The message that we should be exercising and being more active, isn’t a new one. I don’t think I have met anyone in the last couple years who WASN’T aware that they needed to be exercising. But the thought of walking into a gym for many people can lead to panic attacks and anxiety. The gym can be intimidating! Exercising in front of a bunch of people that appear to know what they’re doing can be extremely stressful.
Stressful enough to not walk in at all.
But sometimes we tend to not say the REAL reasons we aren’t exercising. The “I’m afraid” reasons. So I’m here to begin that conversation. To try to help people push past the I’m afraid reasons with suggestions of ways to help.
Reason # 1: The gym intimidates me because … I don’t want to make a fool out of myself with a ton of people watching. Being self-conscious to walk into a gym is a very real fear. If exercise hasn’t been a part of your life, introducing it around a lot of people who seem like they are experts, can be really hard. You see the die-hard, never-miss-a-workout people and you cower. In some gyms, with its wall to wall mirrors, it can feel like everyone is looking at you.
A Solution: Over the last 5-10 years, there have been big shifts in the fitness industry. Smaller studios have begun to pop up that are a no-mirror, small group space that offers you a community to support you. Going into a smaller intimate setting can reduce a lot of the anxiety of these large fitness facilities.
Reason #2: The gym intimidates me because … I’m surrounded by a bunch of 20-somethings who can do way more than me. You can walk into an aerobics class with a bunch of people jumping and doing burpees and you think “there is no way that I can keep up”. So you end up looking like the person at the back of the class … dying.
A Solution: Start with the beginner classes that are 30-40 minutes long instead of an hour. Find a gym that has classes offered specifically to your level. When you are inquiring about a gym, ask about the average age of clients. Ask them for a tour at the time of day you would be going to the classes and take a peak. Trust your gut if you would feel comfortable stepping in there and taking part in their programs.
Reason #3: The gym intimidates me because … I work out today, I’m in actual PAIN tomorrow. As we get older, the amount of time it takes to recovery and the likelihood that we have aches and pains goes up. We are working with a trainer or in a class where I feel they don’t respect that I have certain injuries or limitations. I can do it today but I really pay for it tomorrow. It makes you not want to go.
A Solution: You need to be working with people who have the knowledge and skills to work around your injuries and respect your limitations. Seeing a physiotherapist can help give you some self-directed guidance or can help you use exercise to reduce aches and pains. It is okay to ask the person that you are with what they’re education and experience is. Ask them why they are doing the things they are doing. Any person can put you through a workout that makes you want to cry getting onto the toilet the next day. But muscle soreness can be too extreme and you don’t want injury pain… it’s not the desired result of exercise. On a properly prescribed and progressed exercise program, a lot of those concerns can be avoided.
I know it’s hard to overcome some of the fears of exercising, especially if you’ve had negative experiences in the past. Find the team that has the skills, experience and personality that works for you. Do some research into the facility you’re interested in working out at. See a physiotherapist if you’re worried about flaring up an injury or have specific health concerns. There are people there that can help you, you just need to find them!