Not everyone belongs to a gym. You certainly do not NEED to belong to one in order to engage in a well rounded physical activity program. If you choose to join one however, you would want to get the most out of it, yes?
My most recent fitness center history would be four or more years at Fitness For Her in North Carolina and then a year or so at Fitness 2000, a coed gym, and then several years not going to a gym at all, but working out at home. My time at Fitness For Her included my becoming a personal training and an aerobics teacher. I can remember my first days at both gyms, but only if I stop to really think about it. My more readily available memories are ones of feeling very comfortable, competent and fit.
Now I have joined another gym and I REMEMBER the intimidation factor. Because I spend so much of my time encouraging others to be active, I have spent some recent time exploring my feelings while at the gym, especially this evening.
First I think it doesn't really matter if it is a co ed facility or a same sex one, the feelings of self consciousness and the development of cliques are a factor. Sometimes I think that for men the intimidation is more internal and for women it is both what we tell ourselves and the vibes we get externally. Women (some women), from my female perspective, seem to be more purposefully unwelcoming.
It does us no good however to walk around gyms feeling bad about ourselves, especially when a good workout can boost endorphins and other feel good chemicals so that you are not only burning calories and toning muscles, but improving your mental health.
There are plenty of warm and helpful people at fitness centers, so keep your eye open for them. Sometimes we are the ones that look unapproachable. Also arm yourself with competence. Do pay 40 dollars for a workout routine. Make sure that includes instruction on exactly HOW to use the equipment and to execute the moves. Three months later, pay for a new workout. Also you can use this website
and you can view some of my at home exercises on You Tube. You can do them at the gym too. (I didn't renew my certifications, but I still remember how to work muscles!)
Try out the classes as well. The spin class awkwardness is mostly about how to position the bike. The instructor will certainly help you, but I have found people in spin classes to be a little less frightening than people at weight machines or aerobic classes.
Even with a weight training background, I was intimidated by the muscle strengthening area, but I had the staff show me enough that I can walk over there and do my routine with confidence (it waivers to be sure) that I am doing my exercises correctly. (also you can find out which are the most popular weight training times and go at off times until you are more secure)
But it is the aerobics classes that really led me to write this tonight.
Some are just crazy new to me, like Zumba. Zumba is pretty awesome but my little classical ballet body has so much trouble loosening UP that I want to cover my face somehow. Hmmm, take the class in disguise, yeah... that's the ticket. But I don't and I don't run away. Most of the women wear these little skirt like wraps with lots of jingling things on them... I guess they are a clique, but they aren't too stand offish. The "jazz" dance class is just HARD, but I love it because it reminds me of my youth. There are some VERY good dancers and then a whole lot who aren't and I am neither great nor horrible.
Oh but things have changed because now the guys are not just at the bench press and free weights, but the treadmills, ellipticals and DANCE classes. There are even guys in the step classes.
Ah the step classes. I have noticed that there is a definite group there that is downright huffy in their hoity toity ness - how is that spelled really? Anyways, I have noticed this group recently. Two men and about four women. I don't like them. I don't like snobby people. I don't really dislike them, but you know what I mean.
Well, there they were tonight all grouped together near to me. I guess I must be encroaching. This step class is harder than the other one (there are two a week). They come to both, but not the dance class. This afternoon as we waited for class to begin, I made small talk with a few ladies. That took a while also (striking up a conversation), but they were just as nice as I hope people think I am. Then the class started and I thought, I am going to pay very close attention to this teacher. I am going to get these steps right tonight. (I primed myself for success you know)
So I did, I got it. I got every combination this week. This is like my fourth class with this teacher and I have to admit, HIS stuff is pretty complicated. Well, we did the routine many times and I'll be darned if most of the cliquey people couldn't get it. Now they are a clique that thinks they are better than everyone, so this was just the cat's meow for me. The more they messed up the more I concentrated on doing it right and I was smiling SO BIG when I left the gym that I had to come home and tell you!
So get out there, it'll be OK.