How to Make Your Gym Experience More Body-Positive

Coach Amy, ACE, CNA, NESTA

Amy Mouw is a certified lifestyle and weight management coach, nutrition consultant and is certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise and the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association. She’s also a life coach and has more than 10 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. As a wife and mom of four kiddos ages 1-17, Amy specializes in helping moms regain their confidence so they can be the best version of themselves while better serving their families.
Body image fitness center

It took every bit of confidence I didn’t have to walk into the gym for the first time. I went to my consultation at an odd hour when I knew there wouldn’t be very many people present.

I took a tour of what seemed to be a never-ending room full of weird equipment, mirror-lined walls, and faint echoes of grunting men off training in the distance. As intimidating as it seemed, I was at a crossroads in my life. I knew that I needed to get healthier, so there I sat with a pen in my hand, signing my membership agreement. 

Statistics show that out of the 45 million adults in America that have active gym memberships, 80% do not use them. I can’t help but think that the environment may be the culprit. 

Luckily, there is a new slew of body-positive fitness centers cropping up across the United States. Negative body image fitness centers emphasize a certain body type as a success story. But these new body-positive fitness centers promote overall health without having to worry about the way you look or how you stack up to the person on the next machine.

Motivation Behind Going to the Gym

You may have found yourself in a similar situation the first time you entered a gym. Perhaps you’ve been going to the gym for quite some time and you’re still not feeling 100% comfortable. 

You are definitely not alone. Studies show that only 11 percent of adult U.S. women are satisfied with their bodies. Furthermore, “normative discontent” — the idea that people are not happy with how their bodies look as a result of societal beauty norms — is one of the top reasons women stop going to the gym. 

The key to overcoming these notions starts with a mindset shift. The best way to achieve this is to find your “why”, or your reason for embarking on this journey. As you dig deep, challenge yourself to set goals that focus on functional benchmarks rather than aesthetic benchmarks, or overall wellness rather than weight loss. 

Setting the trend for a more body-positive fitness experience in your own mind will pave the way for a more successful and overall enjoyable workout at your local gym.

Body positive yogaAttending Classes

Classes at your local gym are an amazing way to get started. You’ll receive instruction from a fitness professional in a group environment. Although beneficial, classes can be a breeding ground for comparison. Just like my first experience in the gym. I remember the first class I (attempted) to attend like it was yesterday. I pumped myself up to walk in the door only to be smacked in the face by intense feelings of discomfort and comparison. 

“Look at how fit all these women are! I bet they are so advanced, I’m going to look like such an idiot. What if I mess up in front of everyone?” Those thoughts were enough to make me grab my gym bag and walk back out the door.

 I didn’t even have time to realize that I was missing an awesome opportunity to forge new friendships while working toward my overall wellness goals. If classes are something you would like to try, but you feel like it would be anything but a positive fitness experience, try these tips:

  • Bring a friend! Most gyms offer guest passes. Bring a girlfriend and conquer the class together!
  • Try a body-positive yoga class. Beginner’s yoga focuses on foundational movements and radiates positive energy.
  • Read class descriptions and find one that sounds FUN. If you’re anticipating a good time, you’ll be less likely to feel intimidated and walk straight out the door like me.

Mirror Madness

Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the fairest of them all? A gym full of mirrors can really do something crazy to your state of mind. Sometimes you spot the guy over on the squat rack giving you “that look.” Or you catch a glimpse of your body at the wrong angle. Either way, it can be distracting and make you question the real reason you are doing what you’re doing. 

Keep your body-positive fitness journey intact by telling yourself that it’s OK to ditch the things that make you uncomfortable. While body mechanics and form are an important element to performing certain exercises, it is not necessary to form check with a mirror. 

Instead, slow down the performance of the exercise and focus on the way your body feels as you go through the movement. If something feels off or you are still concerned about a specific movement, ask your instructor or a personal trainer on the floor for assistance.  

Mirrors are meant for form concerns, not for igniting negative self-talk – so be OK with walking away.

Positive fitnessAlternatives to the Gym

Sometimes the tips above aren’t enough to overshadow the vibe a negative body image fitness center gives off. If this is the case, it may be time to consider some alternative methods to help you reach your overall wellness goals. 

It’s a myth that you need a gym membership to meet your fitness goals. You can get a quality workout from participating in sports or even by exercising in the comfort of your own home

Getting a coach can help you find the right plan for your comfort and level. The LadyBossⓇ Personal Results Coaching program will help give you a positive fitness experience through guidance in the three pillars of fitness, nutrition, and accountability. LadyBossⓇ coaches all have more than 10 years of experience in the health and wellness industry and can help you set goals that focus on keeping a healthy, body-positive mindset. 

Body positive fitnessNo matter what approach you take to fitness, the most important aspect is that you have a positive experience in whichever environment you choose. Health and wellness goals revolve around consistency.

If you are uncomfortable in a particular environment, it will be more difficult to stay focused and stick to your goals. 

When seeking a body-positive fitness center, listen to your gut. When going for a tour or consultation, pay attention to the environment. If anything triggers feelings of inadequacy or discomfort – move on. 

You have the power and the right to shape your positive fitness journey in a way that supports your overall “why.” So, go out there and find it!



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