Updated: Jul 12, 2019
You know you need to get to the gym, but something’s standing in your way.
In this series we’ll tease apart the most common barriers that have kept my clients from getting to the gym and we’ll identify how to bust through those barriers so you can create lasting routines that will get you to the gym and on the way to achieving your fitness goals.
If the thought of walking into a gym fills you with dread, the first thing you need to do is recognize that you’re not alone. Fear keeps more people out of the gym and on the couch than any other barrier, in my experience. There are so many things about going to a gym or working out that touch on some of our deepest, most personal fears.
For many of us, the sheer physicality of working out is emotionally difficult. It’s impossible to be a woman in our society without getting absolutely pummeled by negative images about our bodies. We’re too big, we have bulges, we’re shapeless, we sweat, we smell, we have too much of this or too little of that. The list goes on. Whatever your particular hangup about your body is, working out is likely to challenge it. Even women who are experienced athletes have to work through body shame. If trying to start working out because your body feels unhealthy then you’re going to have to work through a whole heap of societal and emotional baggage just to get there.
The good news is that because everyone, men and women alike, all have body fears and insecurities, while you’re focused on how you look when you’re exercising, everyone else in the gym is busy focusing on themselves. If everyone feels like they’re the star of their own deeply-uncomfortable one-person play then no one is available to be the audience.
What about the instructor? They’ve seen it all before, and in any case, their goal is to help you exercise so you become fitter. Any good instructor isn’t going to judge you; they know that just being there means you’ve done the hardest part. It’s their job to help you go the rest of the way.
If you’re new to gyms in general, or a particular gym then you’re also having to face your fear of the unknown. It is flat out scary to go into something new, not knowing what to expect or what to do. Every single one of us has moments when we’re self-conscious, and when you try something new like going to a gym it can be massively intimidating.
Sometimes your feeling of intimidation comes from a bad experience with exercise or in a gym which stuck with you. I new client came to me recently who was recovering from a bad situation at a big gym. She told me she felt gawked at and made to feel like she was in the way while she was using the weight room. This negative experience kept her out of the gym for six months until she started training with me. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard a story like that. Do not let one bad experience scare you out of the gym for life! Not every gym is like this so don’t lose hope! You just need to find a gym that is the right fit for you.
At my gym, if you’re new to working out in general or my gym in particular, I’m always happy to meet you there at a time when there aren’t any other clients present. You can get a feel for space so you’ll be able to visualize the experience ahead of time. Sometimes just knowing where you can put down your water bottle makes the experience less intimidating. Meeting the owner or staff can also help you get a feel for the culture of a particular gym and see if its a good match for you. Don’t be afraid to ask to do this. Good gym owners or managers know that gyms can be intimidating, particularly your first time, and they’ll go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable and welcome.
To overcome the intimidation/fear barrier you first need to accept where those fears are coming from and then put them in context: the gym is a place where everyone is facing their body fears and a good gym is designed to help you get over them.