Being Fit Before Getting Fit: Common Fears & Misconceptions
Have you ever known or currently know someone who had one or several of the following thoughts when walking into a gym or thinking about going to one?
• I’m not in good enough shape to go to the gym / do this class.
• Everyone will make fun of me; I don’t know how to do this.
• I don’t belong here.
• The gym is for fit people.
The “rationale” behind this is the same as saying “I can’t do this dancing class, I don’t know how to dance” or “I can’t take this cooking class, I don’t how to cook” or even “I can’t learn how to ride a bike, I don’t know how to”. I hope you are already seeing my point. If not, I will ask you the following: what sense does it make to try to learn something “new” that you already know? How do you expect to be good at something that you have never tried before? You don’t have to be in shape to go to a gym. You GO to the gym so you can GET in shape.
The idea of embracing something new goes hand in hand with getting out of your comfort zone. When you tell yourself you are not good enough at a task you have never tried before, you are already making up an excuse for not trying. You are setting your mind for failure before even starting. You start telling yourself “I don’t like this, I feel uncomfortable”, and on top of it, if you don’t succeed at the “first try” you start to judge yourself and have negative feedback. Negative feedback such as “I know I wasn’t good enough”, “I should have never tried, I feel so dumb” and so on. I have found myself in this situation before, in other aspects of life. I was offered to go eat something new and I said, “I don’t like it” and they replied “how do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t even tried it?” Honestly, when I heard that I didn’t have an answer for it, because there wasn’t a rational based justification for my thought.
It is difficult to overcome that fear and insecurity. People naturally like to feel in control and try to avoid new unknown or uncomfortable situations. Here are couple thoughts to help overcome those feelings:
Remind yourself you are not alone: Many other people feel the same way as you do about going to a gym or signing up for a class. You are not the first “unexperienced person” to start something new, and this applies to everything in life. No one was born knowing how to do everything and as we get older we try different things that maybe at the beginning were difficult or scary for us, but now those things are part of our lives and we enjoy them. That sensation of pressure from other people at the gym is not reality based. In fact, the rest of the people are there to encourage you and make you feel welcome. Everyone has been in your shoes before and knows how difficult it is. We are all in this together. Each person has their own journey but we go through it together.
Don’t say “what if”: The thought of going to the gym came up for a reason. It can be because of health, appearance, or any other reason. The fear towards something new is natural, but can be outweighed by the feeling of regret for not trying. You wake up one day later in life saying “I wish I did that when I had the chance”. Life happens now! The moment to start is now, not the following week, not the next day but today, as the first step is the most challenging. Once you make it a part of your life, you will not ask yourself “Why didn’t I do this … ?” or “I wish I learned this …?” Which are the preverbally questions of regret.
My advice for anyone in this position would be to think about all the times you were scared before trying something new. How does that activity or thing make you feel now? Does it make you feel happy, excited, or is it exhilarating to do? Well joining a gym facility can be the same way, scary at first but exhilarating in the end. Working out will help in many aspects of your life. There is always going to be a community of support for you in the gym, from your trainer to your workout partner, to the stranger at the other end of the gym cheering for you when you hit a goal that you have been working for. You come into the gym with a goal and experience some anxiety about a new unknown situation but when you are finished, you leave excited about coming back again.