Distracted by Others at the Gym!
I have been trying to get into a healthy diet and exercise routine, but I'm struggling with the exercise part because I can't stop comparing myself to other people while I'm at the gym. When I see other women lifting heavier weights or mastering the treadmill I feel bad about my abilities and want to give up. How can I get over this so I can get the exercise I need?
By Dr. Martin Binks
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Feeling self-conscious while exercising is a very common problem. There can be many reasons for your feelings; I hear a wide variety from my patients. Some have had painful experiences in the past where they were teased during exercise. Others had an overzealous (and undersensitive) gym teacher who used criticism in an attempt to motivate. For others, these self-conscious thoughts spring from a larger feeling of "not being good enough."
It doesn't help that many popular workout and weight-loss television programs depict personal training and gym sessions as grueling — or even humiliating — when the participants don't measure up to some unrealistic exercise "challenge" or goal. No matter what's causing your feelings, you can take steps to turn them around and be comfortable exercising around people.
The first thing to remember is that there are many ways to be active in the comfort and safety of your own home with some very basic equipment. A single workout DVD or a set of resistance bands is really all you need. But since many people do best when exercising outside their home, here are some simple steps to quiet that voice that keeps saying, "I am not good enough." When we compare our insides (how we feel) to other's outsides (how theyappearto feel), we may come up short. Take a moment to look around the gym and recognize that everyone is human. Some people may appear better at certain tasks, but consider this: Even the most confident and skilled person in your gym probably struggles with his or her own version of self-doubt.
Second, while we have all met the rude, judgmental "gym-rat" or "gym-bunny," not everyone who is fit or good at exercise fits this stereotype. In fact, most do not. The problem is that we often make up upsetting stories about what people are thinking about us. A friend of mine used to say, "If you tell yourself scary stories, you'll likely be scared." Try to stop telling yourself that everyone is better than you or judging you. Simply focus on what you're trying to achieve.
It has been my experience (and that of many of my patients) that when you appear serious about your workout — whatever your skill level — experienced and skillful exercisers respect that. They may even offer some helpful pointers. Working on these simple concepts will gradually make your workout experience more comfortable.
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