24/08/2012 11:07

Does your fear of looking hot and sweaty stop you working out?

Psychology writer Eve Menezes Cunningham discusses how to work past personal insecurities when working out.

Cheryl Cole after a workout (© Cheryl Cole)

Personally I'd be delighted to look like Cheryl Cole at her "worst" (her now infamous tweet showed her looking hot and sweaty after a tough day of rehearsals). But with obesity on the rise and beauty salon treatments showing growth in these uncertain economic times, are you letting your fear of not looking your best put you off exercising?
Apart from helping people maintain a healthy weight, exercise has all sorts of mood benefits. It helps us burn-off stress hormones, produces feel-good hormones, aids better sleep and even helps retrain our brains so we learn to manage periods of physical and, as a result, emotional discomfort more easily.

"Image and the perception of others can be a fantastic motivator and also a huge barrier to exercising," says personal trainer and TV regular Matt Roberts. "There is a fear amongst many women of being seen without looking 'prepped'. If that means that they are focused on looking good, that's fine, but only if they are getting the workout done. Otherwise I let them know that we are just wasting our time.

"Whilst it is difficult to break the habits of a lifetime, there is great kudos to giving off the image and perception that you do workout, and you do take great care of yourself. Whilst the short term self-perception might be scary, the implications of your actions are nothing but positive. The important thing is that someone feels at ease and comfortable in their workout and in themselves."

Miley Cyrus leaving her pilates class (© Broadimage, Rex Features)

"There is pressure on women to look good whilst performing at their best," says personal trainer and personal trainer business mentor, Andy McGlynn. "I've had female clients who admitted they felt uncomfortable sweating in front of me." Andy's whole-hearted approval of sweating when working out has helped them relax and work harder: "A professional PT (personal trainer) - male or female - will only ever be concerned with the attention and effort being put in. As you relax and get to know your PT, you will probably find you become more comfortable and it stops being an issue."

"I've worked with women who say they'd love to get into the gym or start swimming but fear looking so awful they don't want to go," says Linda Aspey, a therapist and executive coach who works with female leaders.

"Wearing sportswear - which looks close to underwear - can make you feel quite vulnerable and exposed. If you look in the mirror and think, 'Urghh,' you're unlikely to want to go. Some gyms look very fashionable and can be competitive. Remember, they're often strangers that you may never see again. Even those people looking great are there either because they don't think they look great or they are trying to keep in shape. They may have their own vulnerabilities.

"Find stuff that fits well and know that it will get better with time. Have a goal in mind. Not that you're going to turn into a six foot supermodel but maybe, 'This time next month, (if I do this regularly) I'll be able to look in that mirror and think "Well done, girl!"' Focus on what's good about you, the bits that you love. Remember that you won't look hot and sweaty forever and find an exercise you like doing. Experiment with a number of things until you find something you love. And remember people are not thinking about you, but about themselves."

Do all you can to support yourself. Don't throw yourself in at the deep end with, say, swimming (if hair is your biggest concern) or a class that will really work up a sweat. Take a walk. Climb the escalator instead of standing. Dance around your home. Start at a level that you can manage and build on it.

Appreciate what your body can do rather than what you look like. If mirrors make you uncomfortable, avoid your reflection as you work out. As you notice yourself getting stronger, faster and more flexible, and you focus on doing your personal best (whether at home, in the park, the pool or the gym), you may even forget your looks while you're working out.

The more you allow yourself to enjoy the benefits of moving, the more natural activity will feel. You'll soon feel strange on the days you don't work out.

25/08/2012 10:44
Take a brisk walk and save your money unless of course you only go to a gym to meet people. Expensive way to find friends.
28/08/2012 18:35
Personally, I can't stand seeing poser women in the gym, just doing level 1 on a treadmill with make up on and clothes far too small for them. My respect always goes to the woman in the corner, working up a sweat with free weights and not giving a care in the world about what she looks like. And that advice about avoiding the mirrors is inadvisable for anybody not using a machine. They exist so you can check your form, not your hair.
26/08/2012 19:35
I'm sure she managed to freshen herself up before this picture was taken, as if she'd tweet a picture of her looking like she'd just finished her rehearsals!! If she was doing high intensity "all day", she wouldn't look like that! and remember the lighting of the picture would give the impression that she isn't shiny from her rehearsals, due to the dark lighting! And Miley Cyrus does pilates, which isn't high intensity so she wouldn't sweat as much as someone doing higher intensity workouts!

People who want to lose weight or improve their fitness need to exercise to the point at which they sweat, sweating is a natural response to an increase in the body's core temperature, which happens when you exercise! And when you wear clothes that fit and are comfortable, you will look fine! You can't expect to look like a model when you're working out. If you want to slack off but still look good, rather than sweat but improve your health and wellbeing, you are not as dedicated as you would like to be!
Who does not enjoy hot and sweaty??
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