The Gym is Scary

ImageThe gym is a scary place.

It’s loud. It’s sweaty. It’s uncomfortable.

There are mirrors lining every room that turn a space of moderate size into an overwhelming, never-ending square of complete chaos.  The music blaring from the speakers combined with the sound of weights being dropped onto the ground is deafening. 

There are an endless number of machines that resemble torture devices with how-to-use directions printed in size 2 fonts placed awkwardly where no one could ever read them. But even more pressing, not a single soul to ask how to use machine 1,2,3…. or 45. 

The people buzzing through the workout space are sporting top-notch workout gear and seem to sweat almost elegantly. These super – humans have Ipods blaring, gym books filled with predetermined workouts, and a familiarity with each other that is envied. They have sculpted figures one would assume you only find in magazines.

These people “belong.”

These are the people that should be pumping iron and getting fit. These are the people who “deserve” to have the elegant sweat drip from their face in their $100 Under Armor pants and skintight top.  These are the people that have it “all figured out.”

And here you are… walking into a jungle.  




I’ve had this conversation before.

I’ve heard a version of these words spoken to me recently while discussing with someone close to me his opinion of the gym.

And to be perfectly honest his fear breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I hate to see him turn away from something that could help him. It breaks my heart because I know all the benefits he could gain from going to the gym. It breaks my heart because as much as I want him to walk through those doors with resolve and determination, I understand why he doesn’t. 

The gym can be absolutely terrifying, especially when you don’t feel like you belong. Without any direction, it’s hard to make sense of what to do to get fit. It’s easy to get to the gym, because that’s where people go to get fit… right? 

But it’s hard to know what to do next once you are there, especially when all you can see is people who know what they are doing.

I once read an article where the author argued that the gym was meant for the fit, not for the unfit. It dived into the idea that without an already established level of weight lifting knowledge or fitness, you were wasting your time.

Did I think the author had a compelling point of view? Yes. Did I think the author spoke for the under represented gym population? Yes. Do I agree? No.

Yes, the gym is scary… but so is any new community. It takes commitment to build your spot in the new space you are entering. 

AND YOU DO BELONG. You belong there just as much as the next person. The gym isn’t reserved for any certain stereotype of person. The gym is meant for the public to have access to a variety of fitness equipment. End of story. 

Take a step back and absorb the gym population. There are young, old, overweight, athletic, and average gym goers.  Not every single person in that scary place is an Olympian weight lifter!

At this point I will leave with you the advice I’d offer someone who is hesitant to go to the weight room, and hope that it will inspire a reader to face his or her fear of the gym head on…

  1. Don’t go to the gym during peak hours. If the number of people at the gym overwhelms you at 6pm, try going when others are less likely to be crowding your space.
  2. Ask for a gym orientation! Most gyms are willing to show you around and give brief demonstrations of the equipment. This service tends to be free and is a great way to get introduced to those machines you’ve never heard of before.
  3. Get a gym buddy. It’s a lot less nerve wrecking trying out something new when you have a partner in crime. It’s even better if your gym buddy is familiar with lifting, and can pass on gym wisdom.
  4. Invest in a personal trainer. There is nothing better than professional advice and direction. A personal trainer can help you create goals, progress at a healthy rate, and develop that wanted sense of belonging.
  5. Be honest. If the gym isn’t your cup of tea there are other options. Don’t ever let your fitness be limited by the four walls of a building. A healthy lifestyle is much broader than a dumbbell.





5 thoughts on “The Gym is Scary

  1. This is so true. When I first started going to the gym regularly (about two years ago) I was a bit nervous. Thankfully I had a few friends who were encouraging and understood the crazy looking machines! Essentially, the gym is also a place where you learn from others. I know just in this past week I have watched others train, and I’m like ‘hey, why didn’t I ever think of doing that!’. Thanks for the post 🙂

  2. Great tips! I once took a newbie to the gym and she asked, “Why are these people here?” Me: “What do you mean?” “They all look like they’re already in shape.” Me: “That’s because the go to the gym.”
    My experience has been that no regulars at the gym are judging newbies, in fact they come to respect them if they see them become regulars too instead of quitting. Also, most of them have no problem showing newbies how a machine works if they ask, they want to tell people they’re doing it wrong, but it’s bad etiquette to do so without being asked.

    • Absolutely! The answer is always no unless you ask. I haven’t come across too many gym goers that aren’t wiling to help someone out who is learning their way around. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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