Gymtimidation is a word. The website Refinery 29 declared gymtimidation as a front runner for the 2014 word of the year. I didn’t know I had it until I was outed by my daughter. “Mom,” she said, ” You are nervous about going to a gym? Seriously? You have gymtimidation.”
I recently joined a fitness club; a key move in my life redesign. One of my goals in making my life more simple, happy and well is to get fit. I not only want to look better, but to feel better and to have more energy. Age and inactivity have been taking a toll. An early on-set arthritic flair up is making me feel much older than my years. I know it is time to do something about it and leaving my job has given me both time and lack of excuse.
I was hesitant to even visit a health club. I pictured all the beautiful people in their neon spandex listening to loud music as they furiously worked out on elliptical machines. I pictured classes where I would be the only one in black sweatpants and a regular T-shirt, tripping over my own feet and not able to keep up with the Lululemon clad crowd. My intimidation was real, and it was paralyzing.
Apparently, I am not alone. The Daily Mail reported that a Cosmopolitan UK survey of 546 people found women twice as likely as men to be embarrassed about exercising. 47% of women feel intimidated by weights and 44 % never use them because they don’t know how and are afraid to ask for help. 15% of women feel that they are not even fit enough to join a gym.
Here is the US it is certainly no better. The Center for Disease Control reports that only 20% of adults meet both physical activity and muscle strength guidelines. They also report that a whopping 69% of us are overweight and 39% of adults are obese. We’ve read the news and seen the statistics. We are smart, and understand the importance of exercise. Why don’t we do better?
An article in Salon equates gyms to high school cliques. Different types of gyms are defined for different types of people as exemplified by the stereotypical characters in the movie The Breakfast Club. There are “Jock” gyms, “Bougie” gyms and “Come as you Are” gyms. We thought we got away from high school cliques, and no one wants to go back there. No wonder so many people have gymtimidation.
Another article, in Women’s Health, compares taking a fitness class to a slow dance in middle school. For most of us, returning to middle school is even worse than facing high school again. Like awkward middle schoolers, we fear being clueless and looking amateurish. They offer some great suggestions in “How Not to be the Awkward New Kid in your Fitness Class.”
My intimidation is starting to make sense. Even under the best circumstances I have never been a good athlete. Full disclosure: I hate exercise. I have never liked it. In my twenties I ran two miles a day. I hated every minute of it. I don’t get a runner’s high; exercise fueled endorphins elude me. I have tried many activities through the years, tennis, cross country skiing, circuit training, swimming and dozens of fitness classes.
Zumba almost worked. I loved the music. I loved my instructor, Amelia, a happy, bouncy, energetic, positive woman. She preached working at your own level, and having fun rather than aiming for perfection. She was accepting of everyone, and the class included people of all ages and fitness levels. It is also included a tile covered cement floor. I tore the meniscus in my knee. Surgery fixed the knee, but not the cartilage lacking joint. My surgeon said he could fix the tear, but he couldn’t remove the arthritis.
And so, I have done nothing. Until now. I am proud to say that I walked into a gym and faced my fear. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. My tour guide was nice and not judgmental. The reality was that I was not the oldest or most out of shape person there. Rather than listening to loud music blasted throughout the gym, everyone wears ear buds. You can plug them into the machines and watch television while you workout. I might not hate an hour of cardio if I can watch Scandal while I pedal. I even got a trainer. Yes, she is fit and beautiful and wears neon, but she worked hard to prepare a plan that will accommodate my knee issues and allow me to work at fitness in incremental bits.
FEAR has been labeled as False Expectations Appearing Real. Because I don’t like exercise, I could easily talk myself out of it. I almost allowed my false expectations to derail my life redesign. I am enjoying swimming. I can do an hour on the exercise bike, and I am at least tolerating the weight machines. Most importantly, I have conquered my gymtimidation.