Getting Over Workout Embarrassment

by Kim on October 29, 2012

Anytime I run on a treadmill, especially at the gym, a little part of me worries that I’ll lose focus, drift backwards on the belt, and eventually, FALL OFF IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.

It would be easier to convince myself that this is ridiculous if I hadn’t actually seen it happen once. Oh, yes.

It was the middle of winter (so I think wet shoes might have been involved) and I was in the tiny gym at my old apartment complex. The poor girl hadn’t been running for more than a few minutes when all of a sudden I heard a WHOMP, followed by a few more thuds. And she was down.

I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to call TOO much attention to what had happened and embarrass her even more, but I also obviously couldn’t just pretend I didn’t see it. So I joined the 5 or so other people working out in there at the time in simultaneously yelling, “OH MY GOSH ARE YOU OK?”

Poor girl-obviously her ego was not ok. After (sort of) laughing it off, she left, and I never saw her in there again.

So now, I’m constantly glancing behind me to see how much belt I have to work with. These days, I’m usually in my basement, so there’s no one to witness a fall anyway (plus, we have the extra-long treadmill deck to accommodate my extra-tall hubby), but every time I step on a gym treadmill, I remember that poor girl.

Which brings me to the question of the day…

Have you ever been embarrassed at the gym?

embarrassed Oops! This little lace cami was probably not the best choice…

I don’t think anyone’s 100% comfortable the first time they walk into a gym and hop on a machine. You’re not sure how to work the elliptical, you don’t know where everybody’s getting the little spray bottles to clean the machines with, you use the bathroom stalls in the locker room to change. And forget the weights area-you’re not going to sit there and lower those pegs down 50 notches just so you can budge the leg press after some big bulky dude has pressed eleventy zillion pounds on it.

But some of us aren’t even that comfortable on our 50th gym trip. Or our 100th. Some of us (hi!) still prowl around in the back row during fitness classes and get all kinds of anxiety when the only open spot left is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE INSTRUCTOR. (She’s looking at me! I’m doing it wrong! My form sucks! Gaaaah!)

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to fight workout embarrassment. Here’s what I came up with, but I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Things To Think

–You’re not the only one. Working out in front of people is a vulnerable thing. It’s like the first day of school, except no one’s forcing you to do it. And just like you got used to 9th grade (as much as anyone gets used to 9th grade), you’ll get used to the gym (or wherever you work out in public).

–You belong. The gym is not just for super-fit people. No one is looking at you thinking, “SHE’s in here??? Are you kidding?”

–No one is paying attention to you. This is so hard to believe, but really, so true. People are paying attention to their own workouts, thinking about what they need to do later, rehearsing conversations they need to have with their spouses/kids, etc. You are not even on their radar. And if they seem to be staring at you, it’s probably because they’re staring through you, lost in thought (I’m just sayin, pretty sure I do this all the time…).

–If someone looks at you, don’t assume they’re thinking something negative. I used to struggle with this one big time. If someone glanced at me when I happened to be feeling a little insecure, I’d think, “Oh, crap. She is totally staring at my underwear lines.” If anyone’s thinking anything about you (and they probably aren’t!) it’s the same thing they’d think if they saw you in a grocery store (something along the lines of “oh look…a person”).

–Only compare yourself to yourself. Easier said than done, I know. I’m still working on it too!

–Ignore the tricks your brain plays on you. The gym is not made up of 95% super fit people, and you do not stand out in any significant way. It just feels like it.

Things To Do

–Go to the gym when it isn’t as busy (or, if your public workout is to run outside, go at odd hours of the day when traffic is lighter and people are more likely to be indoors).

–When running outside, wear sunglasses. It’s a mind trick, but it can help you feel more secure.

–Work out with a friend, at least in the beginning.

–Start with a spin class. Everyone spins at their own pace and you’re in control of upping your own intensity at a rate that’s appropriate for your fitness level. Plus, you don’t have to worry about tripping, messing up a routine, or not having the right equipment ready.

–Start with a personal trainer. My gym offers a free intro session with a trainer when you first join, and I think it’s a great way to ease yourself into a new gym.

–Talk about it. I think a lot of people are embarrassed about the fact that they’re embarrassed. Get it out in the open and laugh about it with someone.

–Shake it off. If you, say, fall off a treadmill, or majorly botch a move in a class-sure, it’ll be embarrassing. But don’t bail with your tail between your legs. Stick it out and laugh it off. People love people who can laugh at themselves, and if nothing else, you’ve got a good story to tell!

Do you have any tips for curing workout embarrassment?


Something to think


Something to watch (if you have time-it’s about 20 min. long  but you WON’T regret it!)…

Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability



P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Adidas bag giveaway! The contest closes Thursday and I’ll announce the winner on Fri. :)


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jade October 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Ahh, this is such a great reminder that people aren’t looking or caring about me at the gym. I am always freaked out that I’m going to use the machines wrong, especially weight machines!


Kim October 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I know, it’s so easy to assume everyone around you knows what they’re doing, but you’re probably not the only one feeling that way! :)


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