The Truth About Those Intimidating Stares At The Gym

Some thoughts from a seasoned gymrat who’s been on both sides

May 8, 2019

The gym can be an intimidating place, especially when you’re first starting out. I remember when I first started working out, feeling out of place and insecure.

Overcoming that discomfort, accepting the humility, and becoming better by working your way through it, is a big reason why you hear people like me say we gained “confidence” from the gym. I can say in my case, that journey has been a bigger source of confidence than my improved appearance.

These days, I’m a personal trainer with weekly #WeightRoomWednesday posts. I hear from people all the time about how people in the gym are staring at them. “Intimidating” is in the headline for a reason.

Let’s start with the real stares. Sadly, there ARE people in this world who need to look down on others to feel better about themselves. Some of them work out. The aforementioned stares do exist, and they come from the people I just described. That is a major bummer all-around.

You have a choice here. You can compassionately understand what it feels like to feel bad about yourself. That’s the zenAF route. If you can pull it off, more power to you! Or you can just say f*** ‘em and move on with your day. I’ve definitely done both of these. Either way, is it worth letting their insecurity stop you from improving yourself and getting closer to your goals in the gym?

I don’t think so.

The fact is though, most the people I see in the gym every day, are in their own world. To a fault, in some cases (haha!), but most the time they’re in there taking time in their busy lives to stay healthy, get stronger, lose weight, reduce stress, whatever the reason(s) may be.

What I think happens more often, is exactly what I went through when I first stepped foot in the gym in Santa Barbara- a town made up almost exclusively of super-fit people: I was perceiving a lot of judgmental stares from people (probably) not even looking at me, because I had no idea what I was doing and was notably less fit than 80% of the people in there.

It’s totally normal to feel uncertain when you’re first starting out, or even YEARS into your journey. Sometimes when people feel this way, they think other people are staring at them and judging, when they’re really not (perhaps trying to check themselves out in the mirror, see the score of the game if there's a TV in the weight room, or make awkward eye contact with a girl that probably doesn’t want to talk to them cuz she’s there to work on herself).

Sometimes, a person may even be looking at you because they're stoked on your form. Or they noticed you've been coming more regularly. Or you have a sweet band shirt on. I've been known to do all of these.

You never know. Whatever the case, don't let other people stop you from reaching your goals.

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Have fun and do your best,

Matt Koch

Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach (American Council on Exercise; Precision Nutrition)