- Life Unedited -

LIFE, UNEDITED: Overcoming Gymtimidation

Anxiety about being judged in the gym can lead to a fear of working out at all. Rejoice instead in what you can do.

woman tying shoe in locker room

True confession time: I can’t do a somersault to save my life.

Never could, maybe never will. Even as a kid, my attempts at such a basic move in elementary-school “tumbling” class ended up with an off-kilter corkscrew that gained in humor what they lacked in grace. And I usually landed off the mat and on the cold, hard floor.

I’ve come to terms with all that. It’s taken several decades, but I don’t care anymore.

I’m reminded of my somersaulting failures now and then these days when I’m in the gym, however. I see other gym-goers performing feats that are quite amazing when you think about it. Some people lift barbells weighted down with the equivalent of a SMART car. Others sprint on treadmills like they’re running from ravenous tigers. Still others do Human Flag holds or muscle-ups or headstands like it’s all perfectly normal and natural.

Sometimes this is all a bit . . . shall we say, intimidating.

And there’s even a term coined for this common phenomenon: gymtimidation. This sense of anxiety can often lead to a fear of working out. In fact, there have been numerous studies done in the past few years finding that gymtimidation is often the No. 1 reason people skip out of workouts.

When gymtimidation creeps up on me, I remember the things I can do in the gym. I might not be able to deadlift twice my body weight, but I can do hanging leg raises and pull-ups. I might not be supple enough for certain yoga contortions, but I can do pushups and bicycle crunches and more.

And all that feels great.

As to bench-pressing a car (even a small, hybrid one), recent research from McMaster University in Ontario found that people who lift relatively light weights can build just as much strength and muscle by doing more reps as those people who grunt through hefting heavy weights. Of course, lifting those smaller weights more times might not be as impressive, but that’s not the true goal here.

Each of us is at different fitness levels — and have different bodies that are better for doing certain things than others. I’ll probably never be able to do a flagpole hold because of my long (read: heavy) torso and legs (but that won’t stop me from trying). There are, however, many other things I can do. Really well.

A somersault isn’t one of them. And I’ve given up even trying. Without any regrets.

 

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