20 July 2017

We Need To Talk About Gym 'Imposter Syndrome' (& How To Beat It)


Photographs by Elyse Kennedy

I've been going to the same gym for almost two years now. It's a class-only space, it's bloody expensive and those two things seem to go hand in hand with a lot of really fit people. Of course, there are beginners but it's the kind of place you tend to steer clear of unless you're a bit fit already or very up for a tough challenge.

I dip in and out of being *quite* fit. Some months I go hard at it, and others I can't be arsed.

With that in mind, 24 months later, I still feel like a bit of a fraud every time I step foot in the place. My abs no longer exist and every now and again, I feel like I have no clue whether or not my form is right. There are occasional classes when I stick to the beginner speeds, set by the instructor, even though I've been doing the same class for TWO YEARS. Shouldn't I have got both body and form completely right by now?

So,  I check in with instructors and my form is correct. The beginner speeds? Some days I'm more tired than others, duh. And my body? I may not have abs right now but I'm no longer running because I'm miserable or revolving my life around exercise.

It wasn't until recently, in a meeting with Virgin Active's social outreach team, that I realised loads of people feel similarly and are worried about going to the gym because *they think* they don't know what they're doing and will look like an idiot.

This is our mate impostor syndrome rearing his ugly head.

A basic explanation of 'impostor syndrome' is self-doubt and feeling like a fraud, whether that be in your job role/title at work or within your friendship group or even when doing something that you're skilled at.

In gym settings, it's feeling like you aren't fit enough to be there, you don't know what you're doing or you're worried that everyone is going to be staring at you doing things that you think you don't know how to do - what a sentence.

Everyone has to start somewhere. There is no one who belongs in a gym any more than I do or you do.

Take a mate

A problem shared is a problem halved. This could be a more experienced mate who can show you the ropes or one who can share your amateur worries with you at the same time.

Use your gym's induction scheme

Many gyms offer an induction session with a PT who can help you set goals and show you how to use equipment properly. I've never taken my own advice on this one because I was worried about what the PTs might think about my form when I signed up - tragic. However, I'd 100% do this now if I were to sign up somewhere new.

Realise that no one cares about you tbh

Sorry but it's true. There is no one in a gym, who is worth worrying about, who will be there to judge you on your workout.

If you're still anxious about it, go at a time when it's quiet

A gym with no one in is rare but when it happens, it's absolute bliss. There are times when there are far fewer people in the gym and if you have the opportunity to go at a quiet time, go for it.

Give it time

Everything that's worth anything takes time. Whether it takes weeks, months or years, the fear will slowly ease.

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