March 30th, 2022

For so many people going into a new year means setting new goals and for many they are fitness related. However, this is often easier said than done. You would think that the hardest part of working out was the actual workout, but sadly for many of us, it is just walking through the doors and making it to the gym due to the very real issue of ‘gymtimidation’. 

If thoughts of understanding and navigating the equipment, doing an exercise wrong or being watched at the gym leaves you feeling anxious and overwhelmed, then you are probably suffering from ‘gymtimidation’ – the word used to describe the dread, fear and intimidation we feel when going to the gym. 

This very real and unresolved issue can result in people paying for memberships but finding themselves outside unable to go in, or not ever even signing up due to this very genuine fear.

Research has shown that 50% of people struggle with intimidation, with twice as many women experiencing the issue than men. Some of the reasons stated for this feeling include:

  • 60% of us are worried about not knowing how to use the equipment properly. 
  • 56% of us are uncomfortable about not being as fit as other people at the gym.
  • 54% are not confident in their body and the way they look.
  • 55% don’t like to work out when it is busy and there are lots of people around.
  • 43% of us are concerned about not knowing where to start and having a defined workout plan.
  • 14% of women stated the glances of male gym goers triggered their anxiety.
  • 97% of women said they were concerned about being naked in the changing room.
The facts and figures


Worried about not knowing how to use the equipment


Uncomfortable about not being as fit as other people


Not confident in their body and the way they look

It’s not just our own fears that are getting in the way – at the other end of the scale we’ve also got to navigate the growing toxicity of gym culture which just adds to the anxiety. 

With more gadgets and apps at our fingertips to track our movements and our social media feeds being inundated with the rise of fitness influencers, it is no wonder that this has resulted in obsessive and unhealthy relationships with working out and fitness. Beauty standards have gone beyond unrealistic. 

This is only amplified further when big budget shows like Love Island and Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle continue to only cast stick-thin and muscly people, publicly defining only that image as ‘hot’ and ‘beautiful’. The advertising of gyms continues to play into this damaging narrative too by cementing these standards of beauty by only using young, thin fitness models. 

At the moment it feels like gyms are an exclusive club for the ‘gym bunnies’ and ‘muscle men’ with no ounce of muffin top allowed. So is it any wonder that gymtimidation is so massive?!  

There is so much irony in the fact that a place that should be most welcoming to people that need to lose weight and get healthier is actually the most unwelcoming and alienating. 

The gym in itself should be a space for everyone no matter your size, age, gender or race, so what are brands doing about this? 

One company that is making a stand is Stitch Fix. Stitch Fix is a personal style service for men and women that evolves with your tastes, needs and lifestyle. They provide you clothing based on your style, size and price range and you get to try on the items at home, with you only having to pay for the items that you like and want to keep. 

For their latest campaign, ‘Goodbye Gymtimidation’, they have collaborated with tennis superstar Venus Williams. The campaign hopes to empower women to reach their 2022 fitness goals and conquer the anxiety or intimidation they may feel when working out in front of others. 

Credit: Craig Ambrosio for Stitch Fix

In a statement, sharing her own struggles with gymtimidation, Williams said, “Playing tennis on a global stage doesn’t make me immune to anxieties. In fact, I’d say it’s just the opposite. I’ve experienced gymtimidation in the past while working out and have developed my own set of techniques to keep it at bay throughout my career. That’s why I decided to join forces with Stitch Fix on this campaign — to create awareness of this issue and inspire women to stay confident in themselves throughout their wellness journey.”

Data from Stitch Fix surveys found that 67% of women experience increased “gymtimidation” when returning to a fitness routine or following a major life event, 71% admit to skipping a workout because they didn’t have workout clothes that made them feel confident, and 59% of women who workout say it’s a challenge finding workout clothes that fit perfectly. 

These findings are something that Stitch Fix are directly hoping to combat through their campaign for their audience as well as for the wider society of women who struggle with gymtimidation. By recognising this issue, they are hoping to help women by sharing tips on how to overcome gymtimidation and data on the link between wearing confidence boosting activewear and sticking with fitness goals. They are also in turn offering their own personalised shopping experience to help customers find that activewear that fits perfectly and makes them feel confident. 

Credit: Craig Ambrosio for Stitch Fix

Having had a past experience of not playing as well when not wearing something she feels confident in, Williams understands the importance of confidence-boosting activewear, which is why this partnership is so important. Williams said “My partnership with Stitch Fix is about feeling good about yourself and figuring out how to do that more often. I love Stitch Fix, and I was so excited when I got the call to be a part of this campaign. Navigating those ups and downs in life is something I’ve experienced personally. We are kicking off 2022 by saying goodbye to “gymtimidation.” It’s the anxiety we get when looking at others or starting a new routine when we’ve had a break and are getting back in it, regardless of our athletic level. It’s that lack of confidence. We want to say goodbye to that, and I want to share my experiences to help women feel their best.”

What Stitch Fix is doing is so incredibly important when it comes to breaking down gymtimidation, but more brands and gyms in particular need to do this and take responsibility. 

Gyms need to create environments that are welcoming to all; their existing audience as well as their prospect. From the staff, and the gym layouts, to the advertising, it all needs to be reassessed. 

The onus on helping to create a safe and inclusive environment partly falls on the gym’s staff. They need to look at how to make fitness culture less harmful and more welcoming not only to women, but also to everyone who doesn’t fit the stereotypical ‘gym’ image. Engaging with members in a positive manner is key. They need to be looking out for toxic behaviour and trying to change it, as well as looking out for people that don’t look confident and try and boost them. 

When it comes to the layout, weight rooms are nearly always on a different floor or a different room, creating a segregated area that often for females or less fit people can be extremely difficult to make that step to go into. Gyms need to look at this and change these environments to feel less separated.  

Posters and advertising surrounding gyms should be inclusive. Not at all are we saying that no stereotypically ‘fit’ people should be used, but a whole range of people, as at the end of the day that is a true reflection of society and what our gyms should look like. 

Credit: Craig Ambrosio for Stitch Fix

Changing this culture, like what Stitch Fix is trying to do, is vital. Given the positive benefits of exercise both physically and mentally – boosting our mood by releasing endorphins and helping to reduce stress – access to exercise for everyone and addressing gymtimidation is essential. 

We should all be encouraging each other to be our best and most confident selves and at the heart of making that change and shouting this encouragement from the rooftop needs to be brands within the fitness industry. Many of us, regardless of size, have grown up feeling as if we don’t fit in at a gym, and now is the time for the fitness industry to fight back and change this. At the end of the day gyms are for everyone and we should all have the option of falling in love with exercise as after all it is about your wellbeing – your body, your mind – no one else’s.

Written by Daisy Rogers, Head of Copy and Content, Hatched.

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