“I’m not fit enough to join a/your gym.” I hear this phrase more often than one would think, and it saddens me. At what point did we start believing that it was possible not to be good enough to join a place where you go to improve your health and fitness? That good health and fitness was reserved for a select few, and not everyone?
In short, no matter where you are on your health and fitness journey, you are ‘fit enough’ to join a gym. A better question may be to ask yourself… Are you equipped with the tools you need to mentally deal with what you’ll experience inside the four walls of a gym?
Inside a gym you’ll most likely be pushed physically, which will challenge you mentally. Are you going to lean in to the resistance, or avoid it? Are you going to embrace the sweat and hard work required to get any form of meaningful results or are you going to hope that you’re one of the unicorns who don’t have to do a serious amount of legwork to look ‘bikini ready’ all year round?
So many people are worried about being judged. The truth is, no one’s perfect. And everyone is at the gym for a similar reason, it’s just that everyone has a slightly different starting point.
I get it. Despite once being a professional athlete, I use to be that person who was terrified of training in a fitness facility. I would go there early in the morning before the crowds hit, rush through my workout as fast as I can and try my god damn hardest not to make eye contact with anyone.
Even when I bought in to FUNC. only 3 short years ago I was worried that I would appear awkward, people would think that I’m doing things wrong or god forbid they would see me as a sweaty mess with my own drool somewhere on my face mid burpee… So I would often be in the gym before classes started at 5:30am and I wouldn’t dare train with anyone else. It has only been recently that I can say that I feel confident training in any sort of fitness facility, and alongside anyone.
So what changed? Did I get drastically stronger and fitter and was now seemingly worthy of training in a gym? No.
What changed was a realisation that I didn’t go to the gym to judge everyone…. And funnily enough, neither do most other people. Throughout that whole time I held this feeling of anxiety, I actually never had any solid evidence that people were ever staring at me critically… They were all simply stories I was making up in my head.
My dad once perfectly when speaking with my sister on the subject…’You’re just not that important to them.’ (referring to the people who you think are judging you) #harshbuttrue.
What changed was a realisation that I couldn’t change what was going on in my external environment (ie. the people around me) but I could change what was going on in my internal environment (ie. my head). I stopped focusing on what was going on around me, and started looking for my own improvement in every session. I stayed focus on something little that I could improve on every time I walked through the doors, and not on achieving an image of ‘perfection’ of what I thought movements should look like, or how I should look in a gym.
What changed is my perception that if I was working hard, and I was seen to be doing so, I could seemingly also be giving ‘permission’ to others to do the same and show them that it is OK, and necessary, to work hard for what you want.
Believe me when I say that you’ll find your strides in the right facility once you’ve visited a couple of times and see that our fear of being judged by others is a false belief (and for whatever reason people actually are, find yourself another gym). We’re all worried about what everyone else is thinking… When in fact, no one (apart from hopefully the coach) is paying attention. They’re focused on themselves and their unique reasons for being there. Most people just want to feel better, move better, and look better and ultimately be better, in no particular order
And it’s going to take however long it takes for you to feel comfortable training in a gym. It took me 3 years. It may take you longer, it may take you less. It all depends on where you are emotionally, and who you’ve got in your support network.
If you’re new to exercise, get yourself a coach. Someone who is going to teach you how to move safely so you can feel confident you’re doing the movements the best way for your body. Get yourself a training buddy who will be your wingman and can encourage you to stay and get the most out of your workout, rather than leave the first time you feel overwhelmed and like you’re not good enough to be there.
However you define it, fitness is a reward that everyone is worthy of receiving. Everyone in the gym of different ages and body sizes are all fighting battles you don’t know of, and we’re doing it together.
Remember – we all have to start somewhere. You’re fit enough to join a gym. Make the decision to start, and start again every day.
Photo courtesy of @Mus Musgrave