Why do we find the gym intimidating, when we are all there for the same reasons?

Someone on Twitter last week mentioned that they wanted to get bigger purely so they could enter the free weights section of the gym without feeling inadequate. Wow. I mean, fair play it’s motivation but why? This then wasn’t the first time I’d heard this.

Recently, the January newcomers had filled all the gyms with people looking to cash in their New Year’s resolutions and I spoke to a few friends who were taking the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. One friend told me they had already quit and for a similar reason to the Twitter person who felt they didn’t belong in the weights section – they felt like people were judging them. It’s a hard feeling to shift. My sister used to not go to the gym as they felt people would be laughing at her on the treadmill to lose weight. Is this our own insecurities bullying us? I’m fairly sure no one would care she was on a treadmill (no offence!)

I started to lift weights when I was 16, in the comfort of my bedroom. I bought myself some dumbbells and then a bench press to whack in the garage. I used to work out in the evenings, waving the weights around and using routines I found online, and sometimes dropping them with a thud which made my Mum think I’d died. At that age, with all my Mum’s home cooking I made some big changes and at 18 I joined a gym. I remember seeing all these bigger men, in the free weights section and feeling both petrified and in awe of them. I wanted to be that. So badly, but I didn’t want them to laugh at how small and puny I was.

I befriended one of the PTs at the gym, who I think saw this mixed reaction in my face every time I turned up to use the machines. He asked me what my goals were I remember confidently pointing to a bodybuilder in the free weights section and boldly stating “That”. He laughed and said “Well, you’re going to need to step things up” and he increased the weights on the chest press I was on. The next time I visited the gym, and headed to do my usual routine, this PT friend of mine shook his head and pointed at the free weights section. He told me to change things up, and in order to shock my body into the growth I’ll need to get on board with the free weights. He helped me devise a plan, and more importantly he told me EVERYONE starts off somewhere. I was young, and believed him.

Now at the age of 30, I am not the bodybuilder I wanted to become but my brief ‘gym-timidation’ didn’t stop me from getting into gym. It can be daunting, but everyone is there for the same reason you are – to better yourself, be healthy and happy.

This article was originally printed in Gay Times magazine. 
Picture credit: Snooty Fox.