Active Travel




Nov 11, 2015 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

I remember the first fitness class I ever attended years ago, I went with a colleague to a gym round the corner from work (using a free day pass) to try a BodyPump class. I’d read lots about BodyPump on blogs that I read at the time and I was excited to give it a go.

Entering the packed class, there was no room for us to set up, regardless of the fact that we didn’t know what to set up. We tried to look at what other people had, cramming ourselves into the corner with a few mismatching weights. The other participants didn’t help us or offer any support, but more importantly, neither did the instructor. I hated the class and didn’t set foot in a gym for another 3 months. I was intimidated, embarrassed and completely out of my comfort zone.

I was reminded of this awful experience, that was only made bearable by having a friend to laugh along with, in two classes this week.

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In one class I was made to feel very welcome by the other members and the instructor could not have been nicer. The actual content of the class however was intimidating. It was heavy weights, we were thrown straight into quite technical moves without an introduction to them. Plus there was a lot of weight throwing in the gym behind me, which is not my thing. With no real experience of heavy style weights (think dead lifts, squat and press etc) I felt overwhelmed and anxious during the class, and didn’t have my usual post-workout endorphins at the end.

During the other class I had the opposite experience; a great class but unhelpful fellow students who wouldn’t adjust their mats despite a hugely overcrowded room, and an instructor that I found a little too strict and mean. I’m all for making you work hard, but we were constantly told to hurry up, she was sarcastic and condescending. I left feeling stressed out – less than ideal after a Pilates class!

The instructor and other students/gym users make such a huge impact on your workout experience, sometimes more so than the actual content of a class. Personally my pet peeves are heavy lifters grunting and throwing heavy weights onto the floor, and the giggly girls that chat throughout class and don’t pay attention (although I’m probably guilty of this sometimes).

Feeling intimidated in a gym environment, whether it’s when using a swanky gym and you’re in your old oversized t-shirt, when you’re new to a class and don’t know what equipment to use, feeling unfit or weak compared to the other clients, or just overwhelmed; it’s not very nice. I’ve been to a lot of classes and a lot of gyms and it still happens to me, I’m not surprised that some people are too afraid to even go to a gym and would rather workout outside.

Be Fit Run Club

One of the key points I make during my Be:Fit run clubs (Tuesday evenings at 6pm) is that no-one is made to feel too slow, or that they’re running alone. Group fitness should make your workout more fun, it should motivate rather than intimidate.

I feel that it is the gym staff and instructors role to put you at ease, to show you what equipment you need, help you set up and answer any questions so that you can begin your workout feeling confident and happy. I hate to see anyone feel uncomfortable, whilst trying new things and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is really important, you want to feel supported during that time. A gym should be a place where you feel inspired, badass, and strong but sadly this isn’t always the case.

Next time you see a newbie in your group run or gym class, why not give them a smile, or introduce yourself and help them set up. It can make all the difference to them, and who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend!

Have you ever experienced gymtimidation, either in a class or on the gym floor? I’d love to hear your experiences! What do you think can be done to combat it?


  1. Mickey

    I hate this! And is one of the main reasons I don’t go to a gym. Every time I have tried to join a gym I have always felt intimidated and so clueless, and I hate it when people just look on at you struggling. I had this recently when I moved to London and joined a gym – one of the first times I went I couldn’t get one of the machines to work and everyone just stared at me, even when I asked the instructor he was rude and made me feel like I was stupid. Needless to say I didn’t go back. I have found that yoga classes can be particularly like this, with it feeling like everyone is judging each other on who can do the most advanced moves. I hate it. Saying that however, my usual Hot Pod Yoga classes in Hackney aren’t like this at all, with the instructors asking each class if there are any newbies, injuries etc and stressing to everyone that it is NOT a competition. They also go round each class helping the students out if their form isn’t correct etc so students aren’t doing it wrong. The students all help each other out too which is lovely, and is so comforting and welcoming. It really does make a huge difference to each class, but unfortunately you have to go along to these classes to find out these things!

  2. stevebonthrone

    I totally agree that classes and gyms can be very intimidating. I used to teach lots of classes in a gym and the best tip I ever learned was to teach every class as if there is at least one person there doing their very first class and have no idea what’s going on. I always make a point of introducing new people to everyone else whether it’s in my classes or at my running club sessions. I believe it’s all about the experience and that one visit will make the difference between the person continuing to exercise or giving up, no matter what the activity is. The instructors are ultimately responsible for controlling their classes but I’m not sure how many of them receive any coaching to become better at teaching

  3. Andreea

    I’ve been to a few classes, but only ONCE to each of them. I was trying all sorts of things, but I couldn’t stick to any of them because the instructors couldn’t care less. Yoga, boxing, kettlebells, I hated them all. So I’m sticking to my PT classes, where I can have the full attention of someone who can teach me, correct my posture and understand what I need. Fitness is not “one size fits all”.

  4. Nicole

    totally feel you. and i REALLY hate when classes (especially ones with weights) are cramped. I’m very nervous I’ll get smacked in the head with a heavy (or I mean any sized) weight!


    OMG! I hate hate hate when the people (mostly guys) slam the weights every.single.time. This happened last night…it was loud grunts and slam slam slam. If the weights are that hard to where you can not control the movement, the weights are too much for you and you need to go to a lower weight. And I hate that the gym employees do nothing even though there are signs posted.

    I also do not like it when I walk into a class and the instructor is going too fast for me right off the start or like in Bikram yoga, yelled at me for not taking water in the first five minutes.

    The racquetball guys get a little too loud and competitive and unfortunately, they are right there next to me working out always. They slam against the wall. They get into fights. They speak inappropriate comments. It’s annoying.

  6. Kalliopi Sakellariou

    It is up to the instructor to build a class with supportive, energetic and helpful people.I am a group fitness instructor and every time I want my people to feel that they are part of a team.I also try to give many variations of the exercises I for different fitness levels so as I can train a variety of people at the same time.It is too bad you felt this way!

  7. Christine

    Totally agree – gymtimidation is the worst. Such a terrible feeling to walk into a gym or studio – where you are trying to do something good and healthy for yourself and feel intimidated. Yes it is up to the instructor and employees to make it a welcoming environment but it’s also up to us as people who go to the gym to make the environment there welcoming too.

  8. Plodding Along Nicely

    I often feel the thought of going to a new gym class (much like doing anything that’s new and unknown) is always much worse than reality. And I have found that in reality, most people are too busy concentrating on themselves than to think about what others are doing 🙂

  9. fionajarrett

    This is a really good post Charlie. I’ve felt this with most gym classes I’ve ever gone to, which is probably why I don’t go that often. I definitely had this experience with the first spin class I did, where I had no idea how to set up a bike, where to put everything or even how to use it and I felt like a complete loser. I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I got over it and went back some time later but it really put me off going back for a while and about going to other classes. Thanks for sharing this & for making me feel like I haven’t been alone in this experience!

  10. Bex

    I had exactly the same experience at Body Pump – I had no idea what I needed and I wasn’t shown how to take the weights on or off, so missed half of it trying to change the weights in between sets. The instructor was terrifying (the scariest I’ve ever had, actually) and I genuinely wanted to cry all the way through. I agree that people never seem to want to help/talk to any one else, which makes it quite intimidating. I rarely go to fitness classes (apart from yoga) as I always seem to feel like this. I now to a great weekly circuits sessions with a PT at my work – he is so enthusiastic and motivates everyone, regardless of their level, and I’m loving it.

  11. Aby

    I’ve been going to gym classes for years and this is my biggest pet hate – I’ve come across of a lot of Mean Girls style ‘cliques’ in classes where they’ll take all of the equipment/mats and hog it for their friends who roll in 10 minutes late, save spaces with their mats on the front two rows leaving limited space for anyone else and generally give off an unfriendly and intimidating vibe, whilst the instructor who is ‘matey’ with them all doesn’t bat an eyelid.

    I know people have friendship groups at the gym but If I feel those vibes as an experienced gym-goer, newbies would be particularly uncomfortable, particularly if the instructor is leaving any new people to figure the class out for themselves.

    It’s pretty unfair – we all pay the same membership fees/class fees etc! If I was an instructor I’d like to think I would be encouraging and motivating everyone stood in front of me!

  12. MrsB @ Mind over Matter

    That is the reason I do Crossfit – totally different environment from gyms & extremely helpful coaches & others who train there.

  13. Vicki

    The reason I hated going to the gym before! The gym I am at now is much better, the coaches when not teaching classes, pass you in the gym and say hi, asking how you are getting on. Makes for a much better environment 🙂


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