I know quite a few people that pay for a gym membership, and haven't stepped in there for a month. In fact I know one person that is still paying for a membership that hasn’t set foot in there for at least a year (and that’s NOT due to the pandemic). Worse still, I know at least 1 person that pays for a gym membership and HAS NEVER SET FOOT IN THAT GYM except for the initial tour.
There's a lot of reasons why people do that. They may start going and start off strong, but lose motivation for whatever reason. There may be something as simple as a change in routine. A major recent example of that is the pandemic. A lot of people now work from home which means they aren’t even in the area anymore. A change in personal circumstances that just causes all their other routines to fly out the window.
A lot of the time why people only go a few sessions and stop, or just don’t even start, is gymtimidation.
I have experienced it before, and it’s one of the reasons why I now insist on at the very least a tour or if possible a trial period. I set foot in this particular gym and I knew instantly that I “didn’t fit in”. It was mainly filled with “beautiful” people. Ripped, already fit, and people I considered to be highly in tune with their own value and I felt they were looking down on me. In hindsight and a lot of therapy I know now that was my own insecurity and lack of self worth that caused me to think that way. It doesn’t however change the fact that the vibe of the gym was just not accommodating for, say, an insecure unhealthy person who may have needed to be there but just didn’t feel comfortable to continue.
That’s what gymtimidation is. It’s a perception that you don’t belong. That the gym is for already fit and strong and “valued” individuals. People are just too scared to put themselves out there. They feel like the gym is for the Insta-Perfect, the gym junkies with Six Pack Abs, the Big Booty Kim Kardashian types, the Bodybuilders, and the SWOLE wannabees.
Here’s the irony though. Most of the time, the people that really NEED to be there more than the insta perfect gym junkies, are the average Joes. They might have stacked on a few extra kilos during COVID, or who have never experienced the need to be concerned about their health and fitness until a health scare, or suddenly find that they are struggling to keep up with their kids, or just generally want to take better care of themselves and their health as they neglected it for whatever reason.
The thought of going to the gym, and being around people who are obviously fitter and more experienced than they are, can obviously be a scary concept. They are worried about being judged or criticized, looking like an idiot because they don't know how to use the machines. Whatever the reason is why they're not stepping through that gym door is potentially putting their health at risk.
There are potentially 2 ways to combat this. One involves stepping up and giving it a crack anyway. Try a few gyms in your area and find the one you feel most comfortable with. Most places will offer a free trial and even a couple of PT sessions with a trainer who can show you the ropes, design a program to suit you and your needs. Empower yourself to ask how to use machines or do the exercises properly. It’s really important when you do have the tours and PT session that you ask questions, particularly if you have not tried the exercises or equipment before.
Be OK with saying NO if it doesn’t feel right, and don’t give in to the sales pitch. Try a few different things like group classes and “bootcamps” which will give you ideas of what you like and don’t like about fitness. Also, it’s OK to just use a treadmill for 20 minutes and disappear again. In fact, that’s fucking fantastic!
I'm also calling on the gym owners and current gym attendees of gyms to take the GYMtimidation away. Let’s make the gym more community friendly, Accept the “newbies” and help them out. Do your best to make them feel comfortable. Say hello and offer help if you see someone struggling.
Here is my BIGGEST challenge for the experienced gym goers out there…. If you see someone you KNOW is new, or is doing an exercise with a potentially damaging form, OFFER HELP. You might be saving them an injury. You also may be making a new friend. What do you have to lose?
If you are paying for a membership that you're not using. You've got two choices. You can cancel your membership and accept that this is who you are, this is your body, and that the gym is not the right way for you to keep healthy. That is TOTALLY OK. You have to find YOUR FIT, and it’s perfectly OK that the gym environment is not for you.
The other option is to give it another go and take a leap of faith. Open that door. Step inside and see what It has to offer. It can be pretty scary staring at all those machines and wondering what the hell to do. Let me tell you a couple of secrets. Those gym junkies, the vain ones, are far more interested in looking at themselves in the mirror to be worried about what you're doing, or they are far too busy checking their Instagram feeds and comparing themselves, or finding the best place to put their phone so that they can record their next set.
It can be hard to reframe but know that most people in there are NOT judging you. In fact they are probably self consciously worried that you are judging them!
Here’s what I find... When you finally get your ass in there and work up a sweat, then get back into the car, that wave of achievement will start to come over you. The happy hormones start coursing through your body, and you'll be glad that you made the effort to step through that door.