You looking at me? Fully 65% of U.S. women suffer from ‘gymtimidation’

January 7, 2019

If going to the gym makes you feel self-conscious, you have plenty of company. In fact, a survey of 1,000 women nationwide conducted by FitRated, and covered by Fitness magazine, has found that “gymtimidation” does more than cause a little anxiety. Fully 65% of respondents said they avoid the gym entirely, for fear of being judged.

By comparison, 36% of men said they felt the same way.

The list of gym fears is a long one, but here are the two top reasons for timidity: Fifty-five percent of women think they are being sassed for “not looking fit enough,” while 49% worry think their workout clothes look ugly.

“Fear of judgment comes from exactly that—fear,” Ashley Borden, a certified strength and conditioning specialist told Fitness recently. “I used to suffer from a debilitating gym-going ‘distorted ego.’ I had this idea that everyone was going to stop what they were doing and judge me every moment.

“Reality check?” she said. “After 35,000 hours working in a gym setting, I can tell you this: The only one who really cares is you Everyone else is so focused on themselves and they couldn’t care less—or they’re thinking the exact same thing themselves.”

Since not even top trainers are immune from a little gym anxiety, they’ve got a few expert strategies to help you score some major confidence gains. Here’s how to increase your confidence at the gym and crush the fear of being judged:

  • Plan your workout. “I don’t suggest walking into a gym and winging it,” says Borden. “It’s the aimlessness that feels uncomfortable. You want to have a plan.” Before heading to the gym, read up on a workout routine that will take the guesswork out of your sweat session or download an app that will take you through a circuit in real time.
  • Practice at home. Fifty-one percent of women reported having the jitters about improperly doing an exercise. Even with a plan, nailing a single leg deadlift can be nerve-wracking. Borden suggests perfecting your form at home to help you feel more confident. “I always stress form first; then, layer in intensity, weight load, etc.” Look for online apps that show you the good form you should be trying to achieve.
  • Know your equipment. Even if you’re an avid gym-goer, not all gym equipment is the same. You might confidently stroll up to a machine only to realize you have no idea how that model works Based on the survey, over 58% of women believe that they are the focus of derision because they are using the equipment incorrectly. Ask a trainer—or find one piece of equipment you have confidence on and make that your home base for your first experience at the facility. Just make sure that you follow gym etiquette and share with others.
  • Be a follower. Choose a spot in the back of an appealing fitness class where you won’t draw unwanted attention and follow the seasoned fitness pros up at the front of the room. If you kick when they squat, nobody will be the wiser.
  • Report harassment. There are some reasons for gym anxiety that are out of your control: Five percent of women reported being sexually harassed at the gym. “There is no excuse for sexual harassment and you should report anyone to management immediately if you feel harassed or threatened in any way,” Borden says. “That goes for members and inappropriate personal trainers.” Sadly, they’re definitely out there.
  • Remember your goals. Remember what makes you want to go to the gym in the first place: To make your body stronger, score a little mental health boost, and prioritize taking care of yourself

“Taking care of yourself also means eliminating the self-sabotaging jury in your head, or at least starting to ignore it,” says Borden. “Even if you don’t believe it yet, act as if you feel the confidence. If you arrive at a gym prepared, with a workout in hand, you won’t have time for anything else other than a good sweat.”

Research contact: @ashleyborden

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