How to Conquer Your Fitness Fears

By: Laura Whitney ’15, Campus Recreation Services, Group Fitness Instructor

Being afraid to try something new is a perfectly normal experience, and it can definitely be common when it comes to the gym.

Heck, I work for Campus Recreation Services, and I still get a little lost walking around the weight room or functional training studio! Between the difficult-to-adjust-yet-extremely-necessary-to-adjust squat racks, those yellow TRX cables, and the scary-looking Matrix machines, it took me forever to figure out what I was doing.

UMD Group Fitness Instructors flexing their muscles! We're here to help you feel comfortable fitness classes. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask us for help.

UMD Group Fitness Instructors flexing their muscles! We’re here to help you feel comfortable fitness classes. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask us for help.

I know that many people have similar feelings towards group fitness classes. As an instructor, students ask me what will happen if they’re bad at it, if they look stupid, or if other people will judge them.

I lost count within my first week of how many times I heard, “I can’t do Hip-Hop Shake, I’ll look stupid!”

Here’s the thing — it’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable or nervous before trying something new.

But you don’t want let your fears and discomfort stop you from doing something that could potentially be really fun and beneficial.

Here are a few strategies that helped me learn how to conquer some of my own fitness fears:

Ask a staff member for help.

We get paid for a reason! If you’re not sure how to use a new piece of equipment, ask a weight-fitness staff attendant.

If you’re in a group fitness class and are not sure if you’re doing a move correctly, ask the instructor when he or she comes around—there are two instructors in almost every class for this exact reason.

The Functional Training Studio offers classes, some special and some regular, to help members learn how to use equipment. You can also watch how-to videos online to get familiar with the equipment before you even step foot in the space.

You might also consider hiring a personal trainer, even if just for one or two sessions, to learn how to use equipment properly and how to find the best workout strategy for you.

Realize that nobody is judging you.

You have probably heard this time and time again, but it’s true. Nobody else is judging you. You’re not doing anything outlandish or crazy by coming to a class and not being perfect at it. Every single class has people there for the first, second or third time. Everybody is there for themselves — not to judge you.

Remember … what’s the worst that could happen?

In most of these cases, the absolute worst thing that happens is that you do something new and you’re not great at it. Maybe you come to Hip-Hop Shake and you end up being even more uncoordinated than you thought you’d be. Unless you’re struggling so much that your attempts at twerking end up dislocating a hip (for the record, I’m pretty sure that’s not physiologically possible), the worst thing that happens is that you just spent an hour of your life being bad at something. Oh well!

More importantly … what’s the best thing that could happen?

We push ourselves out of our comfort zones because it’s good for us. Leaving your comfort zone allows you to try new things, improve your fitness, improve your confidence and self-esteem, and potentially find something new that you really enjoy.

Even if you end up absolutely hating the new thing you try, you’ll have the confidence booster of knowing that you tried it anyway.

Above all, just bite the bullet and do it!

Learning how to do things that are scary and uncomfortable is a skill that takes time and practice, but it will benefit you throughout your life.

By doing something even as small as asking a fitness attendant how to use a new piece of equipment, you’re building up that skill.

So, try that new Pilates or kettlebell class, that TRX workout, or the Matrix machine. Your mind and body will thank you!

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