HONG KONG — A workout trend going viral on TikTok has found an audience of millions of women gripped by “gym intimidation” — the fear of exercising in public gyms.
Many women admit to feeling overwhelmed when walking into a gym that is dominated by men and filled with equipment they may not know how to use. As a result, they may feel anxious and shy in public exercise settings.|
This is where the “Shy Girl” workouts on TikTok come in, helping those who prefer to keep a low profile at the gym, as well as those who prefer to exercise in the comfort of their own homes.
Fitness influencers like Ms. Brianna Joye Kohn regularly post #shygirlworkouts on TikTok, where she has 2.1 million followers, and on Instagram, where she has 1.1 million followers.
She was inspired after coming across women who had refrained from going to the gym. Either because they lacked knowledge about how to do movements like lunges or squats, or they were worried that others would judge them.
For Indian housewife Akriti Bhatia in Delhi, India, the Shy Girl workout is a game-changer. The 35-year-old, who gained 15kg last year after her first pregnancy, says she had to get back into shape after her blood pressure, blood sugar levels and triglycerides (a type of fat) spiraled out of control after giving birth. “.
“I was desperate to regain my health because of my young child and my family. However, going to the gym wasn’t an option, as I had body image issues and felt intimidated by fancy gym equipment.
Ms. Bhatia hired a personal trainer and began exercising at home daily for 90 minutes using basic exercise equipment. I combined a fitness regime with mindful eating and lost 15.5 kg.
Experts say that “exercise intimidation” is a real problem that poses an obstacle for people who are keen to exercise but are reluctant to go to unfamiliar fitness centres.
Women face a double whammy, says fitness trainer Abhijit Sahu, who trains eight women in the privacy of their homes in Noida, northern India.
“Societal pressures force women to strive to achieve the ideal figure [and] “This pressure is even more acute in male-dominated exercise environments like the gym, where the emphasis is on people’s physical fitness,” says Sahu.
“Women with body image issues feel uncomfortable facing inequality in these formal exercise spaces.”
Ms Sahu says the ‘Shy Girl’ workouts are aimed at beginners or those who are nervous about going to the gym. The easy-to-use workouts help women overcome inhibitions while enabling them to feel more confident about working out in the gym in the future.
These exercises can be performed using only your body weight, making them ideal for doing at home. All you need is a corner, a yoga mat, and maybe a pair of dumbbells, he explains.
One Sahoo’s customer, who wanted to remain anonymous, shared how she felt “embarrassed” working out at the gym with a lot of people around her.
“I felt weighed down by this nagging feeling that others were judging me. What made me even more upset was the sophisticated gym equipment that I had no idea how to use. The weights section was particularly intimidating for me, as it was noisy as it was with the men with Wavy muscles.
Uncomfortability in the gym can plague those with body image issues. Finnish research published in 2019 in the journal Fat Studies found that overweight people experienced harassment and ridicule while exercising. Many of the women in this study also reported that they felt judged and even sexualized when they tried to use the weights area at their gym.
Fitness coaches offer more practical advice for shy people. When starting out, avoid peak hours at the gym. This way, you won’t have to wait to use the equipment, and there will be more time to learn how to use it properly.
“Try to schedule your gym session in periods when there is less traffic on the machines,” says Ms. Sahu. “You’ll move around the gym more easily and most of the equipment will be open for you to work out and work out on. It’s also less tiring, which is good because your focus should be on health and not nerve manipulation.”
Many clients also find it more comfortable to work out in smaller training studios where customized, private sessions with a trainer can be easily scheduled.
Another tip for overcoming anxiety at the gym is to work out with a friend. Ms. Sahu suggests finding a friend or relative with similar goals to join the gym with you.
“Most importantly, remember that no matter how fit, strong or intimidating people in the gym are, they also started somewhere – perhaps somewhere very similar to where you are now. So persevere and you will eventually reach your goal too.” SCMP
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