I don’t mean to brag, but fitness and I go way back. Back to grade school, where I once threw up in gym class (a defining moment that really set the tone for my childhood interest in fitness). I had up’s and down’s of course. I was picked last for most team activities, but joined the basketball team on a whim and actually thrived. But then there were the lazy years, a few motivated years, child-bearing years, and now post-new mom years where I’m just trying to figure things out again. One thing I never expected at this point in my life was to encounter “gym-timidation,” a fear of working out in front of others and feeling judged.
Pre-parenthood, I’ll admit working out was tough for me. I was almost always exhausted from long days at work and just didn’t feel motivated. It felt like a chore that I had little to no interest in. Workout classes were a little intimidating to me, yet I wasn’t pushing myself enough if I chose to work out alone. After having kids, I felt quite a bit of motivation to get back into good habits. I joined a place that a few friends loved, but that was a little outside my comfort zone. Deciding to be brave and push through my insecurities, I began to really enjoy the “me-time” and the workouts were challenging and fun. It felt like a healthy way to have some time to myself, gain some strength, and take pride in my body again post-kid. Then, it happened: gym-timidation started to take over.
I think I first noticed it when I overheard one of the women say, “I didn’t know what to wear today, my other Lululemon outfits were dirty and my maid doesn’t come till Friday.” I started to feel like I just didn’t belong. Everyone was extremely fit, and I didn’t feel like I was even close to being there. I loved the workouts; it just didn’t feel like the right place for me. In the end, it wasn’t the fault of the business or even the people in the classes. It was about how I felt mentally for every class, more than the physical movements themselves.
Then I gave personal training a go and completely loved it! It was an expensive, but worthwhile investment and one that really helped me fine-tune my diet and fitness goals. I liked the accountability, the one-on-one form correction and advice, and the workout intensity. Then, the pandemic hit. The pause button was hit on pretty much everyone and everything. Luckily, my husband and I were in the process of setting up a home gym which got us through the loneliness that was 2020. However, after more than a year of the same routine, I felt compelled to switch it up again.
When a friend joined a gym near my house, I thought I’d check it out with her even though feelings of gym-timidation were still there. But, I felt more confident with myself and signed up to vary my routine. I like the quick time away for self-care, the workouts are varied and interesting, and everyone is encouraging and nice. After that first workout, I’ll admit…it was so intense and different for me I felt a little nauseous. Ultimately, the problems of the past did not resurface.
If I’ve learned anything about gym-timidation over the years, it’s that everyone can be self-conscious and feel judged at the gym. Social media doesn’t help, always portraying fitness time as the epitome of physical and mental health. Perfect people, wearing the latest and greatest, at their strongest. Life, however, is not perfect. And what we see on social is just a snapshot of the real thing.
At the end of the day, it’s about you and your well-being. Sometimes the hardest person to be kind to is yourself. Go easy, and remember we all have a right to be there.
Looking for some ideas to get fit without the gym? Check out Staying Fit for Free
Editor’s Note: Also stay tuned for a Green Bay Area Mom Fitness Guide launching in August!