I remember how self-conscious I was when I first joined a gym. I felt as though I didn't fit in; that I might as well have had a flashing neon sign on my head saying "has no idea what she's doing". Nobody's behaviour contributed to my feeling out of place; it was all in my head, of course.
Beginning something new where everything is unfamiliar has the effect of making me feel useless, stupid and incompetent. Of course, I'm not any of those things - like anybody else, I just have to learn and practice until eventually the unfamiliar becomes familiar and I forget how awkward and ridiculous and conspicuous I once felt. Human nature...stupidly annoying sometimes.
During those early weeks, nobody was looking at me and nobody was judging me - except ME. My biggest fear was drawing attention to myself. I'd hide at the back of a class, where if I screwed up a combination of movements, most people wouldn't notice. I'd do my weights routine as quickly as possible, being sure not to make eye contact with anyone. How things change.
If I do a class these days, I set myself up right down the front, where I can see exactly what the instructor is doing. If anyone IS watching me from behind (which I'm pretty sure they're not), so what? I don't know them and don't care what they think anyway. As for weight training, I walk into that room as though I own it and stake my claim on the equipment I want before one of the he-men beats me to it. No matter how unusual the exercise, I just do it, without worrying about what anyone might think.
I wear tank tops with huge slogans like "Less talk, more action", or "Try and stop me" - or one of my favourites: with a superhero "S" emblazoned on the front. They make ME feel good and I don't give a crap what anybody else thinks of them.
Today I had to fit in a cardio workout after my weights session. I wanted to mix it up and do a series of short interval sessions on different pieces of equipment. I started with some rower intervals, then some elliptical intervals. (I may have been singing out loud to the Black Eyed Peas.... Apologies to the guy next to me. Hehe.) By the time I moved onto a treadmill, I was a bit bored with speed/resistance intervals, so I chucked in some sideways shuffles and walking lunges on the machine. This time, it was not my imagination that people were looking at me... Oh well, I thought, let's give them something to look at, then. So in between running and walking, I jumped off the machine and added some sets of plyo side-to-side squats and some pop squats.
In just under thirty minutes, I worked up a serious sweat, pushed my heart rate well into the 160s and knew I'd put in a good session. If I provided some entertainment as well, so be it. ;) I finished up with a couple of planks with feet on a medicine ball. I haven't done those for a long time - and I forgot how much they hurt!
It's not about thinking that I'm pretty hot and Hey look at meeeee! In fact I'm still carrying a few extra kilos and nowhere near at my fittest and strongest, so I'm not doing anything very impressive most of the time. The bottom line is: my workouts are all about me, entirely for my benefit, and I always intend to get the most out of them. I'm not about to let any perceptions of what others think (imaginary or real) get in my way. I perform better and feel a greater sense of achievement when I tune out everyone around me and focus on what i'm doing right now.
If I act tentative and kind of apologetic for being there, I don't do my best work. But dressing the part, putting on my Grrr face and acting as though I'm the queen of the fricken' world always results in my giving 100%.
So no matter whether you're a total beginner, an elite athlete or anywhere in between, give this a try: hold your head high, stand your ground (no hiding in the corner) and act as though you're serious about your training. Then see how you feel afterwards.
Don't be a shrinking violet - unless you want to get trampled on. Instead, be a big, showy, full blown rose. Those babies have nasty thorns - they can take care of themselves.