real life

'I entered the gym ready to kick my New Year's goals. I left a few minutes later in tears.'

Taking a deep breath, I grabbed my water bottle and strode into one of those fancy gyms ready to smash some exercise goals.

Little did I know my New Year – New Me resolution was over in less time than it took me to tie up my shoelaces and I was back in my car sobbing.

I guess signing up for a new fitness regimen is so much more than bouncing around to pumping tunes while you desperately try to keep up with the others.

For myself and so many women, walking through those doors was a big deal. The date had been on my calendar for three weeks. It was a huge mental challenge for me. I wanted to do better and be better. I had even told my family and friends. I wanted to be accountable.

Watch: The six types of people you see at the gym. Post continues below. 

Video by Mamamia

I’m sure you have walked past those gyms on the high street. The ones with the big windows Everyone seemingly looking great. Fit, healthy, attractive. And it’s bloody intimidating. Terrifying, even.

Of course, I wanted to be just like them. Like actually enjoy working out. Oozing body confidence and high fiving my tribe as we smashed out another tough set together.

And suddenly there I was, standing amongst them, nervously looking for a friendly face while secretly wishing the ground would swallow me up.


Within minutes I felt out of my depth and the class hadn’t even begun. What if I couldn’t keep up? What if I fell over trying to jump over things? What if the two bras I was wearing were not enough to hold the 12G girls in?

Self-doubt took over. I can’t even touch my toes and here I was about to be thrown into a complicated sequence of moves that would see my squishy rear end far too close to a stranger’s face as I frog jumped across the floor.

As everyone laughed and chatted about their Christmas break, I silently edged my way to the back of the class desperately trying to blink back the tears.

Tears of frustration. Upset with myself for going. And upset with myself for slowly giving up.

Standing there in my non-matching Kmart workout gear with the two bras for extra support made me feel like a fraud. I wasn’t like these people. I felt I never would be and that just made me feel worse.

Nobody said hello. Nobody made eye contact, and I fled. I’m pretty sure no one even noticed as I ran back to my car and cried for an hour.

Of course, It’s not really anyone else’s job to hold my hand or roll out the red carpet for my arrival. But I’m human and it broke me.

It also seems I’m not alone.

Since posting about my experience on my Instagram page, I have had thousands of messages from other people who all felt the same. Others that have fled in tears, many who paid expensive 12-month gym memberships never going more than once.


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If you follow my stories you will know that I fled a gym today in tears. I sat in my car sobbing for almost an hour before I could drive home. The class I was supposed to take were stretching by the time I drove back past. I had a massive outpouring of love from here and I want to thank you all for that. It seems that the same thing has happened to many of us at different places. I’m not a shy or socially awkward person. If anything my confidence is a tad too high ! But I’m not good at physical activities. I never have been. I have huge boobs 12 G or even H. Im not agile. This morning standing amongst 30 women in their matching workout pants and cute crop tops in my @kmartaus gear wearing 2 bras – made me feel crappy. No one gave me eye contact. I didn’t even know where I was supposed to put my water bottle. I was the new kid at school but the teacher didn’t even know I was there. I tried to flag someone down without being seen because I wanted to be invisible. The place was packed. There was hardly room to move. I knew that class was going to push me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up but I arrived ready to try and I left feeling worse than ever. Writing this now it feels like an over reaction. But I’m human and I won’t try and justify my feelings. It’s been a shit Christmas here in Australia. Not on a personal level. We are all fine. The kids are great. But it’s just shitty here now. It’s sad. It’s overwhelming and I guess all of that was bubbling. That’s no excuse though. We try and teach our kids to be kind. To say hi to the new kid. To be a good friend. If I have learnt anything I guess it’s that we all need to take a step back and take a look around us and look after others. I am already a member at a local leisure centre. But I didn’t find it very motivating. I wanted to do better for myself. For the kids. And I just feel like a failure now. Because I should have stayed. They have called and asked me to try again. And really it’s not a reflection on them. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves and the pressure we feel from others. It’s having to be an adult when you still have the same concerns you did when you were a teen ❤️ Thanks for the Love. ❤️

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Some found personal training sessions helped, others work out from home using Youtube to guide them through, and sadly, many gave up completely.

It makes my heart hurt for all of us.

I did receive a message from the instructor that day. She was devastated that I felt that way having been massively under the pump with the first day back of training. That made me cry too. But it has been a highly emotional time here in Australia as we are faced with such devastation. It’s all been bubbling away for many of us.

I understand many people go to the gym to work out, to have some me time and leave their problems at the door. I understand we are busy and live in a time-poor world. I am guilty of it myself, too busy chatting to mates at playgroup to notice the new mum who finally left the house for the first time.


But I’m going to learn from this.

I’m not going to give up. I want to be fitter and healthier. For myself and for my kids. And along with that I’m going to be kinder – to myself and others.

Listen: Mamamia Out Loud talks about gym-shaming. Post continues below. 

Advice I will now be following:

Find a friend if you can. That moral support would have kept me there.

If you can’t find a gym buddy then get there early so you can find a spot you’re comfortable with and let the instructor know you are new and may need a variation of the more difficult moves. I was too embarrassed to announce that in front of stranger.

Also, it’s worth considering starting the New Year goals in February. Everyone and their next-door neighbour turns up in January – so if you feel overwhelmed, classes will be less busy after that rush.

Same with peak times. Before work/after work and lunchtime are always packed. Aim for a 9pm workout until you feel more confident to jump into a class.

Make sure you check out what sort of level classes offer, too. I once headed into a Tabata class thinking it sounded quite Zen and would involve stretching – only to find out it was one of the hardest workouts going. People were actually standing on their heads at one point.

Jonica Williams is a journalist and proud adoptive mother from the Central Coast. You can follow her family on Instagram @the.wandertwins