How to Get Over Embarrassing Moments at the Gym

Bring up the subject of embarrassing moments at the gym and it's amazing the stories you hear. It's clear that the gym is a prime spot for embarrassing moments.

Sweaty people flailing around with large, heavy machinery can have amusing, embarrassing, sometimes disastrous consequences.

Whether it's passing gas in yoga class or bonking yourself on the head with a weight, you can bet someone else has done it. The list below doesn't cover every situation, but you'll find tips and tricks for how to avoid embarrassing moments at the gym.


Passing Gas

Group Yoga Class in Studio

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Picture it: You’re in a deadly quiet yoga class. You’re breathing, you’re downward dogging and—whoops—now you’re farting. Even worse, it’s loud enough to rip the fabric of the space-time continuum.

Farting can happen anywhere but never is it more common than at the gym. All that jostling gets your guts stirred up, often leading to unexpected and unstoppable gaseous emissions.

How to Deal

  • Pretend it never happened. This is the most popular choice, especially if you want to finish your workout.
  • Laugh it off. If people do notice, say what my grandma says: "More room out than there is in!" Or, my husband’s favorite, "Is there a duck in here?"
  • Be polite. Apologize with a quick, "Excuse me," and never think of it again.

Falling off the Treadmill

Walk or run on any moving surface, such as a treadmill, and you increase your chances for a crash and burn. Factor in iPods, water bottles, and towels and you add more tasks and objects that interfere with your ability to walk straight.

If you do fall and you're not injured, count yourself lucky and give yourself points for entertaining other gym-goers. 

How to Avoid It

  • Don’t multi-task. If you need to fast forward a song or take a drink, hit the pause button.
  • Stop the treadmill. If you need a break, don't jump onto the sides while the belt is still moving—that's how many embarrassing moments happen.
  • Pay attention. Zoning out is fine as long as you remember you’re on a big machine with a moving belt. Focus will keep you safe.

Gym Machine Confusion

The gym is a mysterious place, full of shiny machines that don’t make sense to the naked eye. Most of us have probably approached a new machine and started pushing buttons, only to find it won’t go.

If you've done this, you've probably felt eyes burning into you as you struggled with this odd contraption, but there are ways to avoid embarrassment.

How to Avoid It

  • Ask someone. Ask an employee or the person next to you for advice. Most people are happy to help.
  • You weren’t born with this knowledge. Adults are hard on themselves, thinking they should know everything. Everyone has to learn how to use these machines, so don't kick yourself for not knowing.
  • Take a chance. Be wild and try it, even if you don't know what you're doing.

Wardrobe Malfunction

If you've worked out in the gym for any length of time, there's a good chance you've seen, well, maybe more of someone than you wanted to.

Split pants, underwear exposure, shorts falling happens. It also pays to try your outfits before your workout.

How to Avoid It

  • Check yourself. Try moves before you hit the gym to make sure you're covered.
  • Update your wardrobe. Old sweats are good candidates for falling or ripping.
  • Smile and run. If you do have a wardrobe malfunction, get thee to the locker room and toss the offending item.

Tripping, Slipping or Hurting Yourself

The gym is a prime spot for injury. Dangling cables, swinging handles, and other metallic items make for an endless obstacle course. Add sweaty humans and it’s a wonder we ever make it through a workout

Mishaps are common—pulled muscles, slipping or stumbling—it happens to the best of us but, it's what you do about it that counts.

How to Deal

  • Don't be shy. If you're hurt, forget about making a fool of yourself and shout for help.
  • Limp away with dignity. If you’re injured but ambulatory, smile and slink home to recover.
  • Keep going. If your injury is minor but embarrassing, get back to it. In 5 minutes, no one will remember.

Throwing Up

Throwing up at the gym is more common than you think. Even when you know your body’s limits, sometimes you push too hard or you’re too rushed to give your stomach the digestion time it needs.

If you feel lightheaded or nauseous, lie down and elevate your feet. If you do have to puke, a trashcan in a quiet corner works well.

How to Avoid It

  • Eat beforehand. Exercising first thing without food may cause a drop in blood sugar, leading to dizziness or nausea.
  • Take time to digest. Take 1-2 hours to digest a 200-300 calorie meal, longer if you're eating a lot of protein and/or fat. Lighter, carb-rich foods digest faster.
  • Get to know your body. If you're a beginner, ease into exercise and experiment to learn how to time your meals.

Lifting Too Much Weight

Choosing the right amount of weight is tough and being at the gym makes us all more competitive.

That can be a good thing—you push yourself harder than you would if were by yourself. It's a bad thing, however, when you choose a weight that's too heavy. You risk injury, embarrassment, and a bad workout.

How to Deal

  • Go lighter. You may feel like everyone's laughing at you, but they're focused on themselves. Changing weights means you're smart and know what you're doing.
  • Do a few reps. If you can lift the weight safely, do as many reps as you can and then lighten up to finish your set.
  • Focus on form. Good form means you don't have to swing to lift your weights. Concentrate on a quality workout, not impressing others.

Sweating in Embarrassing Places

Sweating is normal when you're exercising, but some people worry they're sweating too much or get embarrassed if sweat stains show up in uncomfortable places.

Sweating is your body's way of cooling itself and no one expects you to be fresh as a daisy at the gym. Sweat shows up everywhere—the armpits, chest, lower back and, yes, sometimes the groin or the rear end.

You can't avoid sweating, but there are ways to make it more comfortable.

How to Deal

  • Wear dark colors. Sweats stains may be less noticeable.
  • Wear sweat-wicking clothes. Fabrics like CoolMax allow sweat to evaporate while cotton soaks it up.
  • See your doctor. If you think your sweating is abnormal, your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength antiperspirant.

Realizing You Have Two Left Feet

The group fitness room can be a scary place if you're new to it. There are rows of people, hundreds of mirrors, and the loud music makes it hard to hear the instructor.

What's worse is trying a new class and slamming into other exercisers as you try to follow the moves.

You have to start somewhere, but preparing beforehand can make your first time a little easier.

How to Avoid It

  • Take beginner classes. Check the class schedule to see if they have newbie-friendly classes.
  • Tell the instructor. He or she can tell you the best way to get started.
  • Watch the workout. If the room has windows, watch the class to get a feel for it.
  • Try it at home. If there's an activity you like, try a video to get the basics before trying it at the gym.
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