Shyness, Embarrassment, and Intimidation

After reading my previous post, I hope you have explored the idea of adding exercise to your health plan if you haven’t already done so, but I understand that there might be another obstacle or roadblock in your way before you ever really get going – shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation.
I have spoken with so many people about their healthy goals and almost all of them have said that they’d certainly join a gym or go to an exercise class, but they’re too shy/embarrassed/intimidated to do it.   I’ve also often heard of people wanting to get in shape before they go to the gym. Crazy.
I can respect the decision that a gym membership might not be your style.  That is fine if you truly find other activities more fulfilling.  But if the one and only reason a gym membership or fitness class is out of the question is that you’re shy, embarrassed, and/or intimidated, then let’s talk.
The first thing I want to say is that nobody, and I mean the all caps NOBODY, has the right to come between you and fitness.  Not even you.  Your health and wellness is the most valuable thing of all that you possess and there isn’t a soul in this world who has the power to keep you from it.  Everyone, no matter their fitness level, weight, or experience, has the right to join a gym.  It’s one of those places that should welcome everyone.
Did you see what I said there? A place that should welcome everyone.  If you are going to a gym that discriminates against you for any reason, especially one of fitness level or weight, then they’re jerks and you need to get out of there immediately.
Let’s break down some common reasons some feel awkward when going to the gym, m’kay?

  • Having no idea what all the equipment is all about, what to do with it — Yes, a standard gym is rife with with crazy contraptions, weights, and all kinds of stuff that you may not be familiar with.  If this is the kind of gym you are going to join, then it is in your best interest to get an orientation.  Almost all standard gyms have trainers on staff whose job it is to show you around, explain what they equipment is for and how to use it, and also to assess what your abilities are so you know just what to do when you get there.  Take advantage of these people!  It’s their job to help you and they will.
  • The place is filled with beautiful people who are in shape — That’s probably only a little bit true.  The gym is indeed a place where fit people go to stay fit, but it is also a place where people who aren’t yet fit go to GET fit.  See above – you have every right to be there too, as much as the “already fit” people.
  • Everyone will know I’m a newbie and look/laugh/stare/make fun of me — I’m here to tell you that the overwhelming majority of people at a standard gym or in a fitness class barely notice that there are others around.  They’re there to do the work and get out.  It’s natural to feel like all eyes will be on the new face, but trust me when I say that the other members are more concerned with their own sweat and awkwardness to bother with what you are doing.

Now here are some suggestions for things to do to make your time at the gym more fulfilling and less intimidating:

  • Remember that everyone was a new person at one point — Every person you see at the gym who you feel has a perfect physique was the gym newbie at some point.  There is no need to be intimidated by experienced gym goers because they were once in your shoes.
  • Go with a friend — Sometimes having someone with you can make you feel more comfortable in a new situation.  Find a workout partner who wants to join the gym as much as you do and together you’ll have no reason to be intimidated or embarrassed.  You could even take a friend who is experienced at the gym to show you around, introduce you to others, and help you out.
  • Take a class — This is especially helpful if you don’t know quite what to do yet.  You’ll receive on the spot instruction from a trainer, and blend perfectly into a crowd of people.
  • Try CrossFit — I have mentioned before that one of the workouts in my rotation is CrossFit.  I love it, and although it has the reputation for being very difficult, that is rather misleading.  Yes, it is definitely a challenge, but it is not the kind of challenge that only super-fit people can take on.  Besides, all the strategies I suggest above for finding a good gym and not being intimidated or embarrassed about are alive and well at your average CrossFit gym.
    Each session is lead by a trainer (or “coach”), and regular members are expected to welcome newcomers with warmth.  CrossFit gyms are not the kind of places where big gym egos live, and you’ll never have to wonder how to workout because you’ll get individualized instruction.
    You’ll inevitably find very fit people there, but because it is a non-competitive environment you need not feel intimidated.  As long as you are working as hard as you can to the best of your ability, you will be cheered for and encouraged.
    The workouts designed to be as difficult as YOU can handle.  In the CrossFit world they use the term “universally scalable”, meaning that every movement that is done and every weight that is prescribed can be changed or reduced to your own personal level of fitness.   At any given class you might have someone lifting 300 pounds next to someone lifting 50.  It is not uncommon to see 20-somethings working out along side 60-somethings at CrossFit.
  • Get over yourself — Yes, this might sound harsh, but if you’re still using shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation as an excuse that’s keeping you from being healthy, then it is high time you drop that attitude and get over it.  The fitter you is inside and it would be a shame to let hang-ups and excuses prevent him/her from coming out.  There are trainers, health coaches, friends, and even strangers who want to see you succeed.  Forget the naysayers, drop the negativity and excuses, and show the world that you can do it!

If you are a gym newbie, have you let shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation keep you from getting fit?  If you are a regular gym goer, what advice or tips do you have for those just starting out?  How did you get over any initial hesitancy you might have had when you first started working out?  Share in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Nicola
    November 11, 2013 7:29 am

    Hi. I want to join a gym but am too embarrassed. Its not that i am overweight or anything, i am just over 9 stone. But I’ve just never been a member of a gym before and i am just afraid that i will look stupid. Because i won’t know how to use the equipment. Help please. :-\

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