Phobias are persistent, disproportionate and irrational fears of specific objects or situations. There are over 500 documented phobias. Most of us have some strong fears. Fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of public speaking (glossophobia) are two common phobias. There are some very rare and unusual phobia as well, including:
Genuphobia: Fear of knees. I can understand this given my recent history rehabbing an injured knee.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia: Fear of the number 666. Yes, this is actually a word. Google it!
Sesquipedalophobia: Fear of long words. Probably challenging for the afflicted to say what they have.
Omphalophobia: Fear of belly buttons. This is one phobia that Beyonce certainly does not have.
Oddly enough, there's no official name for fear of working out at the gym, but many people suffer from it. According to Psychology Today, some experience a fear of gym exercise. Some of the reasons include fear of looking silly in a group fitness class due to not knowing every move, embarrassment of physical appearance among fit people, lack of familiarity with how to use equipment, and concern over excessive sweating.
It’s no surprise that many are afraid of the gym, especially given that the Ancient Greek word gymnastí̱rio (gymnasium) is derived from the term gymnos, which means naked. Many feel exposed when they work out among others. With apologies to Merriam Webster, I'm going to name this fear "gymnastí̱riophobia."
So now that we've established that gymnastí̱riophobia exists, the natural question is: what can we do to combat it?
Here are 5 ways that gyms can help reduce gymnastí̱riophobia:
1. Provide a Welcoming Environment.
Not everyone feels confident enough to work out. Just stepping into the gym for the first time can be incredibility intimidating (see our blog from June 17th: Grunts, Groans & Gas: 7 Sounds of the Gym We Pretend We Don't Hear). Identifying new members and encouraging their specific interests and goals helps make them exhale and take on that new workout challenge.
2. Celebrate Diversity.
We all have different body types. When people are looking to get back into shape, their bodies (by definition) are not at their best. Making everyone feel comfortable with where they are in their journey to become more fit is critical. Celebrating small milestones and vocally recognizing improvement can go a long way to increase our level of confidence.
3. Towels. Towels. Towels.
The cure for sweating a lot? Wipe off. If there’s one place to sweat your tail off – it’s the gym. Gyms that provide easy access to towels and encourage a self-cleaning environment reduce some of the stress of heavy perspiration. You may be thinking… all gyms offer towels, right? Not true. Many do not and many that do have towels in the locker rooms and not carefully placed throughout the gym floors and classrooms.
4. Promote Expression.
Exercise doesn’t have to be performed 100% “by the book.” Often, it’s a form of expression. People have different techniques that they prefer. As long as form is proper and safe, they should be encouraged to find what works best for them and go for it. Yoga instructors are very good about encouraging class participants to focus on being present and doing their best – whatever that is for each individual.
5. Demonstrate and Educate.
Often the orientation period for new members is the sales tour prior to joining. Good gyms have a professional staff – with excellent trainers and group fitness instructors – that serve as experts to help show gym-goers how to use equipment and perform exercises properly. Great gyms have a culture of members sharing tips with other members and provide a learning culture for their members.
Together, we can fight gymnastí̱riophobia and get more people in our gyms and excited about working out and being fit.
We'd love to hear from you. Whether you're a gym owner/manager, a trainer or a gym-goer, what do you do to help people fight fear of visiting the gym? Comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/flytefitness or tweet us at @flytefitness.
Be Flyte Fit,
Co-Founder & CEO