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Gymtimidation: Why We Fear the Gym and 6 Tips to Overcome It

If you're feeling intimidated by heading to the gym, there are ways to gain confidence and optimize your early experiences.

Where Intimidation Meets Body Image and Confidence Issues

Experts use the term "gymtimidation" to describe how men and women can feel pressured when they try to use free weights or machines at the gym, especially when they first start exercising regularly. That pressure can cause people to leave the gym early, skip sessions, or stop going entirely, thwarting their attempt at a healthier lifestyle. Gymtimidation most commonly stems from general intimidation felt in response to other more experienced gym buffs, and it often surrounds concerns about body image and a lack of confidence or confusion in regard to how to properly use gym equipment.

A survey by Cosmopolitan Body UK found that twice as many women as men struggle with these concerns, and the surveyed women were most concerned about looking out of shape or appearing confused about how to use weights and other equipment. Men also admitted to being concerned about appearing unsure of what they were doing, most often when another man is watching them.

6 Tips to Overcome Gymtimidation

If you suffer from gym-based anxiety, the next step is to determine how to overcome it so you can stick to a regular workout plan. Here are the six most prominent pieces of advice that can help you overcome your fears and keep your routine consistent.

1. Find the Right Gym for You

Not all gyms are created equal in terms of equipment, staff, facilities, and class and trainer availability. Research local gyms with your perfect setup in mind, and visit a few to determine which best fits your vision. In addition to the opportunities offered, ensure that the gym is in a convenient location you'll be willing to travel to, such as near your home or workplace.

2. Discover What Motivates You

Motivation often drives whether someone goes to the gym regularly, but people are motivated by different triggers. Maybe you want to keep up with an active partner or need to improve your overall health. Determining what motivates you to head to the gym can help you develop a more regular schedule that's defined by whatever goal or outcome you're working toward.

3. Participate in a Sport or Event That Encourages Regular Resistance Training

Many people are motivated to overcome gymtimidation if they have a sport or event that they're actively training for. This could be running a marathon or a similar athletic competition, or simply wanting to build your strength, agility, and stamina for an organized sport. This is referred to as an intrinsic motivation, which the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found is better to push people to be more active versus a desire to change your body, such as losing weight or building muscle.

4. Find Workout Clothes You Feel Comfortable In

Sometimes gyms can be intimidating because you're worried about your appearance. Ultimately, you should wear what makes you feel comfortable in your own skin and while you're working out, whether that's a T-shirt and gym shorts or tight-fitting yoga pants and a muscle tank.

5. Create the Perfect Workout Playlist

The perfect mix of music can help get you motivated and keep you there, and wearing headphones can tune out otherwise-intimidating distractions. Figure out what types of songs encourage you to be active, and make a playlist that's long enough to last the duration of your planned workout session.

6. Download a Fitness App to Accompany and Track Your Workouts

Being able to visualize progress toward your fitness goals can improve your motivation to keep going back to the gym. Countless mobile apps offer a wide range of functionality to help you track your workouts, meals, and overall health, especially when combined with a wearable fitness tracker. Find an app with tracking functions that help keep you motivated, and enter the information every time you go to the gym.

Don't let gymtimidation interfere with your health and fitness goals. Face your concerns head on, and reference these tips anytime you need another boost of motivation to not skip the gym "just this once."

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