This month, fitness professional and entrepreneur, Sarah Gorman reveals how to get your gym confidence back. She explains how changing what we wear and how we think about our bodies can help us view exercise in a positive way…
I don’t know about you but getting into lycra in the morning, or at any time of the day, is not something I relish.
I am not dreading the workout itself; I’m dreading the moment the lycra is on and I have to glance in the mirror.
It’s not the most flattering of clothing ranges and there is no hiding anything once it’s on! I don’t know if everyone feels the same, but I think that most women I know do.
As women we see and hear all the onscreen, magazine and now social media images of what a ‘beautiful’ woman (supposedly) looks like.
While I recognise there is much being done to counter these stereotypes and change the way we view beauty, I think there is something inherently stuck in our society that continues to make us criticise the way we look.
I imagine this self-criticism has stopped many of us continuing with a passion, or stopped us doing something that we love, possibly because there is just too much self-doubt, lack of self-worth, even self-loathing involved to keep going. Nowadays, I just blank it out.
I try and tell the voices to be quiet and get myself into a different mindset. And sure enough, once I start to move they go away. But if I have these feelings and thoughts and voices, then other people must too.
What is it stopping you from walking into a group exercise class, or going to the gym? I think that lack of confidence is an issue across the board. I imagine that men and boys feel similar – possibly in different ways.
Finding a way to be confident is not easy but there are ways that we can trick confidence into happening authentically.
One of the ways in which to do this is through posture and in the way we physically present ourselves. And I mean this both in the clothes that we choose to wear but also in how we hold our bodies.
Learning to stand tall, draw our shoulders back and open the chest is something that can be practised and will make you feel stronger and more confident. It not only gives the appearance of inner self confidence but actually makes one look physically taller and, in fact (dare I say), better.
The more we practise these simple changes in our posture the more inherent they become until we no longer have to try – it just becomes a part of you.
Another way is to choose to wear things that make you feel good. If lycra doesn’t make you feel this way, then don’t wear it! Find something that makes you feel good when you put it on.
You won’t get through the exercise barriers if you feel rubbish before you even start. Exercise should be unabashed. Fitness is for our souls and our minds as much as it is for our bodies. We should be able to rock up in whatever we want, so long as we can move safely and work out.
As fitness has become a huge industry, more people than ever have been able to access that some kind of exercise class or other, but I think this still creates a barrier for some people as we get it in our heads that we are being judged by how we look.
If, like me, you hear the voices that say you look a bit dumpy, or your legs are too short, or your arms aren’t lean enough, or whatever else the voices say – then tell them to just get lost. Because firstly, no one is looking at you anyway and they are too busy worrying about themselves. Secondly you probably look absolutely fine and thirdly, who gives a monkeys?!
You’re there to get strong and fit and healthy so what does it matter how you look in a bit of silly old lycra?
MOVE OF THE MONTH: Posture
This can be done lying on the floor with the knees bent and feet on the floor in a seated position, on a chair or standing.
It’s all about visualisation: close your eyes and let’s work from the feet up. Feel the feet grounded on the floor. The majority of your weight should be in the heels and running down the outer edge of the foot.
Feel the contact with the feet on the floor. In your mind’s eye, track up your legs to the knees. Soften the knees so that you are not locking them which creates tension.
Continue to trace up the body to the pelvis and hips. Here we work on engaging the muscles in the pelvic floor by trying to imagine your sit bones gently drawing up and slightly closer together inside the body. You can also think about the pubic bone and the tail bone similarly drawing closer towards each other and lifting slightly up inside the body.
Don’t work too hard: you should be able to breathe easily and not feel tension. Now take your mind to your belly. Without sucking it in, just feel the whole front of the abdominal wall drawing in towards the centre. Feel the rib cage soften and the chest widening and opening out. I try to imagine arrows coming from my sternum out towards to shoulders.
Now take your vision to your back. Try to visualise your spine lengthening from the very base of the spine (the tail bone) all the way up to the top and out beyond the crown of your head. Imagine that your spine is like a long string holding you up and lifting you out of your body. Try to feel that the rest of the body is simply hanging from this invisible string.
Allow your shoulder blades to melt down the back of your body and create some space between the shoulders and the ears. Stay with this feeling for a few breathes in and out. Don’t get locked into the position. You should feel like there is the freedom to move but that you can also sustain this open, tall posture.
Try and practise this every few days for the next month and feel if it makes a difference in how you feel about yourself and your body and therefore your confidence.