Immie Wigfield discusses the potential expectations of Loughborough students to be “sporty” and sheds a positive light on going to the gym, suggesting that it doesn’t have to be daunting. She gives her tips to overcoming gym-xiety and gains an insight into students’ experiences.

What follows when telling your friends and family that you go to Loughborough University? Is it the expectation of spending every day in the gym? Do they think a 10-mile run is just a walk in the park? But is this fact or fiction, and are these pressure on students essentially more damaging than good?

Gymtimidation, more commonly known as gym anxiety, is the fear stranding from exercising in a public gym, a matter discussed extensively in recent years. For some, mentioning the gym leads to a detailed discussion; how many times they go, what they squat, and eventually a casual “Ahh, we should gym together”. On the opposite scale, when revealed, this somewhat scary topic promptly ends the conversation. But what is this fear? Why do we experience this? And how can we overcome it?

A study by Sure Women discovered that almost half of people feel judged when working out. Women said they were primarily concerned about being apprehensive about body shape or seeming unsure about how to use the equipment. However, it’s not just women, men also stated that when others watch them in the gym, they are frequently anxious about appearing incompetent.

A significant trigger is being judged, fear that others are watching them, and adjudicating their body and ability. This social anxiety initiates negative thoughts leading to humiliation and embarrassment, resulting in the gym being a no-go zone. When talking to students, one girl said, “I don’t like the toxicity, comparing yourself to people around you. Just makes me feel bad about myself.”

Body confidence is a big part of what stops people, of all ages, from going to the gym. Wearing tight-fitted gym wear is what you’re supposed to wear, right? Influencers are advertising the newest GymShark leggings that cling to your figure and hug your curves. But what if you don’t want a hug? Another student said, “I hate tight clothing; I like my baggy tops and joggers. Wearing anything too tight is just uncomfortable in like many ways, but this is the expectation at the gym.”

Finally, areas in the gym can be daunting. Being judged over your ability is terrifying, especially when surrounded by people who lift twice as much as you. The free weight and machine area is a place people tend to avoid. One male student said, “The first time I walked into powerbase, I walked straight upstairs and just watched. It was intense at first but bringing a friend next time made me feel better.” Is this a familiar feeling?

There are various ways individuals have overcome these fears….

Firstly, take a friend. Leaning on someone for support is never a bad thing; in fact, it is massively encouraged when suffering from anxiety. Having someone to explore the gym with is beneficial. Figuring machinery out together feels less embarrassing. When you both don’t know how the equipment works, the stress is halved.

Secondly, consider being the tortoise, not the hare. Staying on the treadmill or exercising without any machinery will help boost your confidence. Working at a steady pace when discovering a gym routine is significant and can ease anxiety. Although it might work for some, throwing yourself in the deep end won’t work for all.

Finally, going at an off-peak time of the day means fewer people. This releases the pressures of feeling watched. Off-peak time varies with different gyms. You can quickly gauge the quieter periods by asking the front desk or just checking the bookings on the Loughborough sports app. Although these times can be slightly inconvenient.

I understand the pressures. Why come to one of the top sporting universities in England and not use the facilities? Is that a waste? But you aren’t just at one of the best sporting universities; you are also at one of the top 10 Universities in England as a whole. Even though expressing that you have never stepped into a gym sounds like a crime to some – it’s not. Rejecting the gym to watch the newest series on Netflix is normal. But is this fear holding you back? If the pressures weren’t so high, would you go? And should we be speaking to and encouraging students to express what can be done to help us overcome this anxiety?

Edited by Caitlin Phillips – (Lifestyle editor)

Banner designed by Sarim Mangi- (Head of Design)


Comments are closed.