How to overcome your fear of the gym



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The first time I ever entered a gym I was intimidated, I was afraid. I loved to work out; all throughout high school I did sports every season of the year, so I considered myself an athlete. Physical activity…it was my entertainment, my distraction, and my stress reliever. But, I realized I had never stepped into a “real” gym before until I came to college. My little rural town up in NorCal had a gym the size of the Circuit Room inside John Wooden! (Imagine all the UCLA population trying to workout in there all at once — yikes!).

It wasn’t until I entered the John Wooden Center (JWC) that I realized how insecure I was about working out in a gym setting. As a woman of color, a Mexican American, I felt I did not belong when I didn’t see others with similar characteristics to myself roaming around the gym floors. But, I soon realized that it was my own self-consciousness triggering these thoughts, because the reality is a different one: the gym is for all people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

Studies have shown that university students have “problematic levels of inactivity” which results in serious health implications in the future of the student. Because there are health disparities in certain communities  and a continuous prevalence of high rates of obesity in young adolescents and adults in the United States, I decided I wanted to change this pattern of inactivity due to intimidation not only for myself but for others with similar experiences.

So what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a gigantic work out space filled with people who sure look like they know what they are doing? What do you do when you want to fix these “problematic levels” of inactivity in your life that can lead to chronic health implications, but you are intimidated by the gym?

    1. Find a workout buddy– Studies show that a main predictor for college students who workout is social support. Lack of a workout buddy has shown to decrease the willingness to workout. Finding someone that can accompany you to the gym not only erases the feeling of loneliness, but it also creates a sense of moral support which results in encouragement and motivation.
    2. Attend group exercise classes– The JWC offers a variety of group workout classes which are open for all students with the purchase of a fitness pass. These classes can help you get into the rhythm of working out whether it is a total body challenge class or a barbell class. The instructors in JWC are the best at what they do and their mission is to create a comfortable place for everyone to workout in. Working out in groups allows you to learn from others and, similar to a workout buddy, it helps give social support. Also, being in a group setting provides the opportunity of observational learning which introduces one to new ways of working out if you don’t know where to start. That way next time you enter the gym you already have a foundation to start with.
    3. Ask Questions– A lot of the reason why people end up giving up on their commitment to working out is because they are afraid to ask questions. The JWC is filled with a numerous amount of employees who are there to help you get the best of your experience in the gym. If you are unsure of how to use a treadmill or an elliptical machine, simply ask and you’ll be given guidance!
    4. Watch YouTube videos- Nowadays what can you not learn through YouTube videos, right?! YouTube has become the 4th most accessed website on the internet. You can access all sorts of videos from crash courses to videos on how to ride a pony! Therefore, YouTube can provide you with the opportunity to learn how to workout! Yes, indeed! If you are insecure about how to use a certain machine all you need to do is search it up on YouTube, watch, and learn.
    5. Join FITTED!– FITTED is a 9-week progressive training program completely FREE to the entire UCLA community. FITTED’s mission is to get students to feel comfortable not only in the gym setting, but comfortable in their own bodies. FITTED targets those college students whose communal health disparities have greatly affected their health as a college student. Many students who have attended FITTED have gained skills that have allowed them to become healthier and more physically active. I myself can testify to this as I am the director of this project and have personally seen and recorded testimonials, and have been told upfront the impact FITTED has had on student’s lives. To become part of FITTED all you need to do is attend any of our services which are listed below:
      • Monday & Thursdays: Group workouts at Pardee Gym inside JWC from 4-5 pm
      • Tuesdays: FITTED EATS from 4-5 pm. Come get a healthy snack and a chance to talk to our Dietician Eve Lahijani who covers a different wellness topic every Tuesday !

Feeling intimidated by the gym to the point that you do not even want to workout should not be any student’s problem — students already have enough to stress about, especially considering UCLA’s rigorous quarter system! As a community that cares about the well-being of every student, we are here to help. I overcame my intimidation of the gym thanks to FITTED and today I am here to help others alleviate this feeling which can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle if not targeted. With the flexible learning environment here at UCLA it is best to build up habits now than having to suffer the consequences later.

Monica Aguilar is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Chicano/a Studies and minoring in Spanish. She is the project director of FITTED a health and wellness student-run project held in the Community Programs Office.

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