Getting Over Your Fear Of The Gym

Hey! It’s Linda again. Remember me?

Sometimes I like to make up words. For example:

Gymtimidation: noun \jim-ti’-mə-ˌdāt-shun\ the condition of being afraid of the gym.

“I want to work out, lose 50 pounds, and be the healthiest me I can be, but I can’t go there because it’s just too damn gymtimidating.”



Does anyone remember that fitness chain, Bally’s, from the 90s? It’s been awhile and I’m getting older so maybe my memory isn’t playing those tapes accurately in my head, but as best I can recall, the commercials showed a bunch of super-buff hot guys and all the women from every MTV music video ever, especially the Robert Palmer ones (and yeah, I know you young people won’t get that and are probably too lazy to Google it, but I heard that Googling something burns 4 calories so maybe you should…)

The soundtrack to Bally’s, in my head, was titled “Music to Strip To!” and I envision babies born to couples who met at Bally’s to be some of the best looking people on the planet today.

I’m not sure how accurate my memory is on all that, but I clearly remember thinking “I wouldn’t go there if it was the last place on earth. I’ll keep my 50 pounds, thankyouverymuch.”

And I didn’t.

In recent years, many gyms have attempted to be less gymtimidating, specifically ones aimed at women. Rumor has it they even let fat people in now.

It was 2008 when I first joined a gym. Wait, that’s not entirely true. That was the first time I joined a gym and actually used my membership. In fact, I used it for over 5 years, very regularly. Now I work out at my little home gym, but I’m pretty proud of myself for getting over my gymtimidation back then.

People ask me all the time how I did it.

OK, fine. I pretend that people ask me all the time how I did it. (Is that better, you people who want honesty in hard-hitting blog posts like this one???) And here’s what I tell them.

Day 1: That first day, I just convinced myself that I could get there, to the parking lot. Sure, I sat it my car and cried while eating Nutty Bars, but I was at the gym. I went home and wrote a blog post titled “First Day at the Gym” in which I didn’t mention the Nutty Bars or the crying.

Day 2: I went back but this time I actually went inside. I walked around like that weird guy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest so that nobody would talk to me. I just wasn’t ready. I needed to sus out where things were. The locker room. The drinking fountain. A dark, quiet place to go cry if I needed to. (Editorial note: there are no snack machines at the gym. Bring your own Nutty Bars.)

Day 3: I went shopping for cute workout clothes. OK, I know this isn’t the same as going to the gym, but the truth is sometimes I get more exercise at Kohl’s than at the gym plus the gym doesn’t give me Kohl’s Kash so you have to see the bigger picture here. Cute workout clothes can make all the difference in the world. It’s like your fitness uniform. Now, at first, you may need a team of people to help get that sports bra on your body but eventually you’ll be able to pull it off with just the gym manager’s help. Hang in there!


Day 4: I went into the gym and got on the treadmill. Here is where you can disregard the previous days because this time, I’m serious. When I started going to the gym, that’s what I did. I told myself “Linda, you can do the treadmill. Just do the treadmill.” so when I began my journey, I just did the treadmill.

In fact, I just did the treadmill for a very long time but I watched and learned. I watched everything. I watched the other machines. I watched people using the weights. I watched and eventually I was ready for more.

The first time I tried the elliptical, I lasted for ten minutes and had to be carried out on a stretcher. (I was really tired!!) Before too long, I could do an hour on that beast. Or longer if I wanted to, but I absolutely did not want to.

My point is that MY way of fighting gymtimidation was to start small and grow from there. It’s not the only way – they have people there called employees who, rumor has it, are there to help you. You can ask them questions or have them show you how something works. I know, it sounds crazy. I’m not the type to talk to anyone, much less employees, so I avoid them like the plague, but this might be the exact right answer for you.

Or – what about going to the gym with a friend? I’ve heard that some people have friends. Maybe you do. If you’re lucky, maybe your friend will help you with your sports bra!

Here’s what I do know. I am no longer intimidated by the gym. It happened a little at a time, but it lost its scariness and it became a place where like-minded people would go to be healthier. People of all ages, sizes, and genders. If you think you’re too old or too fat or too something for the gym, stop and think about this – in my personal experience, the people at the gym who get the most respect from everyone are those who are there in spite of those things, those who have more steep roads to climb on their journeys.

On my first day at the gym, there was a man walking on the treadmill next to mine. He was a few years older and probably carried 100 fewer pounds on his frame than I did. He said “Are you new here?” and I thought “Oh, no, here we go… it’s Bally’s Fitness all over again and he thinks I’m one of those Robert Palmer girls who ate too much pudding since the 90s.” but I politely replied “Yes.”

“Hang in there.” he said. “I started coming a year or so ago and I’m down 100 pounds.”

Find a way to get over your gymtimidation. I mean, really, what do you have to lose?


Linda Doty claims to be a writer, mostly because she’s already quit her other job and ‘writer’ sounds way more impressive than bum. You can see her work in several places besides her mother’s refrigerator. She’s contributed to a couple hilarious books available on Amazon. She occasionally blogs at You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @LindaInDisguise.

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