I’m Insecure at the Gym.

Dear Davey,

I’m 26 years-old, a certified personal trainer… I’m gay and while I would certainly be considered to be very fit, I’ve been feeling increasingly ostracized in the gay fitness community.

I used to LOVE going to the gym. I’d go five or six days a week, sometimes twice for an extra cardio or abs session, and loved every second of it. Lately, I’m barely able to drag myself there once or twice a week, and I feel nothing but self-conscious the whole time. I live in a densely gay populated area of DC, so the gym is essentially like watching clothed porn stars work out. While I realize the foolishness in comparing oneself to others, these guys are in PHENOMENAL shape yet strut around talking about how terrible their abs look, and how their arms are only seventeen inches big and all sorts of ridiculous crap.

Still, over the course of many months, it’s kind of made me feel like what’s the point of working out at all? I’m in great shape but certainly not bodybuilder/porn star worthy. Being a trainer, I’ve always prided myself on having healthy, balanced, challenging workout plans, and now when I walk into the gym, I just feel like I have no clue what to do.


gymDear D,

Thank you for your heartfelt and honest email. You’re certainly not alone.

If you didn’t go to a gay gym, I’d be tempted to remind you that most people are too caught up in their own workouts to pay much attention to anyone else around them. In most situations, the judgement that exercisers feel is perceived judgement and not actual judgement. The reality is that most people could care less what you look like or how much weight you’re lifting.

But things are a bit different at gay gyms. As someone who has attended many gay gyms, there’s a certain layer of sexual tension that pervades the environment. And yes, many guys do seem to be paying attention to the exercisers around them.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

First, when amazingly built guys talk about how crappy their abs look, know that it’s a reflection of their own insecurities and not an assessment on your level of fitness. Just because they’re spouting ridiculousness to each other doesn’t mean that you need to believe or internalize it. That is their path and their fitness journey. Don’t make it your own.

Second, reassess your reasons for working out. What motivates you? Yes, there is an appeal to looking a certain way. As a personal trainer, you know that vanity is what brings most people in the door. The thing is, most of us soon discover the true benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle – and how it fundamentally improves every aspect of your being. The shift happens wherein people exercise not because they hate their body, but because they love their body. And honoring your body with exercise is an extension of honoring your life. That’s the real magic. So take some time to examine your reasons for working out, and then let those reasons be your motivating force.

Third, you might want to find a new gym. If you truly feel like your workout environment is too toxic to tune out, why not go somewhere else? It’s great having a sense of community and working out with friends, but perhaps a different gym is a better fit. If you can’t change the way that you look at your gym situation, there’s no shame in removing yourself from it.

I’d love to hear what other suggestions readers might have. Please share them in the comments below and I hope this helps reinvigorate your passion and love for working out.


About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. I would go and stay in my own world. I’ve felt like that in the past, so I made me a awesome play list and zoned out.

    • I do the same. If I’m really there for me, I’m going to immerse myself in it. With the added bonus of not eating up my window of opportunity in a stagnant conversation. Not to say that I’m rude and ignore people…. but i AM there for a pointed reason. Once fun time is done, THEN I can get social.

  2. I live in West Hollywood. It is the same here. I have always been considered fit everywhere else, not in WeHo. The guys are too ripped, too jacked. While they might be hot, I always question what have they done to themselves to get bodies like that.

    I would rather focus on my health than torture myself to get that look.

    • It is not suppose to be a torture but a joy. You should try slowly and increase the intensity according to your resistance/needs

  3. I love working out in a manly gay gym. Even the straight guys are relaxed.
    It gives me inspiration and I earn compliment from both sides ๐Ÿ˜‰
    It has been a long way to that point. But I never took the chats to serious. Something is ridiculous, so take it that way. Enjoy YOUR efforts and successes. You deserve it.
    And yes, if you are unhappy with your place – just change.

  4. Hi D and Davey!

    I also live in DC and have many friends and acquaintances that go to gyms like Vida (the token gay gym of DC). For some of them the presence of attractive guys is motivational, but when I was deciding on a gym I knew that that environment wasn’t for me.

    I made a resolution this year to get back in the gym and eat healthier because I wanted it for my personal well being and growth. Mind you I’m 22 and thin to begin with so it really was just about identifying what I wanted for myself.

    I was really fortunate to cross paths with an awesome personal trainer over the holidays and because of him I joined Balance. The gym is a bit more grounded and community oriented and I’m always happy to be there. I see other gay guys sometimes and give them the once over but there is no permeating negativity and if anyone is talking its to work with one another adjusting form or spotting.

    Anyway, I think Davey is spot on. Sometimes its important to know when your goals and the goals of your environment aren’t aligned and fix them so they are. In this case I think changing the environment would be a more positive change than changing your personal goals.

    Hope I helped,

  5. I think of it this way: they’re the performers, I’m the audience. There is no reason for them to put on a show if there’s no one watching, so I fulfill an important role. Lady Gaga doesn’t play to an empty house, nor do all the little monsters want to become her. So just admire them and enjoy who you are.

  6. Ok I know how beautifly fit other guys are I will never be able to achieve that even when I was modeling It was hard to keep just average tone I am a Native Actor Dancer and Drum Singer I am also HIV positive diabetic and have congenital birth defects in my heart I have a pace maker and should have recieved a heart transplant in my teens to still have the heart I have at thirty five is an absolute medical miracle I dont think i am fit I think in fact I am far from it but I am alive and for me this is a great day cause i am here I woke up and I am able to enjoy my day and life even though I am alone because of the gay communities unrealistic Standards of looks and fitness I am not ever going to appologize to anyone for being who I am because I am beautiful in My Creators Eyes and In My families I dont need anyone to hold me down with thier unrealistic views on beauty I am ultiately just your average everyday Human being and I am grateful for it period…..

  7. In the end it all comes down to you. If you can’t change your outlook, or annoyance, to your environment, then change the scenery and go some place else.

    Can’t say I’ve experienced the same in my gym though. It’s a predominantly (roughly 90%) straight gym, though I don’t know if that affects it.

  8. artsycreation says:

    Maybe changing the time of day you can come in will help. That’s why I love that my gym is open 24 hours.

  9. Grammar Police says:

    It’s “couldn’t care less.” If you could care less then you actually do care some lol.

  10. I both do, and don’t relate. I probably don’t relate because “D” falls into the category of people who intimidate me. Young and in-shape. But I do recognize that this is a continuum and the dread he is feeling is no different than the dread I feel. I joined a great local gym, and even hired a trainer (femail, so I wouldn’t get distracted). The first day I got there she sent me into the lockerroom to change. 2 minutes later I was back in her office hyperventilating. “I can’t do this”, I said. “The lockerrom is filled with underwear models!” I really was so shaken she left and let me change in her office. As a middle-aged, chunky, gay guy the community I am most afraid of is my own.

    I have to accept that my number one enemy is myself (that’s hard). People aren’t judging my waist line or my workout have as much as I am. Sure there are still complete muscle studs wandering around compaining about having 15% body fat, or 17 inch arms, but I am trying to remember that they are comparing themselves to somebody with 12% body fat and 18 inch arms, who is comparing himself… I’m not there yet. I am still very uncomfortable. I tend to go in wearing the biggest clothes possible, using machines on the edges of the gym, and then scooting out as fast as I can. But I do accept where the problem really rests.

  11. D-

    Leave Vida (I assume this is where you are currently) and try Washington Sports Club or another gym with less pretension. Pick a place where you can bring the focus back to you and your workout, rather than on what other people are doing or saying. Plus, you’ll probably save a bunch of money. Your current situation is obviously toxic, so your best bet is to change the situation. I use the South Dupont WSC and love it. Granted, it’s kind of a dump, but it’s almost never very crowded, and it definitely has all of the essential workout equipment. There are a TON of gyms in this city, you just need to find one with the environment that will be most conducive to you getting a good workout. Your current gym doesn’t seem to be it.


  12. Hey, Everyone –

    I’m ‘D’, the guy who submitted this question, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone’s support, feedback and advice. My fellow Washingtonians clearly know the area well, as I am indeed a member at Vida. I agree a change of scenery would be helpful at this stage. I’ve worked out there since the day they opened, and I now realize it is at this juncture that things started to fall apart. Previously, I worked out in the fitness facility in my apartment building which is surprisingly well-equipped. It used to get busy in the evenings, which is why I switched to a larger gym, but if I time my workouts correctly, this may be the perfect enriovment to re-focus and re-connect to my love of fitness. Once again, thank you to Davey for answering my question and to all of you for your feedback. It’s much appreciated!

  13. I used to work out at a local gym nearby. I enjoyed it. I got fit, lost the weight I wanted to lose. It wasn’t a gay gym, so never felt it that way. But then the owner changed and also the customers changed – to these huge, bulky men. I was a skinny guy then. I’m sure there are people even skinnier but compared to those door sized guys, I started to feel uncomfortable. Even the new gym keeper was the same type of guy. I just didn’t feel at home anymore and I left. I still haven’t found a new gym though and I’ve been focusing on building myself one at home. So yea, I can totally relate to D’s thinking.

  14. I live in a gayborhood as well (West Hollywood), but choose not to workout in this area for somewhat similar reasons – the guys are gorgeous, and I don’t like getting eyed up and down like I’m at a gay bar when I’m working out.

    What works for me is that I focus less on appearance and more on my functional abilities – I train in martial arts, parkour and crossfit. As I improve in each sport, I care less that I don’t look like an underwear model – especially since I’ve seen some of these same gorgeous guys perform terribly in any activity that isn’t a press or curl. Focus on your strengths and you’ll find your swag.

  15. I have to tell you that when I went to my local YMCA the guys there would “strut their stuff”. I used to call the guys the pancing peacocks for the way they walked around trying to get people to notice them. I now go to a much smaller gym and I am quite happy, nothing wrong with the YMCA but am having a better workout where I am now.

  16. Hi all… well I have been very skeeny until I was 25 years old… I was almost disgusted with my own body…116 pounds… one day I took the decision to go to a gym, it was so scaring, all those muscled guys in an extraordinary shape…I was so ashame. I was looking at them using a lot of heavy stuff… without any warming… and talking about powders, injection..drugs … comparing each other !!! Well it was not a very good experience.
    But I had a very nice coach (a woman) she prepare very light exercise for me at the begining with very light (it was even hard for me to use a 2kg load) . And I follow her advices, I never try to use machines and big weights or trying any magic powder for the first six months…and my body started to change, I discovered myself some muscles, and may be for the first time I say to myself “I look sexy”…it was 5 years ago, I keep going to the gym 4 time a week doing my workout, I met some nice people, some of them are friends now (gays and straights…) … I gain 10 kilograms in 5 years, then I am still under those very musculed guys… they are still in the gym room, talking about the same things…comparing their diet or the size of their arms… the difference is that I saw them becoming fat and then loosing 10 or 20 kilos in a month… I saw their body starting to be out of shape…even some of them having heart accident.
    Ok I am not a hunk or a stud, not a chance to be selected for a porn one day (that’s fine for me actually) but I am fine with my body, I do love my time at the gym even when the room is empty

  17. “Porn star worthy” ? (facepalm)

  18. marcus quick says:

    Id love to have this muscular guy as my personal trainer id love to be big and muscular like him or like Davy!!!

  19. I lived in DC for 7 years. The guys are typical beach body fit. Tits, Ass and arms. Out of breath in 5 seconds. Just keep doing you. BTW I look skinny. UGH! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. christopher says:

    not all of us have luxury opportunity to live nearby a gay gym.many of us live in suburbs.my gym is friendly-im there to workout-nearest gay bar is 15km away.

  21. “More” is not “better” (bigger muscles don’t automatically translate to “better looking”). You have to understand that, while people are often impressed with huge musculature, in reality those types of hulky men are not for everyone. Some prefer them lean and firm, while others may ultimately fantasize about a well-defined but smaller body frame. There is an innate tendency, even in modern times, to “compete” with other males for control of the “herd”. This is instinct. I suspect that feelings of inadequacy when seeing a bodybuilder is an automatic reaction left over from the days when Earth was just being populated. The huge size of the other guy’s muscles would leave us feeling that we can’t possibly compete, thus the sensation of frustration. Truth is, people are attracted to others for very different reasons. Yes, these younger guys work extra hard to attain their builds, but as you age and metabolism slows down, you may also begin to feel the need to live out other aspects of your life. Maintaining a sculptural body that size may infringe on your time to pursue other interests, especially since older folks have to work harder to build muscle (or to keep the ones they already have). Also, gravity works on your body 24/7, year after year. Things may begin to sag a little as time goes by, as nobody can stay hot-looking forever (and even that can be debatable). If you are already fit, be very glad. Happy people are most attractive, especially when they aren’t constantly frowning while obsessing over their bodies. Looks fade, and that’s reality.

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  23. Envy can easily take hold of me in unexpected places at the wrong time (when I am feeling a bit down). However, someone makes a ridiculous comment like their abs are terrible, then I know there is nothing for me to envy. A man’s mind is terribly sexy, and if it is lacking, it renders the body completely uninteresting. I am often told I look nice, but it is my brain that I am most proud of. I am also told I am a good guy. In short, there is really nothing for me to envy. At all.