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Shy No More: The TikTok Trend Combating Female Gym-Timidation

A new TikTok trend known as the “Shy Girl Workout” has been making waves on the online video-sharing platform, where confident female gym users share their recommended workouts for those struggling with confidence when it comes to working out.  

With 67% of women reporting feelings of “gym-timidation”, a phenomenon surrounding heightened feelings of self-consciousness when at the gym, I spoke with PureGym and Dr. Margee Kerr who has shared their top tips for finding your feet and making strides in your health and fitness journey, without the anxiety many admit to feeling when starting out at the gym.  

The Shy Girl workouts on TikTok are centred around exercise plans that require zero or minor equipment, can be completed in just one area of the gym, don’t include movements that people may find uncomfortable doing in front of others, and are simple enough to remember and execute.

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The purpose of these workouts is to build up confidence when first working out, before moving on to other pieces of equipment and areas in the gym. From shy girl chest workouts to shy girl back workouts, the videos have so far garnered over 193.7 million views under their hashtags on the app. 

With TikTok creators like @brookeworksout and @califullerfit offering mini-series on their TikTok accounts that showcase their favourite shy girl workouts, there are plenty of resources available from people who understand your fear showing you the best, tried and tested ways of making progress with your fitness and confidence. 

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What Do Some People Find Intimidating About the Gym?

Dr. Kerr said: “Going to the gym can be scary, because it is a social experience, meaning it carries all the potential gains that come with socialising, but also all the fears and anxieties too. 

Working out in a public space can be just as scary as public speaking. In a gym we might feel like everyone’s eyes are on us, watching our every move, waiting for us to slip up.

And as highlighted in a past survey by PureGym, nearly 2 in 5 reported fearing they would look stupid in front of others, the same number also reported feeling nervous others would judge their body shape.” 

Dr. Kerr’s 9 Top Tips for Overcoming Gym-timidation 

  1. Remind yourself that you are in control 
    “Studies show a sense of agency, or control makes scary events easier to tolerate and overcome. So, acknowledge and frequently remind yourself that you are the one choosing to take on this fear-inducing challenge. Your doctor, spouse, family member, coach, etc. didn’t choose this, YOU did, which means YOU get to own and celebrate your wins, big and small.” 
  1. Celebrate your accomplishments as often as possible 
    “We tend to elevate and focus on the negative, so take time to write out all the steps you look forward to taking and celebrate each one, starting with congratulating yourself for choosing to take on a new challenge.” 
  1. Make a list of all the positive gains you will achieve by going to the gym, and have it somewhere easily accessible – like your phone 
    “Fear likes to push all your positive thoughts to the back of your mind and increase anxiety the closer you get to a scary situation. Having your list handy to review before you go to the gym and even on your way to the gym when your anxieties are at their peak, will help give you the boost to push through.” 
  1. Acknowledge your fears 
    “Take the time to think about what exactly makes you nervous about going to the gym. Is it not knowing how to use the equipment? Judgement from others? A fear that maybe you won’t be as strong as you want to be, or perhaps as strong as you used to be? After each fear you write down, ask yourself why it scares you, and if it is worth giving up all the gains you outlined in #3.” 
  1. Don’t ignore that you feel scared 
    Denying, or attempting to suppress your fears, doesn’t work – in fact, studies show it does the exact opposite. The more we try to NOT think of something the more salience, or importance we give it, and the more it commands our attention, making it difficult to pay attention to anything else.” 
  1. Accept you can’t do everything 
    “We have to accept what we are capable of right now, and for many, that’s a hard truth to confront. It’s OK that you don’t know how to work every machine, you can learn. Remember, there’s a good chance everyone around you is scared of the same things! Accept where you are, let go of where you wish you were, and commit to focusing on the now.” 
  1. Educate yourself 
    “Fear is all about the unknown, so you can do yourself a BIG favour and reduce a ton of anxiety by making an appointment with a staff member to learn about the gym before your first workout. Learn where the locker rooms, water fountains, and exits are located, and learn any important gym protocol like proper equipment use and class etiquette.” 
  1. Make a plan 
    “Write down your plan for your first workout in explicit detail but keep it manageable. For example, it could be as simple as “Drive to gym, walk in the door, put personal items in a locker, take an introduction class, clean up in the locker, drive home.” 
  1. Adopt a curious, playful and adventurous mindset 
    “Think of the gym as an adult playground, because it is! Approach new machines and routines as opportunities to learn, where mistakes are a normal part of trying something new. Give yourself permission to not know how to do something perfectly the first time you try it, or even the second or third time!” 

Stephen Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer at PureGym commented: “We know that anxiety around the gym can be a barrier to exercise, and we’re constantly looking at ways we can help to remove fears around the gym. 

We’ve found that education, whether that’s in the form of free workouts online, to the Learn to Lift workshops we launched earlier this year, can go a long way in increasing confidence in the gym.  

Seeing members that have gone from feeling intimidated about the gym, to becoming regular visitors that have made close friends here, just goes to show how anyone can overcome these initial feelings of nerves. 

If trends like the ‘shy girl workout’ can help to encourage more people into the gym, that can only be a good thing. In time, we’d love to see these gym goers grow more confident and take full advantage of the classes and equipment gyms have to offer.” 

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