This is a good question! In my experience, the number one reason why a lot of people don’t go to the gym is that they’re afraid that they’ll be judged.
I think this feeling is due, in part, to the fact that exercising can be unnatural to a lot of people. With the various machines and all that iron, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and intimidated when you walk into any gym these days.
Every gym has an atmosphere. I live in a college town. On campus we have a HUGE gym with multiple basketball courts, a conditioning room, a few group fitness rooms, an indoor track, an indoor pool, a sauna, and a weight room that’s over 3000 square feet complete with two olympic platforms and any machine you could imagine. In town, we have some personal training studios, and somewhere in the ballpark of 3 other gyms. One of these gyms is relatively private, one is more of a family-oriented gym (the one I’m a member of), and the other one is full of obnoxious staff and obnoxious people–each of whom seem to own a rather high horse and enjoy sitting on it.
I think that the key to enjoying any experience at a gym really rests with the staff. At my gym, the staff welcome you by name when you come in. They’re more than happy to demonstrate exercises and offer fitness assessments, as well.
I think that a lot of people are afraid that they’ll embarrass themselves. That’s why I try to make fitness education a big part of what I do. People should have confidence in the gym, not cockiness or reservations. I’ve also found that most of the time, if you take the time to interact with another gym member you’ll generally have a positive interaction. People generally want to be nice.
Creating positive experiences is generally enough to motivate an individual to come back for a return visit.
I’m interested to hear what everyone else has to say!