Friday, September 13, 2013

Gym intimidation - is it stopping you?

Does anyone suffer from gym intimidation? I saw a conversation developing on Instagram the other day between a very fit person with a home gym and a follower of theirs who felt like they wanted to achieve that same level of fitness but they were too intimidated to join a gym.

Whenever I hear this, it surprises me.  Not because I don't get intimidated.  I really do.  I was freaking out before the Tough Mudder, sure that I was in way over my head (it never crossed my mind to think that was crazy despite being the member of our team with hands down the most time to train and probably the most fitness drive and despite none of the rest of the team seeming to have any worries at all!).  If you read this blog at all, you know the SeaWheeze was incredibly intimidating for me.  I didn't trust my hip or my body to go the distance, I felt in over my head with regular runners and marathoners.  But the gym, that hasn't felt intimidating . I think that's partly because in my head anyway, it's where we all go to start fitness - yes more experienced athletes are there but when any of us says, I am going to get in better shape, do we not picture ourselves joining a gym to do that?

I distinctly remember the first time I went to the gym (at the University of Toronto Hart House) and I psyched myself up to ask for help with the machines and when I got there, they told me they don't really do that kind of thing! Haha! There was a few ambassadors around the gym that could help or would be there if there was an accident but weight technique and machines use wasn't their main focus.  So I did the next best thing, I read the exact descriptions on the weight machines and followed them.  I watched people with physiques I liked and I did what they did.  Was it perfect? No! I'm sure I made a million mistakes and I would definitely advocate for a well-trained personal trainer for your first few trips to the gym if you can manage it.  But I don't regret going - not then, not now, not ever.  I can honestly say I have never felt so intimated by a gym that it kept me from going and it saddens me that someone would be ready to start a health journey and encounter anything but positivism in that decision.

There is something about the gym itself that makes us all hyper aware of our bodies and how we feel about them.  It could be the spandex infused probably is that! But it's also feeling out of our element, not able to do all the things we want to do and like everyone else there is just so much further ahead of us.  I remind myself in all situations like that that we were all new once, we all started somewhere and I'm not fatter, thinner, prettier, smarter, stupider etc in the gym than I am anywhere else.  I'm just sweating a bit more!

If you enter a gym that truly makes you feel unwelcome, my advice would be don't give them a dime of your money! A good gym will offer a tour, will help you figure out machines and will make trainers available to you.  They will welcome you and celebrate your successes.  After all, we were all new once, we were all out of shape once so why make anyone joining a gym feel anything but welcome and supported in a healthier life?

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