In 2015 I published an article about gym-intimidation (Gymtimidation) and for those of you who find gyms intimidating I recommend reading (or re-reading) the post (click on the highlighted title). But today I wanted to discuss this issue a bit further as I find it to be one of the top stumbling blocks for women in particular who are committed to getting in shape now that the new year is upon us, yet cannot overcome their nervous reluctance towards joining a gym.
If you feel self-conscious in gym attire, awkward because you have no clue how to use the machines, and/or embarrassed by your lack of strength or stamina – you are far from alone! But as I stated in the previous post, whether it’s a girls-only gym or a “we’re all in this fat together” gym like Planet Fitness those feelings still surface and hold you back.
The real issue is your perception of your body vs. your desire to change it. If your motivation is strong enough, and you are willing to direct and maintain your focus on to that singular goal of slow and steady changes, you can drive those self-sabotaging thoughts from your brain.
To keep your focus on track and productive, start by accepting the shape you’re in today – not just your external shape — but your strength, stamina and coordination. Next pick two body parts to focus on, ideally your strongest or easiest to change (i.e., thighs or arms). Then wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, both for the comfort of exercising and sweating, and that you do not feel awkward visually in (i.e., t-shirt and shorts). Lastly, commit to three times a week, 30-minutes of slow but challenging resistance training of those chosen muscles (arms or legs), and slow but challenging cardio (walking at an incline, riding the stationary bike).
Once you see some changes to your body, you will find your motivation renewed to keep pushing towards your goals. Now there are two “no-no’s” I wish to impart to you, that will keep you from self-doubt and discouragement:
1. Do NOT compare yourself or your body to anyone else! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has different variables that come into play, and no two bodies (and brains) are alike. Focus only on your upward growth and improvement and be patient and loving with your body.
2. Do NOT focus on your mid-section (stomach). For those of you fighting to reduce body fat, especially from your tummy, this will be the last area to lose the fat – especially on women! Continue pushing yourself weekly, and follow my other posts where I discuss how to avoid plateauing, etc. and making certain that you’re eating enough. It took time for that fat to store up, and it takes time, hard work, and patience to lose it.
Lastly I cannot stress enough that if that gym-intimidation still has a grip on you, consider purchasing at least 3 training sessions with a trainer whom you a good connection with (don’t let the gym just assign you one), and then allow them to ease you into understanding the equipment and how to push your body.
As always, I’m here to offer advice and/or a customized training program should you desire it. (workouts247.com) Now go work out and be proud that you’re making a positive change!
There’s a new gym chain currently enjoying a marketing boost through their affiliation with NBC’s Biggest Loser Competition – Planet Fitness. Their approach to gym fitness offers a “Judgement Free Zone®” free of “hardcore, look-at-me types who strut around grunting and dropping weights and, well, judging. We believe in the latest equipment, unlimited fitness training and no gymtimidation.”
This concept interests me, not so much because in a way it’s discriminatory*, but because there is clearly a large enough demand by people to work out where they are not intimidated. Further, the idea that weight lifters who grunt and drop weights are judging us and to be intimidated by, is not something I have ever heard anyone have issue with. In fact, my clients and I usually chuckle at the grunters as 90% of the time their form is sloppy, their weights too heavy, and their over-pumped muscles are not enviable. (Guess we’re judging, eh?) Granted I don’t like it when someone is ridiculously loud or clangs the weights down beside me, but I accept it as being part of the gym environment , and know that only about 2% of the members are that obnoxious.
I’ll admit that I have felt intimidated at gyms before, usually when the atmosphere is competitive and unfriendly. Men have looked right through me because I wasn’t dressed or shaped like a pole dancing Barbie (not that there’s anything wrong with pole dancing Barbies mind you). Men and women have been unwilling to allow me to “work in” (sharing of equipment alternating each other’s sets) simply because I wasn’t perhaps cool enough or pretty enough – always using a lame excuse like “I don’t rest between sets” (unless of course there’s someone cute to flirt with).
But here’s the thing about that “gymtimidation,” it can happen at an all girls gym, it can happen at the YMCA, and it can happen at Planet Fitness. Intimidation happens when YOU feel inadequate around others. Webster’s Dictionary defines intimidate as to “make timid, fill with fear, to over-awe through the force of personality or by superior display of talent.”
Like many of us tell our children, no one can make you FEEL anything – how you react to what they DO is all on your head. These “annoying” types that Planet Fitness refers to are not lording over you with looks of disapproval at your clothes or abilities. Dropping weights is bad manners and dangerous to toes, but it can’t make you feel less than worthy of being there doing what you need to do to get into shape. “Girls” who chose to dress revealingly or provocatively at the gym are dealing with their own feelings of insecurity and that just doesn’t intimidate me. I’m a woman — enough said.
So if a gym is your choice of venue for getting into and staying in shape, pay no attention to those around you whose agenda is to use the gym as a social platform to boost their egos. Focus on your goals and your methods for achieving them and the rest is of no consequence.
Also, I would like to point out that many times it is my ego trying to keep from feeling intimidated that has prompted me to do that extra set or rep because I wanted to keep up with that rock hard 20 year old goddess two machines away from me. If anything I should thank her for the motivation.
*As to my suggestion that Planet Fitness’ approach is a tad discriminatory, well what if I got a membership and then was told I had to leave because I work out in a zumba crop top and am showing too much skin? I’m not dropping weights; I’m not judging anyone; and my chest/cleavage is well covered. Yet according to their mission statement, my clothing choice is unacceptable. Or what if I’m really lifting some heavy weight and my exhale is a tad loud? Where do you draw the line on who can’t work out at your gym? That’s all I’m saying…food for thought. Weigh in with your opinions on either side of this debatable issue (pun intended of course).