Thursday, January 9, 2014

The conept of "gymtimidation": what it means and 4 ways to overcome it

This week I read an article from Women's Health Magazine by Esther Crain entitled "Do You Feel 'Gymtimidation'?". The title is what caught my attention. "Gymtimidation"? What is that? Excatly what you think it is: feeling intimidated by gyms. This is the time of year where people, determined by resolutions they have made, join gyms. Which is great, I applaud that, because there's never a bad time to start getting active and fit. Apparently though, many people feel intimidated once they actually get in door of the gym and if they give into this fear, they likely will not achieve their fitness goals. The article list some statistics, but I'll let you read those for yourself if you're interested. Even though this author is discussing gyms specifically, it got me thinking about my Zumba classes. Not just the one I'm going to be teaching starting less than a week from now (wow!), but the original ones with Rae, and all the ones with Jae since.

I think it isn't just gyms where people experience "gymtimidation". I'm pretty sure the same concept applies to group exercise classes too. A lot of the time, when talking about Zumba with people who haven't tried it, I hear, "Isn't that hard?" or some variation on that theme. And what I have come to realize is that while they truly are concerned about the difficulty of the class in terms of the technical aspects (can I follow the steps, will I get winded, etc.), they are also concerned about the difficulty of the class in terms of the embarrassment factor (can I keep up with the other participants? will I look silly?). Most people lump all of that together and just call it "hard". And I suppose it is, I'm not saying concerns like that aren't legitimate. I know I certainly had a few of my own before I ever showed up to my first class with Rae. Which by the way was about four years ago. I use the first Saturday in January to mark my "Zumbaversary" and that would have been Jan. 4th this year.

Here's an excerpt from my very first ever blog post: "So the first Saturday in January (this was back in 2010) I decided to give this a try. Was it hard? Yeah, a little bit actually because at the time I couldn't dance very well. Okay, being totally honest, I couldn't even clap my hands to a beat and I got my foot stepped on by the next student over because I used the right foot when everyone else was using the left. In short, I looked like a dancing windmill with arms and legs all over the place."

Follow the steps? Nope
Get winded? Yep
Keep up? Nope
Look silly? You betcha!

All of that was true for me. I tell people all the time, if -I- can do Zumba, -anyone- can. One of the things I love about Zumba is that it truly is a dance format for everyone. So, overcoming concerns. How does that happen? How does one go from being an awkward new Zumba student to celebrating four years at it?

     1) Showing up in the first place is the hardest part - For me, mustering up the courage to go to my first Zumba class and just try it wasn't easy. It took some encouraging from my friend Don, she owns the yoga studio where I used to go for class on Saturday mornings. It took some encouraging from my husband, who said he'd take care of our oldest son while I was gone. Basically, I had supportive people who stole my excuses.

     2) Researching the topic can set your mind at ease - After deciding to give Zumba a try, I went and looked it up online. They have their own website and I read some information about class descriptions. Reading is great, but with something like Zumba, "show" is sometimes better than "tell". YouTube to the rescue! There are all kind of videos out there made by instructors for promotional purposes. Check a few out.

     3) Meeting the instructor can reassure you that you're in good hands - When I say meeting, I don't just mean that you identify who the teacher is and wave. I mean arrive a little early, go over and introduce yourself, talk to her (or him) and tell her that you're new. Striking up a conversation with the teacher is a great way to find out if she (or he) has any advice or tips for new students.

This is what I did. And, if I'm being honest, I can't take all the credit. Rae as well as the Zumba concept kind of met me half-way, if you will. I just found class way too much fun to not come back. Not come back? Unthinkable! Inconceivable! I had such a good time that my concerns (can I follow the steps, will I get winded, can I keep up with the other participants? will I look silly? etc.) seemed irrelevant.

Here's one more way to overcome "gymtimidation" for you:

     4) Buddying up - Get yourself a "fit friend" (I wrote a whole post on this) and make the commitment together. I happen to know that two of my would-be Zumba students have made a plan together to attend my class and basically hold each other accountable. 

Best advice: If you are new to Zumba, don't worry! Just keep moving and have fun with it. Don't take it, or yourself, too seriously. And remember, even the best person in class had to start out somewhere.

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