Gymtimidated?

Frighten away gym-phobia

Gymtimidated?

Ever felt your lack of confidence, negative self-talk, or fitness level has held you back from working out? Find out how to overcome these fears and get closer to your fitness ambitions—and healthier self.

You’re contemplating starting a new fitness regimen, but if you fear doing a face plant during yoga class or feel daunted by expensive memberships, you’re not alone. In a 2015 study, up to 55 percent of Canadian women (43 percent of men) surveyed felt intimidated when beginning a new fitness activity.

But you don’t have to let your fears hold you back from getting fit. Here, find antidotes to sources of gymtimidation that may threaten to derail your new exercise plan.

“I’m not fit enough.”

You dream of completing an Ironman or following a celebrity’s fitness routine, but worry that you’re too out of shape. Kathleen Trotter, a Toronto-based personal trainer and fitness expert, suggests focusing on your present level first. “You have to take where you are at the moment and be okay with that,” advises Trotter.

Some fixes

Set small, realistic goals. Build your fitness level by setting small, realistic goals such as walking outside for 10 minutes and working toward more ambitious goals such as completing a 5 km run.

Recruit a friend. Kyle Babiuk, BKin, certified personal trainer in St. Albert, Alberta, suggests that if you’re aiming to play a new sport, try to recruit a friend to join you in order to help lower the intimidation factor.

“I can’t afford to exercise.”

High-priced boutique fitness studios and expensive gear may have you reaching for the remote instead of your runners. “The reason people think they can’t afford to work out is that they only associate working out with going to the gym,” explains Trotter.

You can find plenty of creative—and free—ways to get moving.

Some fixes

Seek discounts. Fitness facilities often offer Groupons, and many also participate in passes where you attend a variety of classes across the city for a set fee. Also, look for retail shops offering free community classes.

Work out at home using podcasts or workout videos, or gather friends for a bodyweight workout in the park.

“I don’t have time for fitness.”

Lack of time may appear to be a problem, but Trotter says opportunities can be found through preparation.

Some fixes

Keep a time journal for a week, recommends Trotter. Then, determine which tasks you can shorten. Free up time for workouts using tricks such as grocery shopping at off-peak hours or making enough dinner for lunches the next day.

Creatively plan workouts. For instance, Trotter suggests doing squats and lunges on the sidelines at your child’s game, walking at lunchtime with a colleague, or jogging during your child’s soccer practice.

“My loved ones don’t support my workouts.”

If your BFF is disappointed that you’re skipping wing night to work out, try shifting your focus away from their behaviours and thoughts. “Health is something you’re doing for yourself, and it’s not about anybody else,” emphasizes Trotter.

Some fixes

Get out and get active. Establish an entourage of like-minded friends, and replace your former unhealthy eating or drinking get-togethers with outings to the farmers’ market or a fitness class, says Trotter.

Email a friend. For accountability and support, exchange weekly emails with a friend about what you’ve both been doing to improve your health.

“I lack confidence.”

As you grow older, trying new things can be nerve-wracking, according to Vancouver-based registered clinical counsellor Heather Doidge-Sidhu.

“We maximize our so-called failures and then minimize our successes,” explains Doidge-Sidhu.

“That just kills our confidence because we need to have evidence that we can do something in order to be more confident.”

Some fixes

Start with small steps toward your bigger goal in order to build confidence. Doidge-Sidhu suggests adopting a positive, reasonable mantra such as “Something is better than nothing” or “I did 100 percent more than I did yesterday.”

Praise yourself for taking steps toward your goals. “When we’re starting something small, sometimes we forget that the little steps we took toward the big goal ever even occurred,” says Doidge-Sidhu.

“I can’t stop my negative self-talk.”

Negative thoughts can easily spiral out of control. Although negative self-talk can be motivating for some, it might not serve you.

Some fixes

Practise positive self-talk. To distract your mind from negative—and stressful—thoughts, narrate your physical sensations as you work out and pair them with the phrase “Isn’t it interesting …” Doidge-Sidhu suggests, “[For example,] as you’re on the stationary bike, you can say: ‘Isn’t it interesting how my quads feel when I push down on the pedals?’”

Imagine a conversation with a specific friend in your situation. Think about what you would say to that person and then say it to yourself. “We’re much harder on ourselves than we are on the people we care about,” says Doidge-Sidhu.

“I’m worried people will judge the way I look.”

It’s a common misconception that others are focused on you. “Realistically, it’s more likely that person is focused on [themselves] since that’s what you’re focused on,” says Doidge-Sidhu.

Some fixes

Find a mentor. Connect with those whose technique you admire—ask them for help, or socialize with them; you may end up swapping helpful hints.

Make light of your worries. Dub a specific worry of yours a funny name or match it to a playful phrase, such as “There I go, listening to my inner Mrs. McWorryPants again.” Saying this phrase can make you laugh, thus reducing stress.

“I’m afraid I’ll get hurt.”

If you’re new to exercise, Babiuk suggests taking it slow to reduce your risk of injury. “People try to do too much too quickly and they don’t tend to look at problems such as muscular imbalances, muscle tightness, and a lack of mobility,” explains Babiuk.

Some fixes

Find a personal trainer. Babiuk suggests hiring a qualified exercise professional to guide you through a new program.

Invite a friend along. He also suggests inviting a friend to a fitness session to help you retain information and feel at ease. a


Exercise—its hidden perks

Need some extra motivation to start implementing your new fitness plan? Exercise extends far beyond aiding weight loss and strengthening our muscles.

It improves quality of life

According to certified personal trainer Kyle Babiuk, exercise can impact daily tasks such as climbing stairs, carrying things, or crunching to a sitting position in bed.

It brings us together

Babiuk’s group class members bond from experiencing the same routine and enjoy the social connection of working out together.

It soothes a bad mood

The feel-good chemicals released by exercise elicit happiness and relaxation and reduce anxiety.

It invites slumber

You can fall asleep faster and experience a deeper sleep when you exercise.

It’s fun

And if it’s not, you can change that. Personal trainer Kathleen Trotter recommends taking up a sport or activity that you enjoyed when you were younger or experimenting with different activities. “I tell my clients to try to find their bliss,” says Trotter.

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