I have been in the gym since I was around 18 years old and to this day I can still remember the very first time I joined a gym. I think the reason I remember it so clearly was because I was afraid.
Fear of the Gym
There doesn’t seem to be a name for a phobia of the gym however: “Gymnophobia” interestingly is a fear of nudity!
Looking back there were a whole host of things that I was a little concerned about which built up and I am going to try and explore them whilst explaining how over time the gym became more comfortable and then eventually over years… my place of work.
I think a bit of history is needed to explain why I possibly had a little more to worry about than some. I left school at the age of 16 and at that point had braces on my teeth, glasses (NHS as opposed to Louis Theroux), I had not had my final growth spurt (I was 5’6” or 170 cm), and – oh yeah – I was about the same weight as I am now: 83kg or 13 stone. In a nutshell I was very overweight for my height and age.
I had not had a good time at school, I think looking back this had massively contributed to my lack of self confidence and my self esteem was pretty much non-existent. The photo in this blog is of a holiday with my Dad and Brother to the bright lights of Benidorm. It was there I first caught sight of myself in a full length mirror. That one moment on that holiday was the “snap” that I needed to make the changes in my life.
Up until that point I had managed to keep myself in a large amount of denial surrounding my weight which had piled on after my parents had split. Emotional eating became a habit and my participation in any sport drastically reduced, other negative habits formed. The results were a very large unhappy Paul.
Overcoming fear of the Gym
I returned from holiday with a new attitude towards my size. As soon as I got home I ran every single night for three months. I only ran for 20 mins every night but I was absolutely consistent with it. The one problem with cardio training is that I adapted very quickly to it and lost muscle as well as fat. This was great for my tummy but left me a little self-conscious about my long skinny legs! I stuck with it nonetheless.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was living in Bournemouth and had decided now was the time to start with Gym Training. The very first Gym I ever went to was The Littledown Centre and if you have a look at it from the outside is quite an imposing building, or at least I thought it was.
Possible reasons to be afraid of the Gym
Looking back I think there were several factors that I was afraid of:
- If I got it wrong
- If was wearing the wrong clothes
- Looking like an idiot
- Doing an exercise wrong
- Not knowing where to go
- Not knowing etiquette
- The big scary guys in the gym
- Hurting myself
Looking back at each of these it is obvious to me that I was probably more concerned with what other people thought of me. I found out really quickly that there are a heck of a lot of guys and girls in the gym that felt the same after all we were in the same boat.
Everyone of those people in the gym had had a first gym session at some point, that hadn’t actually dawned upon me. Over time and consistently going to the gym I grew to feel more comfortable and more accepted in the gym.
Asking for help or advice
My main fear was of getting something wrong or not knowing what to do. It hadn’t even entered my head that there were Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers in the Gym that I could actually go and ask for help. I soon learnt, I asked for as much help as I needed and practised everything that was shown to me. Over time I built up a repertoire of exercises and techniques. Asking for the right exercises for my goals and the techniques meant I was less likely to hurt myself in the gym.
The bigger guys in the gym scared the hell out of me but most of them were pretty friendly and also very helpful offering plenty of advice, over time I grew to speak to them more and realised that everyone had to start at some point.
I was so worried about what I was wearing in the gym to be honest I quickly realised some people didn’t even wash their gym clothes so whatever I wore was OK as long as it was clean. I just wore what I was comfortable in.
Becoming a Personal Trainer
I spent the next 6 years in a catering business and the gym was a massive part of my life because of split shifts. I moved towns and changed gyms, every single time I changed gyms it got a little less daunting. I read more and learnt more about my eating and training. Eventually, I decided to become a Personal Trainer which I have been for about 12 years now. I am currently a Personal Trainer in Clapham Junction Fitness First and always try to remember that the first time someone walks into the gym will be their toughest.
I hope that I have got across that the gym whilst seeming very scary to begin with can become a place of comfort and maybe even enjoyment. I hope you realise this is perfectly normal and that almost everyone I have ever trained has felt exactly the same. Over time though, with asking questions and consistency in attendance it will become easier, friendlier and more comfortable. Who knows maybe you could have a journey to becoming a Personal Trainer.