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The No. 1 Reason Women Skip the Gym

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Ever planned to hit the gym and then just...didn't? If only there was literally strength in numbers: A whopping 75 percent of women report wanting to exercise more, but not making it to the gym, according to a new survey by Sport England, a group that provides services and funding to sport in the U.K. While the women surveyed gave many different reasons for skipping sweat-fests, the researchers say it almost all boiled down to one thing: the fear of being judged. 

Between images of super-fit models on the walls, beautifully sculpted trainers on the floor, gorgeous actresses on the TVs, and the mental comparisons to other women (seriously, how does that she look like a super model at 5 a.m. every morning?!), it's easy to see why so many women are intimidated. This fear only intensifies if you're new to exercise or are just starting back after a long break; the second biggest fear cited was the fear of being judged on their abilities. Gym novices said they didn't want to make a mistake or look like they didn't know what they were doing. Seasoned exercisers reported feeling judged for being too good at it and therefore appearing "unfeminine." 

And then there are the moms. As if worrying about stretch marks, "twin skin," or leaky breasts isn't hard enough, the third biggest worry that kept women from the gym was fear that people were judging them for spending too much time on themselves and neglecting their children. This was reported by moms of all ages, but was especially pronounced in those with young kids. 

RELATED: 20 Ways to Bust Out of Your Workout Rut

So do we all have to wait until we develop rock-solid confidence before we can work on our rock-hard abs? Absolutely not, says Michael Mantell, Ph.D., author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (P.S. It's All Small Stuff). Boosting your gym confidence doesn't have to be tricky. "Increased confidence comes from self-compassion and internal happiness first of all," Mantell says. So cut the negativity! When you find yourself thinking “I can’t do it,” “I’ll fail like I always do,” “People will laugh at me,” “I'll get hurt,” stop yourself in your tracks and replace the thought with a more positive one. Even a simple "I'll try" is better, he says. 

The next step, he says, is to not focus on bad experiences in the past, but to put your energy into making exercise into a good experience. "Focus on what went well, and why, with working out in the past," he explains. "Then focus on what you're grateful for regarding exercise you’ve done. Focus on your larger goals, which might be better health, looking better, or being more productive." Remembering the big picture will help you worry less about the little stuff like how you look, and help you be more open to having good experiences—which will want to make you go to the gym more. Win-win!

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