What can I do if I am overweight and intimidated by the gym?

Wendy Batts
This is a common one that a lot of folks have issues with and is very understandable. The gym can be an intimidating place. The first thing you may want to do is actually realize that not everyone in the gym has the perfect body or knows exactly what they’re doing. It just sometimes seems that way, especially if you are new to the gym. Truth is the gym is full of people that are not fitness crazed maniacs. Everyone there was new to the gym at some point in their lives and everyone has had moments of feeling awkward or not quite sure of what to do with themselves in there. No one’s there to judge and chances are they’re more worried about their own workouts than yours.

You can also seek out the help of a qualified fitness professional. Someone that can guide you step by step on the gym floor and teach you exactly what you should be doing can keep you motivated and comfortable.

If neither of those options appeals to you and you absolutely don’t want to set foot in the gym, there are tons of resources available to you to help you work out at home. You don’t need much, often just some dumbbells and maybe an exercise ball and tubing, and you’re on your way. Check with your local store or library for some exercise DVD’s that can get you moving.
You're not alone.  Many people put off starting a program because they are not comfortable going to a gym.  To give yourself the best chance at long-term success, set yourself up with realistic activities that will help you progress and build confidence.  You can begin by adding some brisk walking to your day - before work, during work or even at the end of the day.  Just parking far away from your building can add activity and valuable calorie burning to your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator if it's an option.  And if you want to kick-off a more formalized exercise program at home, clear some space where you'll be able to move around a bit and where you have good ventilation.  Purchase some basics like free weights, exercise tubing, a stability ball and a foam roller.  If you can, work with a fitness professional or virtual coach or try some exercise videos to get started. You'll get step at a time.
If you are uncomfortable or intimidated by the gym environment then don't worry about going there. Going to the gym is not a requirement for losing weight or getting healthy so don't feel bad if it's not the place for you. There are tons of options for people who do not want to work out at the gym and working out at home can be just as effective. You can purchase items like hand weights, stability balls and other small gadgets that can be used for working out. Following videos at home can be a great way to get into a routine if you need some inspiration or direction. Hiring an in-home personal trainer or getting online coaching can also be a fantastic way to get guidance on working out solo. Other workout activities outside the gym include walking, jogging or even riding your bicycle. The key is to find things that you enjoy and can stick with.
A gym environment can be very intimidating. I find that there are two directions you can go: you can either find tools to help push past your feelings of intimidation or find an alternative environment to exercise in. Most overweight people in a gym environment find it helpful to either bring a friend or family member along with them, find a group exercise class that provides an encourage, supportive environment or interviews and hires an encouraging, supportive person trainer. Social support is one of the biggest predictors of exercise adherence. The first of these is probably the best and simplest while the others can be more challenging. Trying to start an exercise program and also find a group or trainer is sometimes overwhelming. Bringing a friend or family member who you trust is usually easier and more beneficial. 

On the other hand, you don't have to exercise at the gym. There are many things you can do at home or outdoors that are just as beneficial as the gym environment. Think about your childhood and try to remember if there was anything you did as a child that you really enjoyed. There might be an opportunity to participate in that same activity or something similar.   

That’s natural – the gym can be a scary place but you don’t have to allow your fear of the gym to become an obstacle in your weight loss.  Instead, make the world your gym by adding accidental exercise into your everyday life!  There are a number of activies you can add into your day that will help you burn calories like:

-T aking the stairs instead of the elevatorDoing your house work – which can burn over 100 calories
- Going for a walk at lunchStanding at your desk during phone calls – which burns 30 calories for every 20 mins
- Avoiding the moving walkways at the airport and actually walking
- Walk around the field during your kids practice
- Play tag with your kids  outside for 20 mins
- Do squats in the kitchen while waiting for water to boil
- Do jumping jacks during tv commercialsdo a set of pushups before you jump into the shower
- Get up from your desk every hour to do a set of squats
- Do lunges down the hallway to get laundry

Don't let gym intimidation be an excuse for you.  If you make the world your gym, there really are no excuses for not exercising. And don't forget to go buy that pedometer to start keeping track of your steps.  The minimum steps you should take in a day are 10,000.  You will easily reach that goal if you start becoming aware of opportunities to add in accidental exercise into your day. 


Look for a private training studio.  If you are like most people who are overweight, you either are not motivated to do anything on your own or maybe you don't know where to begin.  When you are in a private setting, you can relax and learn as much as you can about a safe exercise and nutrition program without feeling like you are being stared at or judged.  People like you are the reason why I have a private training studio, I have walked in your shoes and understand the feelings you feel when you enter a gym a heavy person.

The possibilities are quite numerous. First and foremost, congratulations on taking the first step. Don’t concern yourself so much with working out, but make it a habit to become more active and move more. If you find yourself sitting, get up. Pace around the house or yard. That alone will almost triple the amount of calories you burn per minute. For now, your weight will actually work for you. The heavier you are the more calories you will burn when in motion. Starting a walking program is an easy and cost-free way to burn calories. Start out small and see what you can do. Only 15 minutes? Not a problem. Even 10-minutes is a start. Plus, you can do several smaller sessions if that is easier to fit into your day to get the same benefits. Three 10-minute sessions of walking adds up to 30 minutes. As you are able, add more time. Once you feel comfortable, start to walk faster. This will increase your intensity and calorie burn per minute. Look for an enjoyable area to walk that has elevations or surface changes. These will help break the monotony and also change up your intensity. If walking gets old, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tapes and DVDs with bodyweight exercise programs. Find one you like and make your home your gym. As for resistance training, you don’t need much. There are plenty of inexpensive options such as dumbbell and tubing sets available almost anywhere. Look around and see what looks fun. The key is to do something active every day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.