Gymphobia: Exercising Your Fear of Group Workouts

The gym, a ghastly place illuminated by fluorescent lights that make everyone look a little bit grey, where the terrible top 20 hits play at volume that’s a little bit too loud to be comfortable and backed by some 16 year old’s idea of a remix to give it that extra motivational umph. The walls are lined with mirrors that leave you with no illusions as to how your sweaty ass looks in your workout gear and you’re surrounded by people who look like they’ve been copy pasted from a fitspo instagram  account with their perfect hair, pert bums and arms that don’t flap in the wind and even sweat that seems to fall like it’s been put there by a photographers stylist; the gym is a terrifying, intimidating place for the unfit, unfamiliar and unmotivated.

Still, worse than the gym though are the fitness classes…rooms full of people working out together, be it Zumba, yoga, barre, spinning, Body Pump or aerobics there is no where safe. If you’ve never been to the class before your first time feels like your first day at big school, all these people who look like they know what they are doing, pottering around setting up their equipment, stretching in preparation for the appearance of the perky, happy and super motivational instructor who takes no prisoners once the class begins, then there’s you, the confused potato standing to the side praying someone gives you some sort of hint as to what you should be doing. 

Once the class has begun everyone else seems to know what’s going on, the instructor is yelling and there’s you flailing around in the back just trying to keep up…left, right, back and squat, repeat, no wait – shit, no right then left….it’s about this time the words f*** it come to mind and you go home to your sofa and Netflix making a phone call to the only person who understands you on your way – the pizza guy, he doesn’t judge your need for extra cheese.
You can’t live like that though can you? You need to do something so you don’t turn into one of those reality TV specials about the 600lb person who can’t get out of bed and has to go to the bathroom using an intricate set up of reinforced levers and pulleys. But what are the options when everyone else is sweating it out at the gym or bouncing around in a class, where can people like us – the ones who don’t want to group sweat – find hope? Do we just need to suck it up and push through our comfort zone…because it can’t really be that bad can it, so many people do it…or is there some other kind of alternative?

The only group fitness class I’ve ever done was a yoga class when I was about 16, it was awful, I was stuck in a quiet room on a mat that faintly smelt like sweat, disinfectant and neoprene listening to a woman talking at me about things I didn’t understand. It was supposed to be relaxing but instead I found my eyes darting round the room trying to figure out what the hell a warrior pose was and how I was supposed to get my ass off the floor and into it in any form of elegant manner – everyone else seemed able to do it. The all revealing mirror didn’t do me any favours either (a word of warning, try not to catch your reflection while in baby pose, you will either laugh or give up, either way, you’ll ruin everything you’ve worked up to…or down as the case may be). 

The way I see it, once I’m more confident in the workout capabilities of my flabby little unfit body I will probably be able to partake in a group session or two but I don’t see myself ever returning to a busy gym, it’s just not for me.

I’ve never been a team player, in school I played netball for a bit but only because I was one of the tallest girls in our year and I made a good goalie…I gave it up after a while, I just couldn’t get on board with the whole team, all for one and one for all mentality, it wasn’t for me. I swam, that was my thing, I had my squad and we were like family but when you stepped up to that block and pulled your cap over your ears it was just you, the water and the clock – you were a team without being a team and I like that. It’s the same reason why I liked tennis, it was just me and someone else (preferably someone who wont judge my hideous lack of hand eye coordination as I swing the racketed wildly in an attempt to hit the ball) but I couldn’t get on board with all the white outfits…but I did like climbing the umpire chairs.

So what are team and generally people free options for staying fit?

  • Home workouts
  • Late night runs
  • Neighbourhood runs
  • Midday, midweek swimming at public pools
  • Bike riding

The best thing I can suggest is figure out when ever the place you want to go or use is quietest and go then…

Just remember though, most people are in the same boat, they may look confident but everyone is just there to work out – yes sometimes you’ll get the odd snooty one but forget them – everyone was new at some point.


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