A study conducted by Fitrated in the USA found that 64.9% of women avoid the gym & starting a fitness journey due to extreme anxiety or fear of being judged. Starting a new training journey or returning to a gym environment can be incredibly daunting & intimidating. It’s a catch 22 as we all know the benefits regular health & fitness training can have on both our physical & mental health yet the first struggle is overcoming our fears & worries of being judged by others when we first start.
This happened to me last week & it’s important to share with you guys the struggles I go through as a female horse rider who trains as well as an experienced personal trainer. After 7 months out of the gym thanks to the wonderful pandemic of Covid-19, (not!) I decided that it was time to get back into the gym. I have been so lucky & fortunate to have been able to continue training the whole way through lockdown from home with a small bit of kit, taking my sessions outside & I have loved training out and about on the yard and around the farm. However as the weather worsens practically it is getting trickier to manage training outside but also from a progression perspective I now need more challenge & need to apply heavier weights in order to get the best results from my training. Sadly investing in a large amount of gym kit right now isn’t an option, so back to the gym it is!
Having relocated back to my family home pre Covid I needed to go and have a look around at a couple of places as I would be joining a new gym. I asked the wonderful world of social media for recommendations & got some great responses so went to check out these 2 local gyms. Going and having a look round I felt a bit nervous but pretty excited to get back to it & the thought of training somewhere new, with new kit felt like a fun idea! I decided to join the gym that was most probably a little out of my comfort zone as it was very powerlifting orientated, but had great facilities, great people & more importantly is 7 minutes from mine! Saturday morning came & I decided to go down & do my first session. Again I was so excited to get back to it in the gym & start lifting some heavier stuff & jump back on the old kit like the assault bike & skiergs but suddenly in the car I had this overwhelming fear of panic & anxiety. I thought oh my god, what if people stare at me. Everyone is going to think I have no idea what I’m doing. What if there’s men in there & no women. What if I make a tit of myself.
By the time I got to the gym I won’t lie, I was bricking it. I text one of my fellow PT’s for a bit of courage & said I’m joining somewhere new and I’m so nervous. His advice was perfect; “no need to be, go & have fun!” But that didn’t help me much. I got into the gym & everyone was super friendly & welcoming but I still was quietly bricking it inside, I can’t write the real word I felt as my blog will be unpublished!!! But I just took my time, told myself to start moving & get comfy. I had one moment where I was being a total idiot & panic took over and I couldn’t remember how to hip thrust with a barbell & the manager helped me. I felt like a total beginner but actually as soon as I started lifting the bar, I found my groove & my confidence started to come through. Amazing what a bit of breathing & rational thinking can do hey!
The session took me a lot longer than usual as I was so tentative about what to use, where to go, who was around me plus all of the Covid regulations means there is a lot more cleaning. But the last 30 minutes of my session I had my confidence, found my happy place & smashed out a great session. I left & felt absolutely buzzing as you always do post workout, but realised when I drove home what an idiot I had been letting my mindset get me all worked up like that. My fellow PT was right, there was no need to be nervous & I did just need to go and have fun! As a personal trainer who knows what I am doing when it comes to training myself & others I think it is so important to share that I too still have these imposter syndrome moments. Just because we live & breath fitness for both work and our passion doesn't mean we aren’t human & we have the same fears, anxieties & worries as everyone else, often totally irrationally!
As a female, walking into a male dominated gym space can 100% be terrifying but like anything once you just say hi to people, open up a little bit & find your comfort zone then you’ll find there is nothing to be worried about. People always say guys aren’t looking at you, they are looking at themselves in the mirror & it’s so damn true, go into a gym & watch where the dumbbells & benches are and 9 times out of 10 there is a big mirror down the wall. If you stop & look it's full of guys, curling dumbbells, checking their biceps out! It took me a long time to figure this out but they are most definitely more interested in themselves than judging you.
Fitness is a great thing for everyone, a gym is a safe space where judgement should not be passed. Everyone in a gym or starting a new fitness routine from home are all trying to better themselves, they are trying to be better than where they are currently at & want to improve their fitness to be healthier & happier. No-one should be stopped from doing this because they have worries & fears that cause barriers but it’s important to know that we all have these fears & it is totally normal!
In the same survey over 75% of people who felt the most unconfident & anxious in a gym self rated themselves as not at all attractive, not at all fit & not at all experienced in the gym. Again 64.9% of these answers came from females & it is hardly surprising that low self esteem & confidence goes hand in hand with feeling uncomfortable or unhappy in the gym.
The top things participants felt judged for while training really shocked me too, again these answers all came from women;
64.9% of women felt judged for their weight when training
58.5% of women felt judged for improperly using equipment when training
54.6% of women felt judged for not looking fit enough
Do any of these statements resonate with you? These answers really shocked me as they are so aesthetic based but I suppose in a society where social media is in control & the way you look & present yourself says alot about you then it’s actually not surprising. But it is sad that women feel they would be judged when trying to better themselves for these reasons & I have to say having worked in gyms, no-one is judging you. No members, no trainers, no-one. Everyone has struggles & everyone has started somewhere and that is so important to know & remember! Your fears are completely rational but they should 100% NOT stop you from pursuing your fitness journey & ultimately, as those statistics show, you need to care less about what others think of you as your worries come from your own self doubt!
The answer to all those worries as well would be much helped if at the start of your training journey whether from home or the gym you invest in a trainer. A good trainer will be able to help you understand how to apply the basics of weight loss into your lifestyle to give you the results you want, they will educate you & show you how to use equipment & exercises safely & effectively and they will never ever judge you for “not being fit enough”. Having confidence in your training makes it far easier to get into your fitness & confidence comes when you have the knowledge of how to train yourself & how to competently use kit. Invest in a coach, use them to educate you, ask questions, figure out the best way to train yourself, find what you enjoy & overtime you will overcome those fears & afraid feelings & your confidence will soar!
A fitness journey is a fantastic thing we all have access to in order to help our mental & physical wellbeing. Training is all about being better, improving where you are at so remember you are always going to have to start somewhere. Fears, anxieties & worries are completely rational & it is so important to realise you are not the only one with these worries but often, especially as women we let our emotions over power us & stop us from pursuing the activities we love when in fact there is nothing to be worried about. We present ourselves with these barriers regardless of our knowledge & experience in our training, we let ourselves feel not good enough, not worth enough but you have to remember starting any journey & getting better requires you to move outside of your comfort zone & that is where great change comes from!
Never be afraid to start & if you feel like you don’t know what you are doing then hire a trainer & use them to show and help you to understand and learn how to train yourself and improve your fitness.