you look forward to regardless of if it’s at a gym, multiple studios, with a virtual trainer, outside, on a YouTube video, dance class, skateboarding, horseback riding, walking, and/or all the above.
All movement “counts”, and the entire Clarity team hopes this article has helped you to claim unconditional permission to explore what serves the unique and amazing you!