Gymtimidation is all in your head

Gymtimidation and “Judgement Free Zone” gyms are scare marketing tactics incorporated by some chain gyms. These gyms prey on fitness newcomers and make them feel that other gyms and fitness centers consist of nothing but members that will shame and humiliate any man or woman who walks into the gym to workout. They sell fear and shame that simply doesn’t exist.


Gyms that use “Gymtimidation” and “Judgement Free Zone” actually police their policies by telling revoking gym memberships of those that have a “toned body” that is too “intimidating” for their sensitive members (source). In short, this is like being banned from a car wash because your car is too clean.

Do weightlifters and fitness buff ridicule chubby members and people new to working out? Nothing could be further from the truth. As a lifetime “gym rat”, no wants to HELP fitness newbies more than the people whose passion it is get in shape or remain in shape. We ALL started somewhere, and it likely wasn’t in a gym that tries to capitalize on poor self-image.

I joined my first gym when I was a 15-year-old in the steroid-fueled 1980s. At 5 ft 10, I weighed 119 lbs soaking wet and my arms and legs could have doubled as pipe cleaners. The gym, Champions Gym in Downtown Utica MI) made Apollo Creed’s gym in Rocky III look like Valhalla. I was surrounded by guys (and women) that look like they crawled out of an action movie. I wasn’t intimidated, I was inspired! It wasn’t all Greek gods. There were people scrawny like me, teens like me, fat people, housewives, gray hairs, you name it.

Even at the awkward age of 15 and dangerously skinny, I felt no gymtimidation. It was so obvious I was new to the lifestyle that I figured I could get away with lying low, taking notes, and trying my best. Even 15-year-old me wasn’t fooled into thinking someone was going to beat me up for working out near them. 15-year-old also knew not to feel shame for not being great at something I’ve never tried. I also knew that in order to bench press 100 lbs, I first had to train so I could bench press 80 lbs. I learned weightlifting and getting in shape in general is just like anything else that you’re brand new at. If you want to become a great musician, it’s better to surround yourself with great musicians, right? I guess gymtimidation didn’t exist in the 80s. Thankfully, hard work did.

The people who I was supposed to be afraid of at the gym were the ones who helped me the most. Even years later, I’ll never forget the giants that would spot me, offer support, and even show me new grips and exercise techniques to help me in my journey – all without asking and I try to repay these favors to everyone I come across that might need a hand. I’ve probably asked for “a spot” about 1500 times in my life, I’ve been turned down zero times by guys and girls at the gym. I’ve made a lot of friends with people from my gyms through the years, I even met my wife at a gym!

Would you rather work out with people have proven they know what they’re doing, or with people filled with fear that don’t know what they’re doing? Be motivated by the successful, don’t cower in fear of them. Gymtimidation is all in your head.

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