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5 Reasons You Fear Going to the Gym and What You Can Do!

August 22, 2016

“I’ll start going to the gym when I lose weight.” This statement, as absurd as it may sound, is one I hear frequently as a group fitness instructor. Unbeknownst to many of the individuals who utter it, there is often a much more complex set of feelings hiding behind this statement.

While we all have our Rolodex of reasons for not joining a gym – lack of time, money, energy – the reality is that a lot of our hesitation stems from fears that are common to so many of us who deal with obesity.

The first step to overcoming these fears is to acknowledge them. Once you are able to articulate your personal barriers, it is much easier to find ways to overcome them. As we take a look at these common fears, keep a personal inventory of which fears resonate with you.

5 Fears of Going to the Gym and How to Overcome Them

FEAR 1: The gym environment intimidates me.

If walking into a gym and seeing a sea of machines gives you anxiety, join the club (although probably not that specific one). There is something extremely overwhelming about seeing endless rows of equipment filling a brightly lit gymnasium.

Luckily, this is not your only option. If you do a search of your area, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you have a wide range of choices to fit your personal needs. If a large chain gym is not the right fit for you, consider touring a women-only gym, a hospital-based gym or one at a recreational center. These locations have a tendency to be more intimate and less intimidating.

FEAR 2: I don’t know what to do at the gym.

Whether it’s a large gym or a personal training studio, try to learn everything you can about what the place has to offer. The more you know about what is available to you, the more empowered you will feel when you step into the gym.

Many gyms offer free initial sessions with a personal trainer who can teach you how to use the equipment. Once you understand how to properly use the gym equipment, cut out further ambiguity by making a specific plan as to what you will specifically do when you come to the gym.

Another great option is to attend group fitness classes if the gym provides them. These classes take the guesswork out of exercise because the instructor will guide you through a complete workout.

FEAR 3: I don’t like exercising alone.

While the easiest solution to this problem is to exercise with a friend, we all know that despite the best of intentions, this arrangement often falls through.

This is where group fitness can play a role. After you join a group fitness class and commit to coming weekly, you’ll quickly notice who the regulars are. With time, you may end up befriending these individuals and before you know it, you may end up being one of the regulars yourself.

You’ll not only be committed to your fitness, but you’ll also be committed to your fellow ‘gym rats.’ If you’re not into group fitness, the same can be said about the weight room. Come every week and you’ll eventually see familiar faces that will be more than willing to spot you while you lift or show you how to use a machine.

FEAR 4: I can’t keep up with everyone else.

Personal fitness is not a competition unless you count competing against your personal bests. When you try to learn a new sport, you don’t expect to play at a professional level by your second week, so why would you set that expectation for yourself at the gym? Do not compare yourself to others -- live your reality and allow yourself to progress at a pace that works for you.

I tell new students in my group fitness classes that it’s more than okay to not stay for the full hour when they start. Gradual progression may be the difference between a productive workout and a painful injury from overdoing it. Feeling successful is wholly internal -- make sure your fitness goals are aligned with your emotional and physical reality.

FEAR 5: I feel embarrassed to go to the gym.

After hours of positive self-talk, you finally convinced yourself to go to the gym. You dress at home to avoid locker room gawkers. Your outfit doesn’t make you feel wonderful, but you’ve long since come to terms with the scarce selection of flattering plus-size fitness clothes.

As you step onto the gym floor, your eyes pan across a crowd of would-be fitness models. Your heart sinks and the nerves kick in. Sound familiar? It’s hard to feel like people are not judging you as you step onto the treadmill because, on occasion, they actually are. But you’ve come this far with a specific goal in mind -- a healthier you.

Don’t waste your energy on worrying about what others think -- you’ll need that energy for your bicep curls. Also, keep in mind that skinny does not necessarily equal healthy. Reality check: a thin person may actually be less fit than you. Not only that, they may actually feel just as self-conscious and out of place as you do.

The gym can be a scary place, I’ll give you that. But try to keep an open mind.

After you’ve been in the gym environment for a while, you may realize that most of the individuals who go there have felt some or all of these fears at one time or another. But I can promise you that the benefits of overcoming these fears highly outweigh the benefits of hiding behind them.

As a group fitness instructor, I still have to push myself every day to overcome these fears. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that only a few years ago my then-morbidly-obese-self slinked into the back corner of a group fitness class praying to stay unnoticed. And somewhere along the way, I decided to tell my fears to shove it. I challenge you to do the same.

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Yelena Kibasova


Yelena Kibasova is a 14-year bariatric post-op, certified fitness instructor and professional writer. She has spoken at numerous obesity-related conferences over the years, including ObesityHelp, Obesity Action Coalition and WLSFA. She is passionate about fitness for all levels and sustainable weight maintenance plans that combine physical, mental and social well-being. She coaches clients on habit transformation for weight loss and regain. Website: www.morethanmyweight.com. Read more articles by Yelena Kibasova!

Photo credit:  Penn State cc