26/03/2015

Confidence or motivation - which is the biggest factor preventing women from exercising in public?

Since my gym has re-opened at a brand new, bigger location I've been determined to try out more classes.  I've done a few spin classes and thought this week I would give body combat a go.  I did a body combat class once (maybe twice) at uni - but this class was nothing like the one at uni.

One of three things could have happened in the three years since I last attempted to combat my body...
1. Body combat has changed the format of the class
2. I didn't do a 'real' body combat class before
3. I've repressed the memory of the last class and don't remember what it was like

It's probably a combination of those three things, but I also think there's a fourth reason and it's a reason that many women are worried about exercising in public and in groups.

Confidence.

I would usually go to the gym with my friend, so I would be much more confident doing the class with someone I know, but yesterday I was flying solo and didn't know a single other person in the class.  That, added to my already low confidence levels when it comes to group exercise, was enough to make me self-conscious about the whole thing.

As the class started yesterday, the instructor asked us if we had any injuries or anything that would prevent our full participation in the class, to which one lady replied: "not unless you count confidence."

When it got underway there was a definite and noticeable difference between those taking part in the class - there were those who were regulars and keen body combat attendants and those, like me and the unconfident lady, who were novices.

About three-quarters of the way through the class, when things got really hard and very sweaty, 80% of the women doing the class whipped off their tops and continued in just their teeny, tiny sports bras - revealing their toned, flat tummies.  No matter how hot it got in there - there was no way on this earth that I was going to be exercising in just my sports bra.  Thankfully, the other lady on my fitness level had the same train of thought and we carried on as we were.

Exercising now isn't about finding motivation, it's about having the confidence to get out there and join in with those super-fit gym bunnies who wouldn't look out of place next to Jessica Ennis.  (Whom I have nothing against by the way, good on them for sticking at it in order to look so good!)

Everyone has to start somewhere - and no doubt once upon a time those toned, fit people were once in the position that myself, and many other women across the country, are in.  But perhaps gyms and fitness centres could do more to help women in this position, and introduce exercise classes for beginners and those with lower confidence levels rather than assuming that we all want to go up against the 'pros' in every class.  Not only does this make us feel uneasy and out of place in the class, but it prevents us wanting to go back and go through the same feelings again.

There was an article on the Daily Mail yesterday which said that women have resorted to exercising in their garden shed because they don't want to be seen by anyone else while working out.

The stigma that is attached to being sweaty and red and out of breath while in the gym needs to be removed.  Women should feel empowered when in the gym working up a sweat, not self-conscious.

Women's only gyms are great for those with a lower level of confidence, but I imagine there will still be people there who you compare yourself to and feel inadequate next to.  The support given to you by the staff at the gym is really important and is key in ensuring that you feel comfortable in yourself while exercising as well as comfortable in what you are doing.

Worrying about what you look like or what other people think of you is futile, at the end of the day, because nine out of ten times people in the gym are so focussed on what they are doing that they don't give a second glance to anyone else.

Maybe it's time that gyms and fitness centres stopped looking at ways to increase people's motivation to go to the gym, but looked at how to boost their confidence instead.

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