Joining a gym is an invest in health and happiness, rightfully so, but it also can trigger a ton of insecurity around your body, fitness ability and sense of belonging. Joining a gym or wanting to try a new class at first feels exciting...but when you begin to take steps towards it, something else hits: I can’t do that...look at how good everyone else is doing it! I don’t belong here.
There is a name for this overwhelming, disappointing feeling: gymtimidation and it’s felt most often when you compare others fitness levels to your own.
- “Wow, she is running at 6.2 mph? I’m at like 4.5….and panting.”
- “Everyone else is so thin and fit, I just feel flabby.”
- “The women in that class all look like pros! I’ll look like an idiot..”
- “Omg. I don’t want anyone to see me naked in the locker room!”
These are just a sampling of what I thought about each time I went to the gym. It was exhausting trying to “keep-up” with everyone else and limit myself from enjoying fitness and my own bodies strength. Gymtimidation makes you feel like you’re out of place, that everyone is secretly whispering behind your back “What is SHE doing here?” and if left unchecked, you might be walking away from the gym rather than owning your workout.
Today, I’m proud to say that I no longer have a membership to Gymtimidation. My body-type doesn’t look like the stereotypical typical avid-gym goer. I’m plus-size meaning, my body is overweight, but my fitness level is actually quite high. Lots of people have a hard time with this seemingly paradoxical possibility, but it’s true. I’m an advanced level yoga practitioner and run 5K’s regularly.
As you know, I’m also a body-positive writer, life coach and speaker through my work at More To Love, focusing mainly on plus-size women’s body-image, health. I got into this work through my own experience with body-image and confidence, and I talk a lot about my own fitness path, which includes overcoming gymtimidation.
Everyone starts out clueless. No one waltzes into a gym and can do a push-up without any struggle, so step one in getting over intimidation is to appreciate beginnings. You’re allowed to mess up and be clumsy while learning something new. I have found that adopting an attitude of humor and patience works best when I’m faced with a challenging fitness situation...it makes me lighten up!
Your body doesn’t lie, so trust it. Sometimes the gym can feel like a battle between the over-eager ego that tells you “JUST DO IT” and the body which simply is doing its best. There is a difference between a challenge and pain in fitness and your body knows the difference, so respect it. There is no shame in sitting out of a activity in a class, or going at your own pace. In fact, it’s wise to listen to your body and avoid injury.
Try it out, then do what feels good. I believe you should try something a couple times to see if you really like it or not, then make the choice if it’s for you. There is no point in sticking with a workout that feels like torture just because you think it’s “the best” for you. The best workout is the one you’re excited about, which makes you feel active and vibrant because chances are, you’ll stick with it for the long-haul.
You’re allowed to belong and feel healthy. No matter your size, body-type or fitness level, you’re allowed to enjoy health and feel accepted during your process. I’m a huge advocate for inclusion across all lines when it comes to health and wellness, and acceptance starts with yourself. Approaching fitness from a respect that your intentions are good will help ease the pressure off obtaining your goals. Health comes in a diversity of forms and recognizing where you are is most important and not comparing yourself to how others are living out their fitness.
Don’t let intimidation stop you from enjoying health and well-being...you deserve to move your body and appreciate its natural strength while you progress forward towards your unique health goals.