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This Tuesday I am meeting with a trainer at a gym that is near work to become a member. I rationalize that it is close to the office, and I can get my workout done and then out the door.

The reality is that I need to lose weight. The pounds just aren’t coming off like they used to and I refuse to accept this steady decline. So with a tweak in the diet (intermittent fasting) and some good old-fashioned cardio and weights, I should be ready for spring in a few months.

Surprisingly, the bigger issue for me right now is what can only be called “gymtimidation” – the fear of entering the gym and being judged on my appearance. And this has made me hesitant to sign up, since initially stopping in approximately 6 weeks ago.

I know I don’t feel comfortable in my skin right now, and I am surprised at my discomfort. I always went to the gym as a means to an end. Go in and get it done, mission accomplished. This time is decidedly different.

Me, being me, I am examining what this means. We have a world made up of people who are comfortable working out in public (i.e. gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios) and others who are traumatized at the thought of moving in front of others, especially in gyms, fitness and yoga centers, less they be judged – on their weight, size, or ability. I am sure there are many people who are somewhere in-between, comfortable walking, yet not willing to enter a yoga studio, for example.

I know some of my clients are not familiar with all types of training and therefore are apprehensive to try something new, not wanting to look foolish or out of place. This is where I, as their health coach, help show them what I know and have them give something new a try, in a safe environment.

Gymtimidation: Where did this come from? What can we do about it?

I think it is safe to say our culture promotes judging people and putting us all in stereotypical boxes, based on initial impressions – i.e. our appearance. And this is even more true now that we are inundated with images on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, as well as keeping up with ….you know.

Victims of gymtimidation feel they deserve it because they don’t “look the part” and the “gymtimidators” think so too, and have no problem letting you know that. Unfortunately, sometimes it is members of the staff. The industry doesn’t care if you are comfortable or not, they sell more memberships than they could possibly hold in their fitness centers. They know that if you feel uncomfortable, you won’t show up and that is OK, the fire marshal won’t allow 1,000 in a building designed for 300. They are not invested in getting you in and getting you fit. They are interested in selling memberships. They know they won’t see some people step foot back into the gym, after signing up. Don’t be one of them because you feel anxious.

But you are. I know! So I am going to share with you some tips and tricks I hope will help you getting over feeling anxious about stepping into a fitness center, gym, yoga or Pilates studio.

First, identify what your goal is and see it clearly. How will it make you feel once you have accomplished your goal? Confident? Happy? Elated? Strong? Empowered? Once you have a clear vision of what you want your outcome to be, and you attach a strong emotion to the desired result, then you can move forward towards achieving it.

Next, find yourself a gym that feels right. Besides the hours, the classes offered, and the amenities, check out the clientele and staff. Are the people friendly? Are the staff helpful? Have the trainer or staff member show you how to use the machines, the free weights, the elliptical, each and every time you go in at first, to increase your comfort level. Is it a diverse crowd? Are there people of different ages, interests, and genders? Can you see yourself in this group? If so, you may have found your workout tribe.

Now, bring a buddy with you. When you have a regular workout friend, you hold each other accountable and help each other learn. If you don’t have one right now, perhaps you will find one in one of the classes you go to regularly or near you on one of the machines. Don’t discount this, it will help you get to your goal.

Lastly, enjoy yourself and be friendly. Smile and say “hi” – I promise nothing bad will happen to you. If people avoid eye contact, or at in their own head, don’t take it personally. They have their own reasons for being there – getting fit, blowing off steam, working through a problem. You never know – and you shouldn’t guess.

So I guess this was my confessional blog and I feel better now. I hope you do too, especially if you have been avoiding working out too. See you at the gym!

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