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Aleisha Fernandes

SFU Co-op Student
Health Sciences

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A multitude of stepping machines in a gym.
Maintaining your physical fitness is a personal journey.

This blog post was originally posted on the SFU Recreation blog on October 13th, 2021. 

Recreation Centres can be intimidating when you look around and see all of the people confidently lifting heavy weights. You may experience a lot of anxiety and fear about being judged by others or embarrassing yourself. Don't worry, you're not alone! Lots of people experience this same anxiety but in different ways. Here are some tips to help you overcome your fear of the gym:

1. Talk to a Staff Member

If it's your first time at the Fitness Centre, you can ask a staff member to give you a tour of the facilities or a free consultation. In a free consultation, a Weight Room Supervisor will ask you about your fitness goals and help create a personalized workout plan for you and show you how some of the equipment works. SFU Recreation also offers personal training sessions in many different affordable packages so you can learn how to gym from a pro. You can ask staff any questions you have while you work out, such as demonstrating exercises or getting fitness advice. Don't be afraid to use them as a resource!

2. Do Your Research Ahead of Time

To help you feel more confident about going to the gym, come up with a game plan before you go. Doing your research can make you feel more confident and allow you to focus on the workout you have planned out for yourself. Take advantage of the different online resources, such as Pinterest, Youtube videos, etc. to create a personalized workout for you. Don't forget, it's okay to start off small and short. Increasing intensity and duration can be dangerous if you don't have the proper foundation first. So, don't feel intimidated if you don't have hour-long sessions like all of the other gym-goers. 

3. Bring a Friend

Sometimes you just need a little help from a friend to get started. Exercising together can also be a great way to spend more time with your friend through shared goal setting. It is also a lot less intimidating when you have a familiar face. Having good company can also make the time pass by faster and make it more fun. If you don't have any friends, you can find a workout buddy or join a fitness class. Having company can motivate you to keep going to the gym and to push yourself harder during your workout.

4. Exercises During Off-Peak Hours

The SFU Recreation Fitness Centre is often really busy around lunch time and in the evening. Try to come in the morning or during the late afternoon when it gets less busy. Weekends are also less busy and on Saturday mornings we offer Women's hours where it is open exclusively for self-identified women only. Working out during the less busy hours can be nice because there are no lines for equipment and people tend to self-isolate in their own designated corner of the gym. With less people milling around the Fitness Centre, it can be less intimidating and easier to find your own private space.

5. Do What Makes You Feel Comfortable, Not What Someone Else Is Doing

It can be tempting to pick up a heavier weight because you're scared of being judged or to only do abdominal workouts. Remember, take it slow. Everyone starts somewhere. Also, make sure that what you do is something you enjoy. It will be much easier to stick with something and push yourself, if it is something you enjoy doing. Our online fitness classes and Youtube channel is a great way to figure out what you like from the privacy of your home. SFU Recreation also offers a variety of sports clubs and sports that you can participate in. 

6. Set Small Goals

The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Try to set small goals and aim to beat your personal bests. You can do this by using a fitness tracker or manually tracking your progress. It can also be a really great motivator to help keep you moving and encourage you to stay focussed on your progress instead of comparing yourself to others. Remember everyone is on their own journey and sometimes the process to where we want to get can look different for different people depending on their body and needs. If it's been a while since you've been to the gym or been active, don't set your expectations too high. Your body will not be at the same stage as it was back then. Keep your expectations and goals realistic for you.

7. Find Your Mantra

Sometimes to get into the positive mindset it helps to have a mantra, like "you can do this" or "forget the haters". Whispering it repeatedly to yourself or saying it in your head can be a source of comfort and help keep you calm and focussed on your workout. It can also be a great way to get you pumped and push yourself. If you're working out alone, it can be a nice reassurance you can give yourself when the gym anxiety starts creeping up. Your mantra could also be "don't forget to appreciate your progress". Even stepping foot in a gym can be a tough one. Be proud of the small victories. Reminding yourself about them can help you keep moving forward.

Maintaining your physical fitness is a personal journey. Although the experienced gym-goers may seem confident, it is very plausible that they may be feeling the same insecurity and self-consciousness you are experiencing. We are our own biggest critic, so don't let your personal insecurities prevent you from starting. Besides, people tend to be more focused on themselves than on what others are doing. So, stay calm, and press on! Getting to the gym is only half the battle, continuing to show up is the hardest part. 

About the Author

Aleisha Fernandes

SFU Co-op Student
Health Sciences
Aleisha has been a Senior Recreation Leader at SFU Recreation and a Weight Room Supervisor at SFU Recreation since 2017. She is a recent alumni of the BSc in Health Sciences program with a Kinesiology minor and is passionate about promoting an active lifestyle. Connect with Aleisha on Linkedin.

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