I kind like this definition from Urban Dictionary as it is the most accurate description for me:
noun. When someone is intimidated to go to the gym (or use gym equipment) because the muscleheads are constantly using the weight machines/free weights.
Gym vs. home?
When I decided to start on my health/fitness journey in July last year, I chose to focus on home workouts. I purchased myself a set of dumbbells, some resistance bands and a mat, and got to work. You can get in some pretty good workouts at home if you have the right set of weights, and even when I was following gym workouts I found that so many exercises were modifiable. For my cardio kick I started out with doing spin classes, then after 10 weeks went back to the gym where I’d rarely venture out of the cardio section. But I was spending so much time watching these YouTube and Instagram videos of people using these pieces of equipment that I couldn’t help but be intrigued. What the gym offers is i) in my case, bigger weights and ii) more versatility (because, of course, not every exercise can be modified). My only issue of venturing away from my safe zone of the treadmill, rowing machine and cross trainer was that I had a severe case of gymtimidation. “What if I don’t know how to use the machines?”, “What if people think what’s this girl doing here in the weights section?”, “What if people notice and point out my poor form?” So whilst my fear sort of kept me glaring over at times and noting things like “oh yeah, I saw Hannah Oeberg using that in her latest leg workout!” My fear meant that it really was just a glare and nothing more. Slowly but surely, I started making certain changes to get past this barrier…
➢ Go to the gym with a partner
In my case, it was my partner. Levi have been in and out of the gym together since 2015 (it was never a constant thing in the past though because of laziness and exams); in this time he’s definitely gained a lot more experience in the weights section than I ever have. I remember one of the first things I did was tell him to text me when he was going on lat machine, and then he taught me how to use it. We also once did a leg day together, and he taught me how to use the leg press machine. And the thing is, once you do it once, that’s really it. I never had any fear from that point using either of those machines because I now already knew what I was doing. Even if you go with someone who’s similarly unfamiliar with the machines/weights, learn together and laugh together if need be, it’s definitely less intimidating than doing it by yourself.
➢ Try someone new each time you go to the gym
Of course, you can’t always have a gym partner every single time you go to the gym. That would be great, but we each have our separate lives to live, we each are working on different schedules, and this means that solo gym sessions are more than likely. When Levi wasn’t around, I’d still push myself to try out new machines, by setting myself the rule to try out one new piece of equipment/try out something I’d previously been too scared to do, every time I went. Like I said above, it only takes you trying out something once to gain more confidence in it, so if you also have a bit of gymtimidation and you try this method, you could have tried out 5 new things by the end of one week. 😉
➢ Go to the gym when it’s quiet
Going to the gym when it’s quiet can be quite tricky because – when is the gym ever really quiet? Also, even if it is more quiet than usual, all you need is about 2-3 people in the area you’re training in to kick the fear into you. When I went back to my family home over the Christmas break, I signed up for a short term pass to the gym there because I thought it’d be super quiet – I’m not sure why but I see my hometown (outskirts of London), as a pretty quiet place with tons of elderly people so I didn’t think I’d really run into too many people at the gym; plus, it’s Christmas time, do that many people workout on 24 December? 31 December? Turns out they do. The gym was still always packed. However – it is possible to go to the gym at quieter times, to ease up the pressure a bit when you’re trying out some new things. Have a look at your gym on Google before you go, they have a “popular times” section where they show a live counter of how busy the gym is at the current moment, and how busy it usually is at different times. The hope is that if you catch a quieter time, you’ll feel more at ease to try new things to overcome your fears.
➢ Get out of your own head
Now here’s the most practical tip – get out of your own heed. It’s definitely easier said than done but the truth is, most people actually don’t actually care what you’re doing. I remember the first time I used a bigger barbell someone came over to talk to me and I was terrified, but it turns out they just wanted to ask if I was using the bench next to the barbell. I kind of laughed at myself for thinking that someone cared what I was up to. Think about it yourself – when you’re at the gym, do you really care what anyone else is doing? Nope. I really just want to know when they’re going to be off that piece of equipment so I can go onto it, or if what they’re doing looks pretty cool I keep it in my head as something to try at a later date. You could get people at times critiquing your form – this happened to me once on a rowing machine and I see it happening to people here and there (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened to me again), but I actually don’t see this as too offensive, I see it as someone just actually being quite helpful which will make it easier to reach your goals. Plus, you don’t have to take their advice if you don’t want to.
➢ Ask for help
Those instructors that walk around the gym are there for a reason!
That said, I do still have times when I get intimidated. If I see a certain area is packed with big, muscly, ‘juice heads’, I sometimes just want to do a modification of what I intended to do and leave it at that. It’s natural. The key is just to not let this stand in your way enough to stop you from reaching your goals. You should be worrying yourself after all, and not focusing on others or their perception of you!