Yes, you read that correctly, and it is real. What is it? Well, gym intimidation or gymtimidation is the fear of working out in front of someone else from fear of judgment. Some will say “Fake News,” but various polls show anywhere from one-third to one-half of people are afraid to work out in front of someone else who they deem more fit.
Most of us are also unsure of how equipment works, and do not want to do something incorrectly. Also, in today’s COVID-19 era, we also worry about being somewhere with too many people in too small a space. In our journey of reclaiming our health and fitness, I want to give some tips on how to overcome this fear and thrive.
First, have a plan before you get to the gym.
If you walk in blank, chances are you may leave blank or talk yourself out of doing much of anything. Instead, tell yourself today is light warm-up walking 10 minutes around the track or on treadmill, and then get some dumbbells and do some squats and/or lunges. Having the mental plan set before you get there will decrease the anxiety of trying to decide what equipment or weights or part of the gym you are going to use for the day.
Friends make everything better.
So get someone you know to go and workout with you. Two minds are always better than one, and this gives you the added accountability to someone other than yourself to show up and put in some work. There is an added layer of distraction built in as well both for the gym itself and the workouts.
Truth is, we are not dependent on another’s opinion for our own happiness and progress. Chances are the idea that someone is going to judge or ridicule you at the gym for being out of shape and not knowing how to use the equipment will never happen. I had a trainer one time, and asked him what he thought about people who were using machines incorrectly. Did he ever correct them? He thoughtfully replied, “I’m just happy to see people there putting in effort to improve themselves. If they are going to hurt themselves, I might offer correction, but otherwise, more power to them.” A trained professional at the gym, and he finds solace in the fact people are attempting to better themselves. He and his peers are not laughing and finger pointing as some may fear. Again, most people are too busy worrying about getting through their workout to spend time trying to find people to put down.
If the gym is just not the place for you, that is okay, too.
There are multiple apps, books, free videos showing body weight exercises that require no gym or equipment to improve your strength and conditioning. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and more can be done right in the comfort of your home.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu
It is far more important to begin that journey whether at home, the park, or at the gym.
We can do this.
Wesley Nickens, MD