Gym Reluctance

Our dieter Lucinda really wanted to start taking a yoga class but was yoga1.jpgextremely fearful that she would be judged negatively by both the instructor and the other people in the class.  Lucinda is not alone in this fear.  In fact, a number of our dieters have told us that they’re reluctant to go to the gym because they’re afraid that other gym-goers will view them disapprovingly.  We’re working hard with Lucinda and others to combat their reluctance because we think it’s essential for dieters to get over their fear of other people’s judgments.

We don’t want to mislead dieters. If they have a lot of weight to lose, some people may indeed make negative judgments about them, but what dieters don’t realize is that these thoughts are likely to be fleeting—in people’s consciousness for milliseconds—and then they’re on to thinking about something else. In reality, most people at the gym are really just focused on themselves.  They are there with a clear purpose and a routine, and for the most part, they’re paying attention to their workout–not to everyone around them.  In fact, many gym-goers view the gym as “me time” – a clear period of time where they don’t have to focus on anyone but themselves. 

We help our dieters develop a “so what,” attitude. “So what if some people make these superficial judgments about me? I’m going to do what I need to do to reach my goals.” Our dieters have been able to generalize this idea to a variety of non-weight related situations, too: “So what if people….don’t agree with my opinion/think I’m too spirited/don’t like what I wear.” Getting over their fear of the gym is often an important first step for our dieters in reducing their fear of other people’s reactions in many other life situations.

With this, “so what,” attitude in mind, Lucinda went to her first yoga class last week, and told us she was thrilled she had done so.  She reported back that the instructor was very kind and encouraging, and she didn’t feel out of place in class.  Lucinda is excited to start going to yoga weekly and is very happy she didn’t let her initial reluctance stand in the way of achieving her goals. 

10 replies
  1. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Wow, I had to comment on this! I, too, was really reluctant to start working out at the gym – but, then I discovered that there are more “average people like me” than I ever imagined! The staff at the gym were wonderful when it came to showing me how to use all the equipment. I, too, want to take a yoga class – but, have had a hard time finding one that works with my schedule – and I was a little nervous about learning all the poses and being able to keep up with the class. My friend suggested that I get a yoga video to do at home – and it’s been wonderful! This gives me a chance to learn the positions and makes it less intimidating when I do find a class to attend…I won’t feel like a “newbie”!

  2. CBT fan
    CBT fan says:

    I tried to make myself go to various gyms for years, but have always stopped. For me it wasn’t the fear of evaluation, but just the general atmosphere I didn’t like, the noise, sweaty people in a crowded area, mystery smells, etc.

    What I have personally found after many years is that I am not a gym person,and get better results just walking outside.
    Now I would not want to reinforce anyone’s Avoidance of going to the gym, try it like they say.

    But I have found that after going to gyms, I have decided not to go to any more of them, as I don’t like the environment for various reasons.
    I prefer being outside, even in the cold, so there can be some personal preferences at work as well, I think.

  3. Helene
    Helene says:

    Just a quick comment – I love the “so what” concept! As ridiculous as this sounds, I have been trying to dodge some super skinny casual gym friends so they won’t see that I recently gained 5 pounds (see holiday party comments). This has become a ridiculous issue for me – I’m incredibly self concious about it. I plan on using “so what” quit a bit as I stick to the BDS and lose those 5 pounds.

  4. Phyl
    Phyl says:

    I happened to read this blog just after coming home from Curves where another fifty-something member and I had an after workout conversation about how great our (20 something) trainer is. I like the “so what” attitude and think it makes sense but all things being equal it’s nice to find a place where you feel you fit in and enjoy the people. I chose Curves because it seemed to have a broad range of women (it’s all women) in terms of age and fitness levels as members and because the trainers are not intrusive but help if asked. Most of the people who work there go out of their way to be friendly and make you feel comfortable. At least that has been my experience–I can only really speak about the branch I happen to go to. But if I were looking for a gym and not super fit at the persent time, I would check Curves out.

    When I was at my least fit I found it comfortable to go to aquasize which sort of eased me into exercise, while when I attended a step class at the same Y I felt way out of my comfort zone. I exercise at home with a treadmill, but sometimes I really benefit from the sense of motivation I get from going to a gym. Once I am there there is no question I am going to really work out, while on the treadmill I sometimes just want to stop.

  5. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    One of the terrific things about yoga is that it is not competitive (at least, it’s not supposed to be). It’s about listening to your body and finding out what it wants to do that particular day. Also, any good yoga instructor is going to be kind, supportive, and very helpful in offering alternative poses to accommodate the different needs of the various practitioners.

    Any gym where the people care more about what they look like and what others are doing/looking like than their own workout is not a place I’d care to be. When I go to work out, I am there to focus. I don’t care what others are doing as long as it doesn’t interfere with my own workout. So the “so what?” attitude is a very healthy one to cultivate! Who cares what shallow people think, anyway?

  6. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    A solution for being self conscience at the pool or gym. Imagine yourself as you will be when you reach ideal weight. Keep that image in your head as you work out, and don’t look down! 😛

  7. Amy O
    Amy O says:

    I’ve been doing a variety of classes at my gym, from yoga to Zumba, and there are people of all sizes, shapes, and ages. It motivates me because if they have the guts and determination, so can I!

    I do sometimes catch a glipse of myself in the mirrors, all uncoordinated and dripping sweat. The first class was hard, seeing myself. I felt like a whale out of water. Now, however, I realize that one day I’ll catch a glipse, and the person looking back will be changing shape. That is motivational too!

  8. Robin
    Robin says:

    I’m a pretty fit person nowdays, and I have to say that when I see an overweight or unfit person at the gym I do not have negative thoughts at all. In fact, I usually think, “Wow, good for them for getting out and getting active! It’s great they are doing this!” I know it’s hard for people who aren’t fit to go to a gym, so I tend to give them a lot of respect for doing it.


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