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Facing Fitness Fears

The good news: The reasons to go into a gym and workout or go for a run outside are endless. 

The bad news: The obstacles that can throw a monkey wrench in plans are also endless.

Although Franklin D. Roosevelt was referring to the Great Depression when he said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” it rings true with me. I have fitness fears, and I’ve talked to many others who share in my fears.

What if I look stupid? What if I don’t do it right? What will people think if they see me wandering around the gym trying to figure equipment out? What if I run too slow? What if I run too fast and fizzle? What if I am not dressed like everyone else? What if I look stupid trying to dress like everyone else? What if I look fat next to the skinny girl on the treadmill next to me?

I’ve been there. I leaned on “safe” exercises so that I wouldn’t look stupid. I logged a lot of miles walking on a treadmill. I logged a lot of revolutions on the elliptical. I shied away from the stair climber. I dared not go into the free weights section. The thought of taking a step class terrified me. Lack of coordination meant certain doom and embarrassment to me.

If you didn’t catch the theme here, many of my fitness fears revolve around others’ perceptions of me and my performance. When it comes down to it, we’re talking about our health. All of those “what ifs” shouldn’t matter (even though they are still powerful…if we give them the power).

When I look around in a gym, I don’t notice what people are wearing. I don’t pay attention to what speed people are going on the treadmill. I don’t notice how heavy the weights are that they are lifting. I do notice that they are there. I notice that people are doing something to better their fitness level. I don’t know anyone who focuses on those “what ifs.” I’m not saying there aren’t people who do make judgments. I’m saying that it seems like those people are few and far between…and in all honesty, they shouldn’t matter.

Don’t know how to use a piece of equipment? Ask a trainer. I’m sure if they don’t have a client waiting they would be happy to show you how to use it safely. Don’t know how to do a certain exercise? My favorite book to reference is the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. It has hundreds of exercises with explanations and variations of each. Educate yourself. Empower yourself.

I recently faced a major fear. And when I say major, I mean m-a-j-o-r. Let me set this up. I’m a writer, and I chose writing because I don’t have to be in front of people and speak. I write about the speakers. In the gym, I found my “thing” — an exercise class that I am passionate about. I first faced my fear of exercising in front of people and attended my first Body Combat class more than 2 years ago, when I was about 90 pounds heavier than I am today. I wheezed through class, but I loved it. And I went back. Again and again.

I recently had the opportunity to train to become and instructor. I figured that my love for the class would show through and it wouldn’t be bad. I was terrified. Me? Speak in front of people? While doing high-impact cardio? What was I thinking?

My friend and I successfully completed the training weekend, and we already had a class on schedule to teach. I was confident that I knew the choreography (yes, me and choreography, two things I would have never put together 2 years ago), but was worried again…all of the “what ifs” began to surface. Being an instructor is so much harder than attending a class. I’ve learned that if you have an instructor who makes it look easy, they are the ones who practice more than you can imagine behind the scenes to make it look that way.

Long story short, my friend and I taught the class and the members had a great time. I faced my fear, and it was difficult. Does that mean I won’t teach again because I’m too scared? Um, no. I am slated to be up on stage 3 or 4 times this next week alone. I’m banking on the idea that each time it will get easier.

Moral of the story: Self-imposed mental obstacles may be more difficult to overcome than the actual physical challenges of exercise. Once you face them and move past them, your possibilities are endless.

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[author_info]About the Author

 Lori Rypka is the Prime Parents Club Fitness Contributor, a mom of two wonderful kids first, a writer, wife, friend, personal trainer and marathon runner in training second. She enjoys helping others in their personal journeys toward living healthier lives. The biggest tool in her tool box: humor. Who says dieting can’t be fun? You can find Lori at, or on Twitter as @LoriRypka.



Image: photostock

Lori Rypka has been certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise since April 2010, and enjoys helping friends find their healthy selves. Follow Lori on her blog at Fumbled Into Fitness.


  1. Anja

    July 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I had those same fears… But my trainer at the gym kicked my butt so hard, I didn’t have time to worry about them any more. Boot camp rocks!

  2. Jacqueline Wilson

    July 29, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Wow. You really hit the nail on the head for me in this post. Even when I was really thin and fit, I still hated working out in front of others, so I chose solitary running. (Generally early in the mornings when few others were even awake.)

    A few years ago, I joined a gym. When my husband took the tour and made an innocent comment about all the young/fit people, I never went back. Not once. I never worked out there.

    It’s bascially why I walk on the treadmill…alone…at home…

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