The locker room isn't the only scary place in the fitness center. The workout areas present their own challenges for the self-conscious.|
"Ideally, it would be about getting your workout in," says Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, New York City. But just like in the locker room, the fear that others are watching and judging is a very real part of the gym culture.
In an "atmosphere of bodies on display," as Rosenfeld refers to it, body image insecurities certainly play a role, but beyond the self-comparisons in size and shape, the gym adds in skill level to boot.
"When we have interviewed people in this class that I run I ask, 'Why don't you use the wellness center?'" says Laura Schofield-Pierson, health and wellness director for the Brandywine Branch of the YMCA of Delaware. "Half of them say they don't want to look stupid when they're in there and they don't know what to do, they don't feel comfortable and they don't belong."
Schofield-Pierson suggests starting small and setting realistic expectations. Ask someone in the center for assistance if you're not sure how to use something. That is what they're there for. "If it wasn't bad and you felt successful, next time, add 30 seconds," she says. Her goal in programming and staffing is to help members feel better when they walk out of the club than they did when they walked in -- a mindset we all can use.
She also advises wearing clothing you feel comfortable in. Lastly, remember that fellow gym goers probably aren't paying attention to what you're doing. "Most people want to go workout and get their workout done," says Leslie Goldman, a health and fitness writer and author of "Locker Room Diaries" (Da Capo Press, 2007). "Focus on your workout and feeling good about yourself."
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