The Top Fears That Are Holding You Back From Reaching Your Fitness Goals

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how to overcome fear
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It's more than just sweat.

Ahh, the gym. When some people hear that word, their hearts begin to pound with excitement and their adrenaline kicks in. They are just itching to get back in there and do another workout.

To others, their heart is still pounding, but not with any excitement. Anxiety, self-consciousness, and nervous jitters kick in with just the thought of lifting a weight. Why is it that some people can be so gung-ho about working out there while others see it as a dreaded task?

It could be because some people don't exactly know how to overcome fear, especially in a public setting involving fitness.

If you are one of the nervous heart pounders, you are not alone. There are a lot of inspiring gym-goers who become less motivated the more they think about stepping in those doors.


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It can be intimidating right when you walk in. Loud noises, bumping electronic music, people with Hulk Hogan muscles and over-enthusiastic trainers all roam about.

But is it as scary as you think? Or is it just that way at first glance? Either way, it is something that intimidates more people than you would think. 

Fitrated.com surveyed 1,000 Americans to get their thoughts and feelings on being judged at the gym. They asked surveyors what they felt put-off by and what they thought people were looking down at them for.

If you've been wondering the same thing, you are in luck, because we have some answers. 

About 36 percent of men feel judged when they go to the gym, whereas about 65 percent of women feel the same way. That's a little bit over half of the people who were surveyed, so this is the more prevalent mentality.

The anxiety that some people feel at the risk of being put under a microscope by others is quite powerful. Especially if they are not feeling too good about themselves to begin with. Whether it's their athletic skill set, the shape they are in, or their overall attractiveness, all of this plays a role in their feelings toward the gym. 

There were certain aspects that people felt they were being judged on more than others. It's interesting to see just how much some people think into things when they feel as though they are on display.

It's the inevitable "spotlight syndrome" where you feel like you are in the spotlight all the time with your flaws exposed. Everyone has this mindset from time to time when they are feeling insecure in different settings

The issue that most people feel judged on is their weight. This is a bit ironic considering that weight plays such a big factor into why people start working out in the first place. No wonder you might not be motivated to go!

You may feel like you will be instantly judged on something that you so badly want to change. Whether it's losing or gaining, everyone can feel unattractive in their own bodies at times. 

What is very interesting is that even with the very experienced gym-going crowd, weight is still a huge factor. It seems as though everyone thinks their weight is printed on their foreheads as soon as they walk into the gym. But as crazy as that sounds, it's so relatable. The gym can bring that out of anyone. 

Gym equipment was another biggie. Some of those machines are confusing. You might see one guy hop on and off a machine with ease, whereas when you try to use it, you feel like you are trying to operate a spaceship.

The fear of looking like a fool or doing the exercise completely wrong is enough to just avoid some machines altogether. Fifty-nine percent of women and around 44 percent of men said that the equipment is one of the biggest reasons they feel anxious at the gym. 

Clothing choices were another popular anxiety-inducing topic. It can seem like there is some sort of secret dress code that everyone else knows and you are still trying to figure out.

Forty-four percent of people in the survey commented that they have felt judged one time or another on their gym outfit choice. Some just think that workout clothes do not fit them. One look in the mirror with their gym gear on can make them stay home altogether. 

A lot of people expressed that they think they "look fat," "out of shape," or "weak" in their clothes. It doesn't matter if they are on the treadmill running a record-breaking mile; their clothes still make or break their confidence

If you ask some of your friends or family, you are bound to hear some of those reasons as to why they do not exercise at the gym. Some people workout at home their whole lives. They may have never even tried to sign up for a gym. 

The truth of the matter is that human beings are judgmental. It's something that can be a knee-jerk reaction. The proof is in the pudding: More than 1 in 3 people admitted to judging others for various reasons at the gym.

It's a bit more common with the male population but still prevalent with females. The thing about judgments is that they are not proven true. What we think is not written in stone. It is our opinion and you know what they say about opinions: everyone has them.


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Judgments are more or less used as a way to make ourselves feel better. You may feel a bit more superior if you are in better shape or know your way about the gym better than others.

Nevermind their careers, intelligence, financials, or family life — if you are savvier with a dumbbell, you feel better than others. Look, it happens; judgments are going to come out. But you can be better at curbing them. All of us can be. 

The numbers still show that people feel more judged at the gym than those who pass judgment. It's hard at first to realize, but the gym is supposed to be a motivating place where people change their lives.

Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't come with weight, your outfit, or how well you can use the Stairmaster. It comes from within. The way you view yourself, your confidence, and the realization of just how strong you really are really make you a better person. 

With workout trends on the rise, it's easy to fall into the mindset that some workouts are "in" and others are "out." And the same goes for clothes. Workout gear has become its own fashion market. There are tons of celebrities and brands that are launching their own chic "workout line." 

So the pressure is there, or so it just seems. As shown in the study, people who were critical of fellow gym-goers were more concerned about what other people wore than how they worked out. 

With judgment can come very uncomfortable advances. There are judgments that are negative but there are also judgments that are a little too positive. Meaning unwanted sexual advancements and harassment.

The gym can be a place where some women are uncomfortable because they feel as though they are being watched. Not in a trainer trying to help their clients sort of way, but in a creepy sort of way. There are plenty of women and men who do NOT want to be hit on while working out, whether it's supposed to be a compliment or not. 

According to the study, nearly 69 percent of people experienced being unnecessarily stared at, while nearly as many received comments about their appearance. Additionally, 1 in 5 people were touched or groped. Let's just put it this way: if someone is working out and in the zone and you think they look hot, just keep it to yourself. They are probably not there just to receive compliments. 

This is your life and you deserve to be happy no matter what. Exercise is amazing for both your physical and mental health. Why shouldn't you work out to feel the peak of happiness for both of those?

Sure, the gym is intimidating, but guess what? You are a badass and can learn how to overcome fear. If no one has told you that, I'm here to tell you. No judgmental person, scale, machine, or outfit can stop you from being the best you. The gym is for everyone, at every level. 

There are always going to be some people that judge and talk. You have the power of shutting them up by not caring and working out in whatever capacity you are comfortable with.

Whether you are 130 pounds or 300, it doesn't matter. You deserve and are welcome at the gym. So push all your fears aside and just do it. Go to the gym! Take a deep breath and take it day by day. You will not regret it, that I can promise you. 


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Molly Given is a writer and lover of all things to do with mystery and magic in life. When she's not writing her fingers off she can be found planning her next adventure in a new part of the world. 

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