Why You Can’t Let Intimidation Stop You From Working Out

Are you scared of being the newbie at the gym or on the trail? It won’t be as bad as you expect.

It’s Normal to Feel a Little Intimidated

When I first started running, I felt self-conscious with every step.

I had spent much longer than necessary reading everything I could find about how to run, and I still felt unprepared.

In my mind, everyone else on the path would be an experienced runner who had been exercising for years, and I would be the out-of-shape guy drawing stares as I slowly shuffled along.

I felt similarly the first time I tried rock climbing. I went to an indoor gym, careful to avoid peak hours so that I’d have less of a chance of embarrassing myself.

The other climbers all seemed to be experts, and I was nervous to try even the easiest routes in front of them.

These feelings aren’t unordinary. New experiences are an extremely common source of anxiety, and it’s normal to feel intimidated when you jump into a new hobby.

The good news is that these feelings will fade fast.

For both running and rock climbing, I came to learn that being a beginner does not have to be a source of stress.

You’re Not the Only Beginner

One of the first things that you’ll realize after you’ve worked out a few times is that you’re not the only beginner.

The first time that you go for a run, or enter a gym, it will feel like everyone around you is an expert. This is only because you’re so new to the hobby that you can’t easily distinguish between different skill levels yet.

After a few runs, I started to notice that I was surrounded by other people moving slowly and running with poor form like mine.

Gyms, similarly, are often full of beginners. If you go near the beginning of the year, beginners are likely to outnumber the regulars, thanks to all of the New Years Resolutions that people have made.

It’s a comforting feeling to realize you’re not alone.

So many people start working out every day, that it won’t take long before you’re more experienced than several of the people around you.

I had only been rock climbing for a couple of months before someone trying it for the first time asked me for advice. I had to explain that I barely knew what I was doing any more than he did.

(Almost) Nobody Will Notice You

Perhaps the most intimidating thing about starting to work out is the fear that everyone will notice you, laugh at you, or look down on you.

This rarely ever actually happens.

There are a few jerks in the world who might notice beginners and laugh at them, but they are few and far between.

For the most part, gym regulars don’t think twice about newbies.

The truth is that most gyms and running trails are full of people who start exercising for a few weeks and then give up on it. Once you start working out regularly, the constant cycle of newbies becomes total background noise.

The only time that a regular has paid attention to me is when I’ve approached them to ask for advice.

These interactions have always been positive — the experts love the fact that new people are becoming interested in their hobbies, and are happy to help when they can.

They were all beginners once too, and most of them remember what it was like.

You Will Improve Faster Than You Expect

The most surprising thing to me about starting to work out is how quickly I improved.

“Newbie gains” is the term used to describe the fast progress that someone makes when they start a new exercise regime, and it’s a very real phenomenon.

The more out of shape you are to start with, the more room you have to improve, and the early improvements tend to come quickly.

I had thought of myself as too out of shape to reach even an “average” level of fitness, but I ended up getting faster and stronger much faster than I expected.

It only took a couple of months before I was “good” enough to no longer look like a beginner, and to start blending in with everyone else.

If your personality is anything like mine, you’ll probably always feel at least a bit intimidated when you start a new sport or fitness hobby. The important thing though is to not let that intimidation stop you from trying.

As long as you can push through the initial anxieties, you’ll discover that the intimidation phase is brief, and won’t return once you’re past it.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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