Gym-timidation is Real

Liisa Aalto, Staff Writer

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The hardest part of the gym should be that extra rep to push through or the added pounds to the weights, but for some people it can simply be walking through the doors. This is because they experience gym intimidation.

According to Julie Johnson, a personal trainer at Centerville Fitness, “Gym intimidation is feeling overwhelmed and afraid in the gym. Some people are intimidated by the equipment and some people are intimidated by other people working out.”

Gym intimidation can happen to anyone for a couple of different reasons. For some, there is the fear of using a new machine because they don’t want to embarass themselves if they use it incorrectly. This goes hand in hand with the idea that people believe they should be at a certain fitness level or look in shape before they go to the gym or else they will be judged.

At Planet Fitness,  marketing is based around avoiding gym intimidation, billing the gym as the “The Judgement Free Zone.” Drew Silva, the assistant manager there defines gym intimidation as “making people uncomfortable in a place where they’re trying to better themselves.” He added that they maintain the gym as a judgement free zone by avoiding “lunks: men who go in lifting heavy weights, making lots of noise, grunting, and just trying to show off and seem intimidating.”

“Everyone thinks all the people that go to the gym are big, buff men,” said junior Kennedy Hunter, “don’t be intimidated, start small. Everyone has to start somewhere. All those big, buff guys even had to start small.”

While there might be a stereotype of only “lunks” that work out at the gym, junior Blake Germani said that in reality, “there is such a wide variety of people that go. There are people that go three times a day and people that go three times a year at my gym.”

No one is alone in experiencing this intimidation according to Silva who said, “It does range from all people, even young men that come in experience it.”

Gym intimidation can be felt by people that have never gone to a gym and by people that regularly work out, as made clear considering Johnson has experienced it too. “I have felt intimidated when I took a new class, or worked out at a new gym, or tried a new piece of equipment. I didn’t let it stop me,” she said.

While Johnson recognized that people feel intimidated because “either they don’t know how to use the equipment, or they think other people are watching them and judging them,” she urged that people who experience gym intimidation work out with a friend or a trainer.

Most people point to the buddy system as way to ease the intimidation and become more comfortable at the gym. Silva explained that gym intimidation “reduces substantially when they have a buddy or a group just because they feel more confident, the feeling of safety, and the feeling of protection like they’re not the only one being looked at.”

Overcoming gym intimidation can be done, but only through perseverance and finding what works best for you to make yourself comfortable at a gym. According to Germani, “a class is less intimidating because you tend to go to things like that with your friends,” whereas Hunter disagreed and said, “I think it’s more intimidating to go to an exercise class. You don’t really know what to expect each time you go and you are in a room with a bunch of people doing the same thing as you so I feel there’s an aspect of competition.”

However, they both brought up the same idea that over time you become more comfortable at a gym. Germani said that “it gets less and less scary the more and more you go until you are at the point where it’s not a big deal anymore.”

For Hunter, she was intimidated at first and had to look up different exercises and how to use the equipment on YouTube. She eventually figured it out and doesn’t feel intimidated anymore because she is confident in what she does, saying “I kind of just do my own thing.”

Looking back, Hunter said “I definitely started small which I was embarrassed about so in a way that motivated me to keep going back and work harder.”

Gym intimidation is something that is felt by many for many different reasons, but should not stop you from becoming healthier and happier. “Don’t let it stop you from working out! As  with anything new, it’s scary at first,” said Johnson, “After some time and experience, the gym should become a place to workout and have fun.”

Get Exercising with these Tips:

  • ● Go with a buddy
  • ● Start small and aim for 10,000 steps a day by walking, running, or both. This can be done alone, with friends, or with a dog.
  • ● Work out at home or outside at a place you feel comfortable (school fields, parks, hotel gyms, etc.).
  • ● Start with machines that you already know how to use, such as a treadmill.
  • ● Look up how to do certain exercises or how to use a machine so that you know what you are doing. Even better, ask for help from someone that knows what they are doing.
  • ● Plan your workout before you go to the gym and write it down. That way you know what you are doing and don’t feel lost.
  • ● Do body weight exercises (lunges, push ups, squats, plank, etc.). They can be done anywhere.
  • ● Take an exercise class at school in a welcoming environment.
    • ○ BHS offers classes like Wellness, Sports and Well Being, Beginning Fitness, Strength Training and Fitness, and Living Well Beyond BHS