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Shy Girl or Fly Girl? Breaking Free of Your Fitness Comfort Zone

By Sara Popp

May 26, 2023

For some women, the gym is their second home—familiar faces, perfect playlists, and total mastery of every machine, free weight, and resistance band in sight. And they’re all over #FitTok, confidently taking up space by the barbells.  

But for many others, exercising in public feels horribly awkward and embarrassing. For them, any attention at the gym is unwanted attention, whether it’s uncomfortable stares or the certainty that everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing. To combat gymtimidation, a new trend is taking over—the “shy girl” workout, focused on lowering anxiety by tailoring workouts to minimize attention.  

The “shy girl” workout 

So, what’s a please-do-not-perceive-me girl to do, when faced with the world of a bustling gym full of strangers? The “shy girl” plan says choose a treadmill next to the wall or pick a bike near the door. Maybe wear noise-cancelling, over-the-ear headphones that make it really clear you are not up for conversation. Choose simple exercises you can do on a mat. Stay in your spot in the corner. Be unobtrusive.  

The goal—don't let your anxiety keep you from working out. But is this trend empowering or limiting? We had the opportunity to sit down with Gina Kim, Certified Personal Trainer, Pain-Free Performance Specialist, and member of Mindbody and the ClassPass Wellness Council. She shared her thoughts on this trend, plus valuable insights into overcoming gymtimidation and building confidence in the gym. 

Empowering women to take up space 

"As a first principles approach, I don't believe in “shy girl” workouts as a female fitness trainer," says Gina Kim. "I empower women to take up space in the gym.”  
“Women belong at the gym as much as men do. There aren't articles written on 'shy boy' workouts." Gina's stance reflects the importance of inclusivity and equality within the fitness industry. 

Addressing and mitigating gymtimidation 

Gymtimidation, the anxiety experienced by new lifters, is a common hurdle that many individuals face when starting their fitness journey. Gina reassures us that this feeling is normal and offers practical advice to help overcome it. "In general, it's easy to feel intimidated by something or somewhere you are unfamiliar with," she explains. "Think of something you are really good at: you built that confidence through action and practice. The gym is no different!" 

To combat gymtimidation, Gina suggests several strategies to ease anxiety and build confidence. One of her top recommendations is to ask for a gym tour to familiarize yourself with the equipment and layout. "Having an idea of where to find free weights and/or machines will decrease some of the anxiety as you step foot into the gym," she advises. 

Having a well-thought-out plan is another key element in reducing gymtimidation. "Knowing exactly what you plan on doing will also reduce a good amount of anxiety," says Gina. She suggests writing down your workout plan in a small notebook or on your phone, ensuring that you don't waste time wandering around and second-guessing yourself. Additionally, using noise-cancelling headphones and listening to your favorite workout beats can help create a focused and comfortable environment. 

Progressing outside their comfort zone 

Given the current state of the pandemic, it's natural to experience heightened anxiety. During the lockdown in 2020, many of us went through weeks, months, or even years without setting foot in a gym surrounded by strangers. As a result, our comfort zone shrank to our at-home gyms or small workout groups. Now, we find ourselves needing to expand that comfort zone once again. It's important to recognize that we often develop fear towards what we avoid, even if it wasn't initially due to social worry or shyness.  

As new lifters gain more experience and confidence in the gym, Gina encourages them to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zones. "Scale up the challenge of your workouts by switching out some dumbbell lifts with barbells," she advises. By gradually pushing your boundaries, you can continue to progress and achieve new fitness milestones. 

The importance of foundational movement patterns 

Gina emphasizes the significance of incorporating the six foundational movement patterns into any workout program: squat, hinge, lunge, pull, push, and carry. "Regardless of equipment, make sure you're hitting those throughout the week," she emphasizes. These foundational movements contribute to overall strength and mobility, laying a solid groundwork for a well-rounded fitness routine. 

While the "shy girl" workout trend may have gained popularity on platforms like TikTok, Gina Kim's perspective challenges the notion of promoting timidity among women in the gym. Instead, she advocates for empowerment, inclusivity, and confidence-building strategies that enable women to take up space and thrive in the fitness environment. Any movement being better than no movement at all, and this applies to "shy girl" workouts too. While these workouts may not be the most advanced or ideal for muscle growth, they play a crucial role in helping people get started and reduce their anxiety about going to the gym. Ultimately, what matters most in the beginning is taking that first step and building confidence. 

And on that note, no matter where you are in your fitness journey, the Mindbody app has a whole marketplace of fitness studios just waiting for you to book a class with them. Let this app be your guide to find your ideal fitness studio.  

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About the author:

Sara Popp headshot

Sara Popp



Creativity and curiosity keep Sara's wheels turning. With a background in the visual arts and a persistent love of learning new things, she's usually found documenting adventures with her family and dreaming of international travel. Storytelling, photography, and squeezy hugs are her faves.

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