I’m not right at the beginning of my fitness journey – in as much as I have run for something other than an escaping toddler, and I have lifted something heavier than a full bin bag. Despite not being a total newbie, I still get a little self-conscious when I’m in the gym as I imagine scenarios of really messing up (leaving finger too long on the treadmill’s acceleration button) in front of all the other seemingly far more proficient gym-goers. I can imagine people rolling their eyes as I (the living embodiment of the stereotyped woman clad head to toe in Sweaty Bettster, talking loudly about inane school gate happenings) fly off the treadmill and lie in an ego bruised pile on the floor. And that’s before I’ve even broken a sweat.
It seems I’m not alone in my gym self-consciousness though. Half of British society still doesn’t feel particularly self-confident in the gym…and it’s not just us ladies…gymtimidation can happen to us all.
Gyms can seem like intimidating places – a lot of us are put off by the fact that other people training alongside us are more athletic / aesthetic than we are. Women have always been under pressure to be body beautiful, but men are increasingly feeling the need to buff up, to get as lean and muscular as possible. Masculine strength and power are promoted every bit as much as being slim is for women. Excessive pressure on the body, whether it’s through excessive iron pumping, or dieting inevitably causes damage.
So, what’s the answer? How do we relieve the pressure?
Some suggest an ‘amateur hour’ where certain times of the day are set aside for beginners only. In a similar vein, others are calling for gyms to offer ‘over-weight’ only sessions, to lessen body consciousness.
But is segregation really the answer? Surely the less accustomed we are to working out with all shapes and sizes, and all levels of fitness, the less natural it feels. And that’s when the staring starts, and the intolerance of anyone ‘different’ to ourselves begins.
What’s more, don’t we learn from people around us? The list of what I can’t do in the gym is endless, but the more I see people around me doing those things that I see as challenging, the more I learn, and feel like maybe I could / should give it a go.
If the person next to you is seemingly performing a little better than you, then turn any negative feelings you may have into positive ones: let them inspire you, not intimidate you. It’s healthy to have a bit of competition anyway – go on the treadmills at the same time as someone else, and if you can, try to stay on longer, or run faster than they are. Healthy competition can drive us forwards.
It’s also really important to remember that, at the end of the day,
everyone is at the gym to focus on their own fitness. In the nicest possible way, they couldn't really care less about what you're doing.
And if they do, and you don’t feel comfortable, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.
…Which leads me rather nicely onto ‘the right place’. Holme Run Fitness is for me, very much the right place. With Will at the helm, the environment is warm, friendly, brilliant fun, professional without being too serious, and above all, extremely welcoming…all those qualities that I associate with Will, I also associate with HRF. And nice attracts nice, so the clientele also happen to be a mighty fine bunch too. Of course, some of them sometimes have their “don’t talk to me I’m exercising” face on, but that doesn’t mean they’re unfriendly, just focused.
The Big Man himself is always available to help / guide / do some ‘mansplaining’! So use him. Move forward, learn, progress. Don’t shy away from asking. And forget about feeling uncomfortable, gymtimidation is all in the mind. Change your What’sApp status to a very confident ‘at the gym’. It is a space specifically designed to help us get healthy.
We’re all in it together.
I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, and make no claims to the contrary. What is written on this site should not be taken as fact or advice. It is merely an opinion blog.