A woman running on a treadmill illustration

These women’s most embarrassing gym moments might help ease your ‘gymtimidation’ and exercise anxiety

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Worried about embarrassing yourself in the gym? These 12 stories will make you feel less alone. 

Does a fear of embarrassing yourself put you off going to the gym? Do you suffer from ‘gymtimidation’ – a feeling that fitness spaces are too daunting for you to enter? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone: eight in 10 people feel anxious about going to the gym since lockdown, according to new stats by Samsung Galaxy. According to the tech brand, the main reasons for anxiety are not feeling fit enough, looking weaker than others and being worried other people will judge them.

Meanwhile, PureGym has found that one in three of its members have considered quitting due to a lack of confidence in their training, and TheGym stats found that one in five people feel too awkward or embarrassed to even enter fitness centres. 

We’re not here to tell you that’s all rubbish and that there’s nothing to be scared about. The truth is that gyms can sometimes be awkward places. Think about it: they’re a space where you attempt to move your body around iron machines. Frankly, the whole concept is quite weird, and the reality is that many of us have felt the heat of humiliation pour to our cheeks while training.

But don’t race off to end your membership just yet. Our communal embarrassment proves that you’re not alone in your mistakes. In fact, when we asked women to share their most awkward, mortifying, can’t-believe-that-happened gym moments, we got a load of responses. Aside from instances of passing wind – of which there were many – here are just some of the embarrassing things readers have done in the gym.

“I had just unracked my barbell and was putting the plates back where they’re stored under the squat rack. As I stood up, I whacked my head on the bar with such a loud noise that everyone in the weights room turned to look at me. I laughed it off because I couldn’t face the humiliation of anyone coming to check if I was OK.” - Chloe 

“I fell off a treadmill in a very busy gym. That’s not the worst part, because my shorts also fell down. To top it off, the gym manager still has it on CCTV.” - Emily

“I was trying a new bench weight but didn’t have a spotter. I had to roll the bar down my body to get it off when I couldn’t complete the rep.” - Anon 

“I was trying out a new exercise that involved standing on a bench. I lost my balance and very loudly fell off.” - Megan

A woman running on a treadmill
Embarassing gym moments: a lot of people have fallen off of treadmills

“I once got so emotional during yoga that I cried my eyes out. I went to talk to the instructor after and thought they were looking at me funny - then I realised I had make-up smothered literally all over my face.” - Nancy

“It was my first time doing bench press and I had to unrack all of the plates the person before me had loaded on. I took them all off of one side and the unevenly weighted bar flipped off the rack and tumbled through the gym.” - Anon

“Running on the treadmill, slipped over and fell off.” - Anon 

“I was doing squats and went to clip the smith machine bar back into place by rolling it forwards. Only, I forgot I was using a barbell, not a smith machine, so the bar rolled all the way forwards and onto my head.” - Juliette

“I didn’t know medicine balls bounced. I nearly broke my nose.” - Anon 

“My boyfriend dropped a dumbbell on my phone. Safe to say I screamed at him and got… looks.” - Emma

“Overactive sweat glands in the groin area coupled with grey, marl leggings.” - Anon

“I flew off the end of a treadmill once.” - Anon 

We promise that the point of these stories isn’t to freak you out. While they might prove that there are lots that can go wrong, they also share a few important messages about managing our gymtimidation. 

1. No one will remember (probably)

Isn’t it interesting that, when asked about embarrassing gym moments, everyone has their own story to tell? No one remembers that time their mate was wildly grunting or did something embarrassing… yet we always remember our own faux pas. Yes, people might look when you accidentally clang your metal around, but no one really remembers, and if they do, they’ll have their own stories of embarrassment too.

2. We need to normalise our bodies

Some things we call ‘embarrassing are actually very normal. See: sweating, smelling and, to some extent, the occasional fart.

3. Focus on yourself

Most of these moments could have been avoided by either paying a bit more attention or asking for help. It’s ironic that when you worry about what other people are doing or thinking, you get distracted, which means that you make a mistake and you worry even more about other people. Ultimately, focusing on yourself and your workout is the best way to avoid feeling intimidated and anxious – and if you’re really not sure what to do, always ask the staff on the floor to help. 

Images: Getty / Pexels

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).