Lifting Weights, lifting spirits: getting over gym anxiety


Isabella McNutt ’27 is a international relations and history double major, and she is a member of Alpha Chi Omega. She loves traveling, basketball and music. Email her at 

The views in this article are the author’s own. 

The gym is absurd. It is this big, intimidating building filled with people performing goofy movements, lifting and putting down heavy blocks to look a certain way. I mean, think about the awkward motions of an ab workout; how you contort your body on a mat on the ground for a good 20 minutes. Or running on a treadmill for hours not going anywhere at all. 

There are so many complex machines and countless things you can do with the free weights that it becomes too overwhelming to even start. You can’t even ask for help because everyone is isolated by their wireless headphones, so locked in to what they are doing. There are no interactions because, by its nature, the gym is a space where you can only workout your body. As a newbie, it is so easy to get caught up in the intimidation and feel so incredibly small in this mechanic environment where people carry out these incredibly calculated routines. 

Yet, fitness is intensely personal and it requires vulnerability. It takes time and energy to find the most perfect workout that makes you feel good. There is no universal workout that molds you into being the most fit person in the world. Discovering what is best for you requires an insane amount of self-awareness and the courage to look silly and laugh it off while you figure it out. 

Fitness is a constant battle of trial and error as you figure out how to use what you know about yourself and tips from strangers on the internet to find the perfect routine. But even this isn’t that straightforward, as there are so many so-called “experts” on social media that you don’t even know who to listen to, especially when they all say different things. The worst part is once you do figure it out, as time passes, your body will change and you will have to figure it out all over again. Everyone thinks their answer is the right answer, which makes you feel dumb and overwhelmed. Not listening to these jacked and successful people seems so wrong because they must have the answers, especially if they look like that. But no one should be telling you how to workout your body, because it is your personal vessel.

What’s even more absurd about the gym is that you are expected to perform these incredibly personal exercises in front of a building full of people. It’s like walking around with your deepest, darkest secret displayed on your forehead for everyone to see. It just makes no sense. The human body itself is a personal space. It holds your biggest insecurities, but you are supposed to go to the gym and put all of this on display for others to see? The truth is that no one is really looking at you. It takes too much energy to figure out what you are doing, let alone be bothered with anyone else’s goofy, somewhat embarrassing workout. 

Even though the gym is absurd, there is no reason to be scared of it since no one really knows what they are doing. So if you want to work out, don’t let the big, intimidating building stop you — just brush past and remember everyone looks silly when they are working out.


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