Gym Intimidation: Should you just “suck it up”?

Tips to overcoming gym intimidation (Gymidation)

We all hear it constantly that exercise is very important. There are so many benefits of exercise from mental health, to antiaging effects. A great way for most to get their exercise is by going to a gym. Gyms are equipped with a variety of tools to get us in shape. However, going to a gym can come easier to some more than others for many reasons.

As a new comer or one who hasn’t stepped foot in a fitness facility in a while, feeling uncomfortable and intimidated is very common. But it seems that there is more to it than feeling not confident in how to use machines or proper exercise technique.

For some women, in particular, they find stepping into a gym very difficult. Some women report feeling intimidated by looks from other men and feeling judged by their appearance.


So, what is there to do about this issue? Based on internet forums, fitness magazine articles, and chatting with fellow gym goers, here is a list of popular ways women cope with getting their workout in while managing their “gymidation”.

  1. Ignore People:

People stare, men stare at women they find attractive, sometimes people need to look at something that’s moving. Rather than being bothered by it, find strategies that would help you ignore the gazes. Put on headphones, stay at the back of the room, don’t respond to comments (you can’t hear them anyway). Soon you will find that it’ll no longer bother you.

  1. Dress in a matter that will not bring attention:

As comfortable stretchy leggings can be, wearing them might bring unwarranted attention. So, dress in baggy clothes, don’t wear any makeup, and wear a hat to cover your hair. Not only will this prevent men hitting on you, they might avoid you completely. It also helps to put on an angry frown so that no one would ever think twice about asking you how your day was. Oh, and avoid mirrors, even those most gyms are surrounded by them.

  1. Don’t attempt an exercise in which you are unsure on how to execute:

Trying something new might lead to doing it incorrectly and therefore others would mock you on your poor form. Instead, do the basics you know well. Weights and machines can be hard to use and put you at risk of looking silly. An option is to attend a class (stay at the back) in which you are not required to use any weights or machines. That way you are safe from looking foolish and you blend into the crowd. And when in doubt, just do some stretching, everyone can stretch.

  1. Don’t perform exercises that are perceived as advance (especially for a woman).

Avoiding areas in the weight room that are populated with men and don’t do lifts using the same weight as the guy beside you. You will eliminate the belief that you are intimidating. It’s good to be confident, but not too confident. If someone offers exercise advice or to be a spotter, accept it to show you don’t believe you’re “all that”.

  1. And Finally, Suck it up!

You are not the only one who feels awkward in the gym and most likely others have it worse than you. Plus, isn’t getting attention and looks a compliment? Eventually you’ll get used to it.


Do these tips make you a bit pissed off? Yeah, me too! So, here are some tips and insights that might be more helpful.

  1. Change Gyms:

If you feel uncomfortable every time you go to your gym, it could be because it’s not the gym for you? The gym environment can be a very social one (which is great), but if you feel you don’t connect with the other members and don’t feel that you don’t belong, you don’t have to force yourself to be there. If you can, try finding a place that feels more welcoming for you. Lately, there are more options from Crossfit boxes to your local YMCA that cater to different needs and populations. But, if your current place is the only one available to you, try finding a friend who would join you.

  1. Don’t believe the advertisements:

It’s common for commercial gyms to show advertising of their services and products by displaying images of very fit models using the equipment with ease. Although it can make their product appealing, the reality is that most who exercise look like average people (maybe a bit fitter looking). Social media posts on fitness can also lower one’s confidence, but there is a lot that is hyper glamorized and sexualized, that contains distortion from reality.

  1. Know that every single person in the gym was a beginner once.


In order to become stronger, get in shape, and more fit you need to gradually work harder and harder several times a week for many years. Those who go to the gym who look muscular, lean, and perform advance exercises and lift heavy weights weren’t that when they started. As long as you are consistent, work hard, do it safely, you can become more confident in your efforts to become fit and healthy. A key point to know is that despite how a person may look or perform in the gym, he or she may still feel unhappy with his/her progress based on his/her ideas of progress (this is very linked to point 2.).

  1. Hire a fitness professional/get resources

If you are unsure on going to a gym because you don’t know what to do, invest in some training, go to a beginner class, or read some great books and articles on how to start on the right path (I’ll be sending a list of recommended resources soon). If you have any medical concerns or injuries, having a trainer is highly recommended as a professional can give you the knowledge and tools on how to exercise properly to get you the best results without risk of further injury or health problems. Feeling competent in your workouts greatly increases your confidence levels and keeps you motivated, and later who knows, you might actually start to enjoy the gym.

  1. Report Harassment

Lastly, if you wanted to leave a gym because of bullying or harassment, report it. These behaviours are inappropriate in any setting, the gym is no exception. If the management at the gym is not taking you seriously or responding properly, that is the fault of the staff, not you being irrational or bothersome. Harassment is sadly a common thing, especially for women, but if we work to report it and support those who speak out, more efforts will be made to reduce it. Unfortunately, most don’t speak up.


What are your thoughts and experiences with gym intimidation? Do any of these tips work for you?





No Period, No Problem? Amenorrhea and Exercise

I recently wrote a blog post about weight lifting and menstrual cycles and how our hormones can greatly affect our performance both positively, but sometimes negatively. But there is another less talked about issue in regards to menstrual cycles and exercise, and that’s not having a cycle at all.

A few years ago, I stopped menstruating. I had assumed it was due to my birth control medication but after being off birth control for several months, it seemed something wasn’t right. I was very active due to my work and exercise routine and also underweight. My weight had become a concern, and I knew I wasn’t healthy, so I gradually added more calories to my diet. I am now at a healthy weight, but it was not until recently than my periods had returned.

When I wasn’t menstruating, I knew it wasn’t a good thing, but I also didn’t mind not having a period. It made things pretty easy not having to buy tampons and having no cramps every month. My doctor wasn’t all that positive about my issue. She wanted me to see a dietitian and have a bone density scan.

Amenorrhea means not having a period for at least 3 months. It can mean not being able to become pregnant and can lead to a decrease in bone density. The hormone, estrogen, is less in the body of someone with amenorrhea, which leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and weak, leading to fractures. Imagine breaking a shin bone on your daily run, or breaking a wrist trying to open a jar of pickles. Not a good thing to have.

How common is not having a period? For athletic women, it can be as common as 70%. Athletes tend to have less body fat than non-athletes at between 14-20% whereas non-athletes have 21-31% body fat. Those in sports such as gymnastics are more likely to have less body fat than those in sports like basketball.

When learning about the health risks related to body fat, the literature was very strong on that a higher level of body fat (over 30%) is highly correlated to medical conditions. However, not much is talked about the health issues related to lower levels of body fat. A low BMI of less than 18.5 is associated with an increased risk of health problems. For athletes though, using the BMI scale isn’t appropriate. BMI measures a person’s total body mass and height to estimate body fat. An athlete with a high amount of muscle mass might have a normal to high BMI, yet have a low amount of body fat.

Amenorrhea is related to the Female Athlete Triad. A phenomenon where a female does not have a period, is undereating for the amount of training she goes through, and is at risk or has a reduction of bone density. Coaches and fitness professionals need to be aware of the triad as it can be an indicator of potential health and psychological problems for the athlete. The triad is similar to anorexia, a mental disorder in which a person is refusing to gain body fat yet is at risk of developing health problems of having a low body fat percentage. However, the athlete might feel that she is eating enough and not show disordered eating behaviour.

The hard part with athletes or those who are very active is that they might be eating more food than a non-active person. They might not show the typical signs of anorexia due to their eating habits and maybe even their appearance. On the outside, they might look fit.

Some women who have a current healthy body fat percentage might also have amenorrhea if they went through a large reduction of weight in a short time, or are exercising a high amount while not eating enough calories to support the activity.

For about 2 years I really felt I was at or very close to my ideal and healthy weight. Yet, still had amenorrhea. My exercise routine was very heavy and I worked at high intensities sometimes a few hours a day. After speaking with a dietitian, I decided to slowly add more calories to my meals and reduced some of my activity. Soon after the periods came back. Not only that but my weight stayed relatively the same, and my exercise performance, strength, and muscle mass increased.

What does this mean? Although I wasn’t losing weight, I was still undereating for the amount I was working. For those especially going through weight loss, adding more calories can be anxiety provoking. We tend to fear gaining fat and are surrounded by many who are trying to cut down on calorie consumption. However, we need to see that food is fuel. Fuel to repair and grow muscle, recover from exercise, boost our performance, and keep our hormones at healthy levels. Same goes with training. Cutting back on exercise and training might feel a bit scary, but the end result can lead to an increase in performance, not the other way around. Recovery is just as important and the work itself.

I believe that more needs to be shared about amenorrhea in female athletes and active women. A woman who fits the female athlete triad criteria might have an eating disorder and would need professional help. Missing periods can be detrimental to health in the long term, as osteoporosis is a serious health problem. However, it is very hard to see or measure the issue without actually asking women whether or not they are or have experienced a loss of their period.

If you are someone who has amenorrhea or is having irregular periods, it’s best to see a doctor. Sometimes the period loss is due to a serious medical condition such as PCOS or hypothyroidism. If you think you have an eating disorder, speak to a counsellor as this can become a serious problem physically and mentally. Here are some resources: on the Female Athlete Triad) disorder information and help) PCOS

Want to learn more about how to train and eat for optimal health and performance: visit my website at

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