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Venus Williams Talks About ‘Gymtimidation’: What Is It And How Can You Overcome It?

Venus Williams has revealed that even she – a seven-time Grand Slam winner and former world number one tennis ace – has lacked confidence at times.

“There have been moments where maybe I had weight gain,” the star athlete told People. “No matter what your level is, you have these different moments where you need to boost your confidence. I’m very happy to bring that out into the open.”

The 41-year-old has partnered with Stitch Fix, with research finding 67% of American women have suffered from ‘gymtimidation’ – feeling intimidated by the idea of exercising in front of others – after a major life event, such as giving birth or the pandemic.

It’s likely something many of us can relate to, wherever you live on the world.

And Williams talking about it shows how it really can affect anybody – nobody is immune to those shaky confidence moments.

But whether it’s caused by a deeper self-confidence issue or the environment you’re exercising in, there are ways to help yourself overcome gymtimidation…

Plan ahead

Woman using hand weights in gym
(Alamy/PA)

“Part of gym anxiety can come from the unknown,” says Luke Hughes, a Level 4 personal trainer at Origym.

“Going in with a routine can help to ease this. If you’ve decided what exercises you plan to do and in what order, you can focus on just your workout, and not the uncertainty of what to do next.”

There are lots of apps and websites with workout guides aimed at beginner and intermediate levels.

Hughes says: “Find a training programme online that you feel comfortable with, or speak to a personal trainer who can provide a tailored workout plan.”

Ease yourself in

People Using Equipment In Busy Gym
(Alamy/PA)

You don’t have to commit to a strenuous weekly routine to start with. As Williams told People: “I think people go into [exercising] and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to workout five days a week for two hours’.

No, workout two to three days a week for at least half an hour. And you’ve got something, and you’re starting to build a habit.”

Hughes agrees making it easy for yourself can be a good idea, and suggests: “Start with simple exercises that you’re fully comfortable with, or believe you could master quickly.

For the first few sessions, just get a feel for the space and the equipment on offer.

As your sessions go on, push yourself gradually out of your comfort zone and try a few more things each time to build up your confidence.”

Tune out distractions

Music is a powerful motivator, and popping on your headphones and blasting upbeat tunes can help cut out annoying distractions and keep you focused on enjoying your own workout – not worrying about other people.

“Create a gym playlist that you can add to over time,” says Hughes.

“It’s really empowering to workout to your favourite songs, and tuning out others in the gym provides you with your own bubble to just focus on yourself.”

Focus on your goals

Woman using weights machine in gym
(Alamy/PA)

One of fitness guru Courtney Black’s mantras is: “Remember why you started”. If you’re feeling butterflies in your tummy before heading into the gym or thinking of cutting a workout short, try to focus on your personal fitness and wellbeing goals.

“Write down all the ways in which you’ll benefit from the workout you’re about to do – and keep it accessible during the session,” Hughes recommends.

“Have a read of the list before you head to the gym each time – it’ll give you that boost and motivation to push through the fear, in order to reap the rewards.”

Work-out with others

Workout Exercise GIF by Openfit - Find & Share on GIPHY

“If solo trips to the gym are a source of anxiety, take a partner, friend, colleague or flatmate,” says Hughes.

“You can not only provide each other with support and be each other’s safety net, but it’s more fun too.”

If you haven’t got a gym buddy available, try a group class instead.

Hughes adds: “Join a class that’s right for your level of fitness. Being around others of the same ability can help you to feel more confident and less anxious – and if you go regularly, you’ll start to see familiar faces.”