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Gymtimidation. Tips from a pro on how to avoid feeling it!


The term ‘gymtimidation’ used to be described as a term only referring to the use of new equipment or training styles, but now the phrase is most commonly associated with any feelings of intimidation when stepping into the gym.

Olivia Tyler, clinical fitness regional lead at Nuffield Health, has identified some of the more common scenarios where ‘gymtimidation’ can manfiest, as well as ways of recognising, and how to overcome it.

Feeling intimidated by… the place itself

Whether it’s a gym, studio, class or centre, stepping foot into a new environment can be intimidating, but you have to remember that these are the places where so many positive changes can happen.

I’m not just talking about physical changes, which are great if this is one of your goals, but I’m talking about the much bigger picture. Building confidence, supporting positive mental health, establishing and strengthening relationships, the feeling of community. These things may not happen overnight, but trust me when I say they will come!

If you’re feeling intimidated or nervous, it’s also worth going in with a plan or an idea of what you want to get out of your session. Having structure when you’re unsure can help you move from set to set without feeling like you have to work out what’s coming up.

If you’re unsure of how to use equipment, there will always be people to ask. Many fitness & wellbeing centres will have support on gym floors too if you have any questions around routines or equipment, it’s what they’re there for.

Feeling intimidated by… what other people think

This is one of the more common intimidations and is also the one that can be so easily avoided.

All you need to remember is that everyone who goes will have their own goals. They might be the same as yours, but they could be at a different stage, following a different routine, have personal impacts or all of these, so do not compare or consider within your own routine. A fitness & wellbeing centre, for many, can be a place to escape to. It’s dedicated time for them to focus on themselves for both mind and body so they won’t be thinking about you.

I can’t stress this enough, but do not worry what other people think. If you feel that someone is staring or even goes as far as making comments, just think about the energy they are wasting focussing on someone else that could be put into themselves. You are doing this for you – no one else.

Feeling intimidated by… your own barriers

“I’m not strong/fast/good enough” is a thought that we have all experienced at one time or another, and this is a common feeling around health and exercise. There are two ways to deal with this type of intimidation.

Firstly, it’s so important to set personal goals before embarking on a new fitness, health or gym regime. Make a long term goal, where do you want to see yourself in a year? Then break that down into month-by-month goals, and even further into week-by-week if you need to. This method gives you manageable goals that you can tick off as you go. It also makes the entire process feel less daunting as you’re accountable for what you want to do next.

Secondly, you need to remember to be kind to yourself. We all know that life isn’t always perfect, and barriers can get in the way, but this is not an opportunity to stop or give up. Setting bite-sized goals means that if one isn’t hit, you can revisit or go onto the next one without it impact your long-term plans. It’s much easier to be negative than it is to be positive, but recognise when you’re doing this and changing your thought process means you can focus on the good. For example, if you’re starting out and feel like the session didn’t go as planned, don’t see it as a ‘wasted effort’, praise yourself that you showed up and moved your body.

Feeling intimidated by… the fear of the unknown

With so many different training styles, guides and formats being so readily available to those who are looking to mix up or try a new workout, there is absolutely no surprise that the amount on offer can become intimidating.

To not feel overwhelmed or intimidated, you need to revisit the reasons why you are looking for something new. As above, focus on the goals that you have set and now think about how you are going to get there.

If you’re unsure of a new training format, do some of your own research or speak to a PT or trainer to get some additional information on whether it may be suitable for you or not. You can always try something out and, if it’s not for you, try something else.

Remember, fitness can be tough at times, but there’s a difference between it being tough and enjoying it, than it being tough and you hating it! You’ll be much less motivated and will look for ways to stop.

Finding something that works for you can be the deal breaker when it comes to sticking with it. Feeling confident in what you want to do, how you’re going to do it and ideally when you want to do it will always help to bring you back to the main priority.

Feeling intimidated by… trying something new

It’s not just what’s on offer either, this can also lead to feelings of inadequacy as you compare yourself to those who have been following a guide or style that you’re interested in trying for a significant amount of time – automatically making them appear as ‘better’ than you.

This ties into the idea of being kind to yourself, but you also need to remember the cliché line that everyone has to start somewhere – this has never been more true than in a health and fitness environment.

If you go in expecting to be the fastest, lift the heaviest, jump the highest or just in general be the best, you are automatically putting pressure on yourself which is, quite frankly, often very unattainable. In these situations, you need to remember the bottom line; you showed up and you moved your body. Every time you do this, and if you do it consistently, you will progress to reach your goals.

Trying something new is always tough. If it’s a class or workout, you could always bring a friend to attend with to build your confidence, or feel free to message the trainer/PT or gym to share that you are new, as this can mean adjustments to exercises to cater for those who aren’t as advanced. 

olivia tyler nuffield gym
Olivia Tyler is fitness expert and regional lead from Nuffield Health and Fitness.

If you’re interested in starting a new health and wellbeing regime in 2023, or would like to hear more about Nuffield Health’s Fitness & Wellbeing Centres, visit:

Andy Barr
the authorAndy Barr
Editorial Lead
Andy was late arriving into the world of fitness, running and training. He did not really take up regular gym going until he was in his late 30's. He lost over 7 stone in weight since starting and completed an olympic length triathlon in June 2018. He enjoys playing football, boxing and outdoor running.

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