The gym is too far out of the way. I don’t have time to go there because I’m too busy with work. I don’t think the employees there like me. I think I tweaked my ankle, so I better not do a lot of strenuous activity. I’m in such bad shape that everyone will laugh at me.
Do any of those excuses sound familiar? It’s much easier to talk yourself out of going to the gym than it is to talk yourself into going to the gym. There’s a reason gyms get so much money in membership fees from people who almost never go through the doors: Gyms can be frightening. But they don’t have to be.
Fear of failure is a powerful motivator. It’s much easier to not try than to try and risk falling flat on your face. So if you’re going to get over your fear of the gym, it’s best to do it slowly.
For one, make sure the gym is the right environment for you. Different people have different needs. Some gyms cater to hard-core weight lifters, while others try to reach the busy people who clock out of work and then change into sweatpants in the office bathroom. A decade or so ago, gyms just for women were all the rage. If you live in a decently-sized town, you should be able to find a gym that feels supportive as well as motivational. If you want personal training, it should offer personal training. If you just want to be left alone while you work out on the elliptical, then employees should be more than willing to give you some space.
If you still aren’t sure, go online and look up a range of fitness plans to see what appeals to you. People looking to lose weight will need to approach their workout differently than people who want to build up aerobic endurance. After doing some research, you can walk into the gym confident that you know what kind of results you’d like to see.
What about the fear that people are judging you? Unfortunately, that’s one of those fears that pops up around adolescence and never really goes away. That’s the bad news as well as the good news: Everyone else is also afraid of being judged. In fact, they’re probably too busy worrying about themselves to care if you show up to the gym in a Bugs Bunny T-shirt and polka dot sweatpants. If you do feel like someone is truly harassing you while you’re trying to work out, report them to a gym employee. Any gym run by sane people will do everything possible to make sure its members feel like they can exercise without being hassled.
All that being said, there are some legitimate reasons people can’t use a gym. The biggest one is cost. A lot of people live too close to the edge of poverty to sign up for a year-long contract that automatically takes $40 out of your bank account every month. If you decide you can’t afford a gym membership anymore, explore other ways to get and stay active. Workout equipment is cheaper if you buy used. It also can’t hurt to check out a few liquidation sales, because they just might have the recumbent bicycle of your dreams available for a great price.
There are some people who seem to get addicted to exercise the way the rest of us get addicted to Ben and Jerry’s. If you’re not one of those people, that’s OK. You can still put in the time and effort to find a fitness level that works for you. It doesn’t matter if you go a week, a month, or even a year without exercising regularly. You can always go back and start over. You’ll have plenty of company.