Do you ever get nervous when you’re heading to a workout? Do you feel anxious or intimidated when you're in a gym? I’ve struggled with these feelings for years. Almost every time I’m on my way to workout I get a few butterflies in my stomach and I feel a little nervous.
Typically the thoughts that run through my head are something like:
Will I be the slowest/weakest/least experienced person there?
Will I do something “dumb” and embarrass myself?
Am I wearing the right clothes to fit in?
Etc. etc. etc.
I recently did some research on this and discovered two interesting things:
This is common. Experts estimate up to 50% of people experience similar feelings from time to time.
It has a name! Gymtimidation, defined as “the fear of working out in front of others”
We’re all social creatures and have an innate desire to fit in. Working out can make us feel especially vulnerable in this regard, since it can be hard not to judge ourselves against others we perceive to be faster, stronger, more coordinated, more stylish etc.
The good news is, there’s things you can do to help manage Gymtimidation and keep these feelings in check. Here are 4 tips that work for me:
1. Have a plan and be prepared: Before you go, have a plan of what you’re going to do. If you’re inexperienced, try taking a class, hiring a trainer, or going with a more experienced friend. Familiarity with the equipment and moves you’re going to be doing can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
2. Acknowledge and support others: This one is a little counterintuitive but it has helped me a lot. When it’s not too disruptive, I make a point of sending a quick smile, nod or wave to others working out near me. If I’m nervous, others may be too, and both giving and receiving friendly overtures helps me feel calmer.
3. Work on getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable: Life is messy and gym workouts are no exception. Over the years I’ve had a number of mishaps, including wardrobe malfunctions and slamming a wall ball into my own face so hard I fell over. Yes, I felt some transient embarrassment in these kinds of situations but I’ve noticed that most people are focused on their own workouts and not overly concerned with what I’m doing. If something goes wrong, I try to find some humor in it and remind myself to Keep Calm and Carry on.
4. Use training tools to keep you focused on what’s important: Training tools help me remember why I’m in the gym in the first place. Most of us aren’t there to compare ourselves with others, we’re there to enhance our own fitness and health at the pace that’s right for us.
I always record my workout and upload it to Strava.
I pay attention to my effort level. Tracking my Relative Effort on Strava is one of my favorite features. Relative effort analyzes how much cardiovascular work goes into any workout, and helps you avoid over or under training.
I monitor my workouts using Strava’s Training Log.. The Training Log is designed to show all your training in one place and visualize your progress. It tracks consistency and you can also use it to track streaks - for example how many days in a row you’ve been active.
Have you ever suffered from Gymtimidation? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a reply to this post and let us know if you use any of these strategies or share some additional ones that have worked for you.