Fitness Man in the gym

Published on January 21st, 2015 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles


Motivating Yourself to Get Fit: Nine Tips From Someone Who Has Done It

by Daniel Fictum, MA, MFA, CEG

Like many gay men I suffered from gym phobia. For many years, it kept me away from the gym. Sure there are those gay men that are naturals in the gym, but for many of us it is an alien territory. Whenever I thought about joining a gym I was flooded with the memories of junior high school gym class. Being called names and teased because I was not good at sports. I was usually chosen second to last for teams, I had one classmate that was perceived to be less talented at sports then myself. He has since come out as a gay man also. Not to mention the trauma of the locker room.

I finally addressed my fear of gyms as I acknowledged I was nearing my fiftieth birthday. I had gained a significant amount of weight and I had high cholesterol. I was having problems with my feet and knees and I knew that cardiac disease and diabetes ran in my family. It was time to do something about my physical health. It was time to hire a trainer and face my fears.

I joined a gym, although not a “gay” gym, that was a few blocks away from my apartment. I bought a 3-pack of training sessions and was assigned to a trainer named Mark. I was concerned that I would make a fool of myself. And I did. Now, Mark and I can laugh about my awkwardness in those early sessions. I was concerned about how he would relate to training a gay man but he was a no nonsense trainer and your sexual orientation didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I was on time and that I was willing to work. The only time that there was any discomfort about my gayness was once when we were talking about the costumes we had worn the week before for Halloween. That was one year that I had opted for a drag character. When I shared this he quickly changed the subject.

I consider myself lucky to have had Mark as my first trainer. I never lifted weights or used the machines before, and I was not very comfortable in the gym setting. Fortunately he was committed to his clients and very knowledgeable. He taught the correct form and posture and corrected me when I didn’t do it. He knew just how far to push me, and he did push me. He suggested ways to improve my diet, and I lost fifty pounds. For the first time in my life I was confortable in a gym around a bunch of mostly straight males. In fact, I came to enjoy it and looked forward to my time at the gym. After working with Mark for over a year, our schedules changed and we were not able to continue working together but I feel lucky to have worked with this incredible trainer.

After this introduction to the gym and to gym culture, I moved on to work with another trainer who I also enjoyed. Unfortunately I did not maintain my changes in diet and gained back the weight but not the gym phobia. I joined a Crossfit gym and love the intense workouts and camaraderie. Now, I need to change my diet. A few years ago I would not have believed it possible to be comfortable in a gym and not be intimidated.

Through my journey from non-athlete to athlete I have learned some of the things needed to conquer my gym phobia. Here are some of the things to consider if you are faced with the same phobia.

1. Make a Commitment to Make a Change. It may sound elementary but any change requires us to make a decision to focus our energies in that direction. Are you going to continue to talk about making a change or are you ready to commit and do something.

2. Choose a Gym That is Conveniently Located. This may not be the fancy gym across town. If it is not convenient, it becomes an obstacle to get there. Choose a facility that is near your home or your work. If you walk or drive by it everyday it is harder to ignore.

3. Hire a QUALITY Trainer. If you have never spent time in a gym it is important to get a trainer, at least for a while. A trainer will be able to introduce you to the facilities and instruct you on correct form. If they do not do this, get a different trainer. All trainers are not alike. Their training and backgrounds vary greatly. Ask where they trained and if they are certified. Beware of gyms that turn out trainers by running them through short in-house training programs. Also make sure that they are committed to your fitness goals and not just pretty boys and gym rats that work as trainers to supplement their gym habit. Also just because a trainer is gay does not mean that he is a good trainer. Additionally you may be tempted to rely on a friend to introduce you to a workout routine. I highly recommend using someone who has specific training. You wouldn’t have a friend cut your hair. You go to a professional.

4. Get to Know the Gym Staff. Make an effort to get to know the staff at the gym. Yes, the staff should be doing this, but don’t wait. Reach out to them. Make the first move. It makes a big difference when you arrive at the gym and someone greets you by name. Also, the best deals and discounts go to the people that they know.

5. No One is Watching You. Part of gym phobia is the belief that everyone will be looking at you and judging your performance. In reality, no one cares. They are focused on their own workouts. Yes, some gay gyms sometimes feel like pick-up bars. You may want to avoid these gyms if you are serious about your fitness goals. You are there to workout.

6. Tell Your Friends You Joined a Gym. It’s harder to avoid doing something when you make a public declaration. Let them know that you are facing your “gym” phobia and that you need their support. This will go a long way toward your success.

7. Results Take Time. It takes time to see results at the gym. It doesn’t happen after just a few visits. Always keep this in mind and don’t judge yourself if you do not make immediate changes. If you are committed and continue to work, you will see results.

8. Just Go to the Gym. One of the best pieces of advice I received from Twyla Tharp’s book on her creativity process. She makes a habit of going to her studio each day whether she feels like it our not. It doesn’t matter to her if she doesn’t create anything; just the fact of getting there increases chances that she will be productive. So if you are not feeling up to the gym one day that is fine, but go to the physical space anyway. If you do nothing that’s okay but don’t make it a habit. Getting to the gym is a major part of the battle.

9. Be Open to Making Straight Male Friends. One of the gifts I gained from getting over my gym phobia is that I have made friends who are straight men. We have the gym experience in common, but we find we share interest as well. They are supportive of me and my journey. I now have ‘Bro’ status.These are the things that I learned from my journey from gym phobic to gym friendly. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have days when I just don’t go and there are times when I will slack off for a period of time. And there are still times when the old fears came back but I don’t let it stop me. It is no longer a scary domain of straight muscle boys, but a place to challenge myself to be better. By Daniel Fictum, Success Coach with Maximizing Potential Success Coaching and Motivational Workshops

Daniel Fictum, Success Coach and Visionary Workshops

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