How do nonathletic adults get the courage to start exercising?
How do nonathletic adults get the courage to start exercising? It’s a miracle that this ever happens at all. Getting in shape after 30+ years of not playing sports or doing exercises, is every bit as hard as learning to play the piano late in life. One of the beautiful features of humans our ability to simply decide to do something good, and then actually do it even if we have to persist for years and overcome a series of intimidating obstacles.
Unlike learning to play the piano, physical fitness is the difference between having your legs amputated at 45, and playing Frisbee with your grand kids at 70. It’s also the difference between being a person who is intimidated by the idea of joining a gym and being one of the reasons people join gyms in the first place. As a gym goer, it sickens me to think that fear of people like myself might cause someone to lose their sight to diabetes . The following is a sincere attempt not to persuade, but to provide information to someone who decides to overcome their fear and join a gym to get in shape.
First of all, joining some kind of gym or club is definitely the right idea. The discomfort you feel from being around strangers will eventually settle into pressure to improve your performance. If you're capable of being intimidated by the thought of joining a gym, then you’re capable of being motivated by social pressure. This is a good thing, positive social pressure is what keeps us wearing clothes, washing our hands,trying new music, and bathing. Take advantage of the fact that you are a social animal, and let your fellow gym goer’s mere presence push you to do significantly better than you thought was possible.
Secondly, eliminate your fear by becoming “part” of the gym. Join a fitness oriented sub group inside your gym. At minimum, workout at the same times every week so you're seen by the same people. If it suits your interests, join an aerobics class that has a conscientious instructor who gets to know the participants. At first, everyone will ignore you, because they assume that you will quit after a few days. If you quietly stick around for 6 months, people will start recognize you as part of the permanent group, and you’ll find yourself being invited to barbecues and house warnings around month seven. Consistent attendance is key. If you show up three times a week every week, you will become part of the group, even if you have very poor social skills or political beliefs that annoy fellow group members. Social pressure is a two way street.
Thirdly, don’t be “gymtimidated” by the people who come up to you and offer you advice. Some of them may be poorly informed, some of them may be hitting on you, and others may simply be trying to distract themselves from their own workout. If you are in a state where merely showing up to the gym has a psychological cost, it’s valuable to project an image of willingness to learn and to speak with other people about the subject of fitness. When more knowledgeable people, see you receiving bad advice with a good attitude they will become angry and find an opportunity to give you better advice. Once they give you advice they will have an interest in your progress and eventually you will become their friend after the standard 6 month vetting period. This is even more true with skill based activities, like Jiu Jitsu or Ping Pong.
Finally, I’d like to address the question of whether pointing out reasons to overcome the fear of joining a gym constitutes “blaming the victim”. I would argue that the phrase “don’t blame the victim” refers to a situation where there is a perpetrator. I strongly believe that harming others is more shameful than being harmed. Victims of circumstance, differ from victims of crime, as in the former case the word victim is used metaphorically to emphasize that the person was harmed by chance, rather their own misconduct. The fear of joining and attending a gym, is not something that is “done” to somebody, it’s simply one of the challenges attendant obtaining the benefits of the gym itself. When possible, avoid taking advice on reaching your goals as criticism for having problems in the first place.
One of the many people who will definitely be your friend, if we see your three times a week for 6 months.