Lately I’ve had people searching for some interesting things that have led them to my blog:
“Am I too fat to workout at a gym?”
“Too heavy for Orangetheory?”
“Weight limit for rower”
“How to overcome humiliation at a gym.”
“How much should I weigh before I buy a gym membership.”
Disheartening, right? Believe me, I’ve had my share of negative thoughts when it comes to doing any kind of physical activity; especially when it comes to working out with others who may be fitter and/or more muscular than I (based upon my own perception). Deciding to take the step and start moving is a choice you should make based on what’s right for your body, what’s going to improve your health, and make you feel good. Body image should not play a factor in deciding when to start a workout, but unfortunately, from my blog search terms, it seems as it’s more common than I thought.
I’m not saying that going to the gym isn’t be a scary ordeal, especially if you’re lacking body image confidence. All those muscles, fit bodies and flat stomachs can be enough of a deterrent to make you waste $$ on a monthly membership you don’t even use.
Unfortunately, many people who are new to a gym, or any fitness class for that matter, seem to gravitate towards those intimidatingly “perfect” bodies, completely looking past the fact that there ARE people of all shapes, abilities, levels, and body types working out in any gym on any given day. And remember, what we think is perfect, is solely based on our perception. those seemingly perfect individuals have their own struggles too, and they are there for the same reasons you are- to be the best, healthiest versions of themselves. If you step into a gym setting with the mindset of “we’re all in this together”, you will instantly reduce your nervousness.
When I first started an exercise routine, I remember being completely terrified at being laughed at, doing something wrong on a machine, or having my flabby parts jiggle much more than my workout mates. It took me some time to figure out that I was being ridiculous! I was not too out-of-shape, fat, jiggly, or any other descriptor I was calling myself, to work out in any gym facility. And neither are you! Here are a few tried-and-true ways to shift your mindset and get on that consistent path to those feel good post-workout endorphins!
1) Choose a workout that you enjoy. First and foremost, you have GOT to explore your options and find something you are going to look forward to doing to help ease the anxiety you may be feeling about starting a workout routine. If you don’t like riding bikes, a spin class may not be your thing. Not a fan of running? Who says you have to? Try a few options and find something that you are not going to dread. It could be trying out a Barre class, or maybe some type of dance fitness (think Zumba!). Maybe you enjoy swimming, yoga, pilates, or boxing. Most gyms will offer a first class free, so this is a perfect opportunity to see what is going to spark your interest and get you motivated and excited to stick with it!
2) Get friendly with the employees. Voice your concerns, ask to go on a tour of the gym to get familiar with the ins and outs ahead of time, and inquire about times when they’re least busy as a way to ease into your routine. Once you get to know the staff, a smile and being greeted by name from them will help to put you at ease as soon as you walk through the door. And don’t forget to smile back! We all know a simple smile can really boost our mood.
3) Use the buddy system. Most gyms now offer free guest passes. Ask a friend to come along with you. I’ve found in times when I’m most nervous, having a familiar face (and someone to be silly with to alleviate the pressure of getting sweaty with strangers) can be just the thing to get you settled in.
4) Bring music or a book. Build a playlist of your favorite tunes, or a book on tape to keep you entertained and focused while you workout. Oh and while you’re at it, throw a few inspirational jams to help keep you motivated and energized. My go jam is always “My Body” by Young the Giant. **My body tells me no-o, but I won’t quit, ’cause I want mo-ore!**
5) Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The last thing you want to have to deal with are wedgies, uncomfortable waistbands or chafing issues while getting your move on. Make sure your clothes fit well, your shoes are right for your foot (have you been to a shoe fitting at an athletic shoe store yet? If not go! go!), and leave the jewelry and accessories at home. Go for comfort! You’re not there to impress! And besides, your effort, sweat and dedication are much more attractive and eye catching than than blinged out wrists!
6) Make eye contact. As nerve-wracking as that may sound for someone who already has gymxiety, making eye contact and passing along a smile to other gym members may be just the trick for breaking the ice. You’ll be surprised at how many will return the gesture and even a word of encouragement. Remember, we are all in this together!
I’d love to hear your tips! How do you stay calm and confident at the gym?