Why Men Are Afraid of Group Fitness

Why Men Are Afraid of Group Fitness

September 2, 2023

By: Jason Schneider 

You’ve just stepped off a mundane 30 minutes on a treadmill, and you find yourself standing at the door of a group fitness studio, looking in at 20 people moving in unison, music pumping’, people whooping and hollering, and attendees sweating their buns off. You think, “Looks like fun – I bet I could do that, and I should try taking a class.” But then comes the action versus the thought, and that’s where most women will step up, and men will turn and walk away.

men in group fitness

Katagelophobia, or the phobia or fear of embarrassment, is real and can be debilitating. It can stop a person from pursuing many things in their life – simply because they fear that they might mess up, be called out, or face public humiliation. As a man who has been a consistent, daily gym-goer for well on 30 years, I can understand and relate to most men’s irrational fear of stepping into the group fitness studio.  To be honest, I remember my first step class where I was completely turned around and spent most of the time just staring at other members who looked like a choreographed flash mob. But, I didn’t let it deter me, and I found my happy place in cycling, treadmill, and boot camp-style formats. Having broken through the fear and given it a shot, I can speak firsthand to what Group Fitness has to offer every single gym-goer that free weights, weight machines, and cardio do not. Let’s explore! 

First, let’s address the stereotype: Group Fitness is for women with 2 lb. dumbbells who do not want to lift heavy weights and put on muscle.

FALSE….and occasionally true.

A great group fitness schedule will offer members a myriad of choices to complement the work they are doing throughout the gym.  There are plenty of classes that offer choreography and movement with light hand weights – and you’ll be surprised at how those 2-lb weights can make you quiver.  But, if you’re mainly interested in high-impact and heavier weights-focused classes, all you have to do is take one athletic conditioning, strength, or cycling format to know that these people mean business.  Step into a B30 barbell training, Chisel, Stacked, Push the Perimeter (or my personal favorite, All Out Athlete) class, and you will be challenged to push/pull and move weight through many planes of motion and exercise modalities. 

Want options for even more weight and traditional Olympic lifting movements? Try a HIITZone or Boxing format for full beast mode, MMA, and CrossFit-inspired classes. For men, many of these pairings of movements will help to fill in the gaps of what may be missing from your standard series of barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and lat pulldowns. Our bodies crave complexity and respond best to variety.  

men stretching

You may be thinking, “But I don’t want to be the only guy in the room.  And I don’t want to make a fool of myself.” It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”   In other words, get over it and give it a try. You’ll likely find a VERY welcoming community that embraces newcomers, gives you plenty of options to choose from to fit your abilities, and both mental/physical challenges like you’ve never had on the weight floor.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the word community. Taken from a user response on Quora.com, “Perhaps it’s in our biological instinct to be a part of social groups because for women there is safety in number and familiarity, which men often don’t need. Women like and demand for emotional support more than men do. It’s easier to be motivated if you’re doing things in a group.”   As a professional sports coach and athlete, I admit I do just fine training and racing on my own.  HOWEVER, I also relish in (and actually prefer) a workout or training buddy and have seen the physical effects of community motivation to enhance performance.  When I run or cycle on my own, outdoors, I need an activity tracker to push myself to work harder and gain results.  But it’s also easier for me to cheat, decide not to work as hard, and maybe even not go at all.  But when I’m working with a partner or a group, I’m committed.  I show up.  I work as hard as I need, maybe even harder if the group is stronger than me.  And often, I work even hard to motivate those around me to work harder.   When in a cycling class, I will always have a healthy amount of competition with the person sweating next to me… and have plenty of encouraging words should they start to fade before an interval is complete.  We’re suffering together, and together we will conquer. Women may typically seek community for motivation, but men can benefit just as much with some direct or indirect community support. And let’s face it, you can’t high-five yourself at the end of a workout. Get in there, push someone, have someone push you, and celebrate pushing each other to a fun and sweat-filled time. You can’t deny the wisdom of Phil Jackson “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

men in ride class

In the end, it’s a matter of courage and ego. Men, as a generalization, have to get over the “I know better than you do” mentality, get beyond the concern of humiliation or peer pressure from their other guy friends, and test the waters. Take a class to break the doldrums of the same ‘ol thing. Challenge your body to move in ways that aren’t part of your typical repertoire. Try some choreography to challenge your mental capacity and keep that mind sharp. Take a cycle class and see what it means to have your heart handed to you on a silver platter. All the while, enjoy the music, feel the inspiration to perspiration, and utilize that motivation (or provide it for someone else who needs it) to propel your fitness journey to new heights.  

“When you are friends with your storm, you dance, instead of getting blown away.” – Michael Bassey Johnson

Jason Schneider is a Western Regional Group Fitness Manager at Crunch Fitness.

Crunch’s group fitness classes promote a culture of fun with no judgments. It’s an environment for all types of individuals with various goals. Find a Crunch gym near you to try our free trial membership, or join Crunch now. Your goals are made to be crushed. With Crunch, you’ll have the tools, resources, and support to make it happen.

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