The feeling of ‘not fitting’ is an awful, unsettling emotion in any environment. But when the fear of ‘not fitting in’ prohibits you from bettering yourself, this negative self-impression must be swiftly addressed.
The reasons you may feel you stand out in the gym are as varied as the individuals themselves. From feeling like you aren’t in the right shape to go to the gym, to the fear of being judged by others. Or even not wanting to be seen as sweaty or unfamiliar with the equipment.
These are some of the many common reasons we avoid the gym. While some reasons like ‘not wanting to be seen sweaty’ could be perceived by others as a more superficial reason to avoid the gym, remember that while you may not mind being seen sweaty, this could be someone else’s sole reason for avoiding the gym. Everyone’s solution will be as unique as their respective obstacle.
Overcome these feelings
Look the part
Feelings of ostracization, being on the outside, often stem first from within us. Your task is to understand what it is inside of you that is preventing your growth.
Powerlifter and regular gym attendee Gia touts “fake it ‘til you make it” as her mantra. Irrational fears indeed can have irrational cures and Gia wrote about owning her femininity in the gym by dressing in ‘cute clothes’, things that made her feel ‘like a woman.’ By this, Gia does not mean, ‘wear only pink, or workout in tennis skirts.’ What she is saying is ‘don’t tell yourself, “When I reach my goal, I’ll buy new workout clothes.” Buy the clothes now! Especially if your gym has mirrors, seeing yourself in clothes that make you feel good, makes the entire experience more enjoyable, as silly as that sounds.’
If you find yourself thinking “I couldn’t pull off that gym gear!” turn this into “I like her fit – I aspire to wear that one day”. Familiarise yourself with what stops you in your tracks and address it. After a few minutes of talking to yourself, you might realise you are already stronger than you think.
Find your start
Feeling worried you ‘aren’t fit enough’ plagues many. However, worrying you aren’t fit enough for the gym is akin to saying you aren’t hungry enough to plan what you’re going to eat for the week.
When feelings of anxiousness arise, it is important to remind yourself that though the gym can seem an intimidating environment, everybody is there with the same goal, to improve their overall health.
Our imaginations can run wild, especially when we aren’t familiar with an environment. Going to the gym first to have a look around is a great way to acclimate and get yourself comfortable before working out.
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, an adage that has survived for good reason!
It is easy to fall under the bitter spell of comparison, especially when at the gym. It’s hard to compare mindsets or work ethics when all you see in the gym are bodies. At the gym, it is these bodies that may be ‘better’ than yours. This may for some, be unmotivating or envy-evoking, like seeing someone you follow on Instagram being somewhere you wish you were.
Do not engage in comparison. You are at the gym, you are there for the right reasons, to better yourself. Other people’s progress need not be considered.
Thanks to the rise of fitness ‘influencers’ on social media, much of the fitness industry preys on people’s negative emotions about their bodies with the aim of luring you in to buy products or sign up for fitness regimes.
Stay focused on the goals you have set for yourself. This could be 10 minutes on the treadmill, or even just walking into the gym to get the lay of the land. If you go to the gym without goals, you are going to a shooting range with no targets, what are you going to shoot?
Additionally, the repetition and routine of going to the gym will diminish feelings of anxiety. As uncomfortable as it may be, the most effective way to counteract this is to fight that initial instinct of distancing yourself emotionally and put yourself out there.
British Psychotherapist Nicola Vanlint states that “no matter how short your initial gym visits are, once you make them part of your routine, you will find that the urge to procrastinate or to abandon your visits fades.” Vanlint explains that creating a new habit by doing something regularly will put that behaviour into your implicit memory.
Steps to counter anxiety
- Find the gym for you
- Bring someone with you
- Attend out-of-peak hours
- Have a Personalised Training session
If you have any questions or are looking for support, speak to a member of gym staff. They’re always ready to help.