When I started working out, one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was, unsurprisingly, mental. It was my extreme self consciousness about my body, my size and just being seen.
I dealt with body insecurity on a daily basis for years and knew it would be amplified if I wore gym clothes and people would see me in ways I didn't want to be seen - in pants & sneakers (things I never wore), moving, shaking, and sweating in an uncoordinated fashion.
The thought of it terrified me. I was sure I'd be subject to ridicule and judgement while working out. But I forced myself to put those thoughts out of my head and join a gym despite those fears. It was one of the hardest things I ever did, but looking back I’m thankful I did it because my life has changed dramatically as a result of getting active.
And now I know that all of my initial fears were unwarranted. This is what I learned:
1) Other people aren't paying attention to you nearly as much as you imagine. As a regular gym goer, I spend most, if not all of my time thinking about myself - my workout, my form, how I can challenge myself. Even when people are within view, I rarely pay attention to them. I'm zoned out in my own world.
2) Despite what I used to believe, working out/gyms/events/activities are NOT just for people who are already in shape! To see this for yourself, go to a gym, or watch an event like a local walk, bike tour or marathon. You may be surprised to see people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It's not only the elite athletes out there, it's real people just like you!
3) We're all there for the same reason. We share a common goal: doing something healthy for our bodies and our minds and even having a good time! Therefore, there’s a level of teamwork and support that may surprise you - even among total strangers.
If you're still too self conscious or scared to visit a gym, take a class or sign up for an event, just know this: Everyone was scared before they did it. Everyone feared being judged for their size, appearance or lack of experience. Yes, even me. But we did it anyway. And we couldn't be where we are now if we hadn't.
So don't let the fear of being judged hold you back from a healthier, happier life. That fear is in your head. It’s not real. We tend to judge ourselves much more harshly than anyone else. (And if anyone did judge us that harshly, is that really someone whose opinion would even matter?)
Tell yourself that you're good enough to do it and you deserve to be there with all of those other people. Because you are and you do. And know this - all of the people you feared would judge you are actually cheering you on. And I'll be cheering for you too.
(photo is from an event on 4/15/12- a Bike & Run in Prospect Park, where I got a medal just for finishing. Even though I was almost in last place! All that matters is I did it. And I had a lot of fun too!)