Is your confidence stopping you reaching your fitness goals?

When I first moved to Hong Kong and before I was a fitness pro, I became a member of Pure, a pricey, shiny, fancy gym full of tons of equipment, beautiful people and classes with names I couldn’t pronounce. That was seven years ago before kids shallowed my pockets,  but one thing I remember distinctly feeling as I walked in was an emotion now coined ‘Gymtimidation’.

If you’re female you’re more likely to have experienced this than men, with a Cosmo survey citing that 44 percent of women fear looking clueless in the gym compared to only 20 percent of men.

Does this sound familiar? You get revved up about your new health and fitness drive, excited to hit the gym and lose a few pounds or get strong and healthy. You’re ready to go…but then as you walk in the door you see all these people who look like they know what they’re doing swinging giant weights around with ease whilst sporting the latest trendy gym wear and your confidence begins to fade.

And that, my friends, leads to an hour on the treadmill because who can look silly running?

Gymtimidation comes in many guises:

  • Women who feel unwelcome or unsure in the weights section (thanks Pure for labelling your heavy weights room the ‘Strongman’ area,  I urge you to reconsider!)
  • Feeling embarrassed about being out of shape or overweight
  • Worrying about unwanted glances from the opposite sex when exercising
  • Fear of looking stupid when trying to use new equipment
  • Feeling uncomfortable with nudity in the locker room
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The bad news is that this fear could be what’s holding you back from reaching your potential, but the good news is that there are lots of ways to overcome it.  My top suggestions include:

  • Earphones. Plug yourself in and you’ll be less conscious of what’s happening around you so you can focus on your own workout.
  • Use your fear to motivate you. If you feel uncomfortable being out of shape think positive thoughts about how good you will feel if you keep doing this and become fitter, stronger and more in shape. You can work your way out of it, literally.
  • Remember that nobody is born knowing how anything works. Ask gym staff to show you how equipment works, you’re paying for a service after all!
  • Write down your workout before you go into the gym. Then just follow your plan. This stops you from wondering around the gym aimlessly feeling clueless.
  • If you’re not sure what to do in the gym you can enlist a trainer to help you build a plan, use magazines like Oxygen, FitnessRX or Mens Health to get sample workouts or try a service like online training where plans are built for you by fitness pros.
  • If you’re a newbie in the gym stop listening to all these trainers telling you that machines are bad and dumbbells are good. Technically they are right, but if the only way you feel confident to lift a weight is using a machine, then use the machine. Once you feel comfortable in your environment push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn a new more efficient fitness skill.
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Andy finally…Go to the gym more. The more familiar you feel the less gymtimidation takes hold. Smile at the person in class next to you and say hi. Get familiar with your gym and you’ll be working out better in no time!

Elle Kealy is an international business coach for fitness health and wellness professionals looking to launch their businesses with a bang and women’s fitness expert, personal trainer and nutrition coach helping women around the world eat better and feel fantastic in just 90 days or less. For more information on working with Elle visit

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