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Photo by ŞULE MAKAROĞLU on Unsplash

Whether someone is nervous around complex gym equipment or simply uncomfortable in a room full of sweaty men, gymtimidation (the feeling of anxiety at the gym) is a harsh reality for many, and might even deter some from working out in the first place.

But, good news (sort of): if you find yourself uneasy at the gym, you are not alone. According to a survey of 2,000 people conducted by Studyfinds, fifty percent of Americans experience feelings of gymtimidation. 

How, then, does one overcome these frightful feelings and turn nerves into motivation? For help, we turned to Girls Nite Live’s very own fitness experts.

According to yoga instructor Kristen McBride, the first step for overcoming gymtimidation lies in understanding why it exists.

“Historically, women are seen as the gentle gender while men have handled the tough stuff,” Kristen says. “I think the antiquated concept of women being the weaker gender affects so many of us because it has permeated our lives for centuries. If we can start to see that ‘gymtimidation’ is a social construct, we can begin to deconstruct the concept.”

Ava Adames, MS NBHWC and Health and Wellness Coach agrees. 

“I believe [Gymtimidation] affects so many women because we have been taught to look, act and feel a certain way through media marketing,” she says. 

Even accomplished fitness experts like our workshop leaders experience gymtimidation. 

Take the accomplished Ava Adames, for example. She tells us: “I experienced gymtimidation after all 3 of my pregnancies. I felt I looked like I was out of shape and felt nervous about my level of fitness for the classes I was taking.” 

Yoga Instructor Inga Bentley has felt similarly. When she began her fitness journey, she felt “afraid of going to the gym and looking like a complete fool.” She remembers “going into a class, hiding in the back and hoping no one would look at me.”

The fear of appearing out of shape is a common symptom of gymtimidation. But, as Aja Coryell, Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist reminds us, “You are not competing with anyone else. Remember why you began and don’t let distractions stop you.” 

As daunting as a room full of rock hard abs may be, it is important to realize that no one cares if your form is not perfect or if you stumble over a piece of equipment.

Ava Adames defines the gym as “a place for self-improvement.” She goes on, “Most gym-goers are more concerned about themselves than the people around them.”

To ignore the eyes around her, Kristen McBride tries to “lean into it and work through it.” The yoga expert continues, “I often remind myself of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘What other people think of me is none of my business!’”

Other than targeting your mindset, there are external resources for getting comfortable at the gym. Gyms often foster great senses of community, so fitness instructors and gym staff are eager to help.

Kristen McBride recommends finding a workout buddy. 

“The power of connection is one of the strongest things we have as humans. When harnessing that power we can achieve great things— including conquering gymtimidation!” Kristen says.

It is okay to be a beginner, and it is more than okay to ask for help. Kristen even encourages it. 

“Just ask for help,” she says. “Odds are that the person you ask has stood in your shoes when they started their journey.”

Though COVID has thrown a wrench in many of our gym plans, virtual workouts provide a taste of community. Aja Coryell says, “There is nothing like the energy of a classroom, the team effort of trying to make a goal.”

Virtual workouts are a great first step because, as Kristen McBride points out, they can help you “gain confidence at home that will translate into the gym.”

Girls Nite Live has a great selection of virtual fitness classes. From High Impact to Yoga and Pilates to Barre, virtual classes can deliver some of your gym favorites right at home: like Ava’s “rush of endorphins” after workouts, and Aja’s love for encouraging people on their fitness journeys.

As you build up confidence for your next workout, Aja Coryell encourages one to “focus on your ‘why’ and don’t lose sight of it.” 

Inga Bentley leaves us with one last piece of advice, which is to rip off the bandaid and “just start now! When you think about it in a year, you will never regret starting now!”