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Gym anxiety does not discriminate. Unfortunately, both avid gym-goers and first-timers can find themselves caught in the grip of gym anxiety at some point in time. After all, every fitness journey is riddled with its own challenges, and gym anxiety might be a massive hindrance stopping you from achieving your health and fitness goals.
The best way you can conquer gym anxiety is to target the root of the problem. First, understand why you feel pressure or unease each time you plan a trip to the gym. Then, devise strategies that will help you to tackle those thoughts and feelings effectively.
Let’s explore some simple ways to help both yourself and other people overcome gym anxiety.
Causes of Gym Anxiety
We’ve all been there. Stepping out of your comfort zone is almost always a terrifying experience. Plus, having to meet or interact with people at the gym can sometimes heap on extra pressure.
To overcome your gym anxiety, start with understanding the root causes of it. Doing this will give you the upper hand and assist you in crafting tailored strategies for yourself.
Maybe your first experience at the gym didn’t go as plan. The complexity of the gym equipment left you scrambling to figure things out, and you ended up hurting yourself in front of many onlookers.
Or perhaps you have had nasty experiences with people at the gym. They could have overstepped your physical and emotional boundaries, followed you around, or made you feel immensely insecure and self-conscious.
Because of such past experiences, we might harbor fear and anxiety about going back to the gym. By default, we may let those past occurrences dictate what our future experiences would look like.
Everyone battles with their own fears. Yours could be the fear of judgment.
The moment you step foot into the gym, you may be overwhelmed with the thought that all eyes are on you. The fear of judgment usually revolves around how people view us. We can be terrified of looking weak, inexperienced, or silly to them.
Imagine yourself on a treadmill, but in between two extra-fit women going at it at the speed of a cheetah. Admittedly, our anxiety can skyrocket in that situation. Next to both those women, we don’t want to end up looking weak or pathetic.
“I’m not ________ enough.”
We’ve all been bombarded with thoughts of not being something enough.
The fact is, comparison breeds insecurity. If you aren’t cautious, social media can quickly leave your mental health in shambles. Have you ever caught yourself feeling glum after looking at another girl on Instagram with a larger thigh gap and a smaller waist?
Likewise, comparing ourselves to others in the gym can easily rob us of the joy and satisfaction of achieving our goals. Plus, comparison can cause us to feel self-conscious about how we look when working out.
Because of the recent pandemic, we have all accustomed ourselves to home workouts. However, now that gyms have opened up, heading there alone can raise our anxiety by tenfolds.
You may feel like you don’t belong in the gym due to your body weight, experience, or fitness level. Additionally, seeing groups of people confidently strut around the gym laughing or yelling motivational quotes at each other can make you feel very lonely and out of place. I’ve felt that, and all I wanted to do at the moment was to hide away in an unseen corner of the gym.
How to Conquer Gym Anxiety
Now that you better understand the possible causes of your gym anxiety, you can try out some of these tips that you believe may help. Admittedly, it might take some trial and error before finding what works best for you.
Here are some ways to keep your gym fear in check.
1. Find a workout buddy 👋
Having someone accompany you to the gym can provide a sense of comfort or protection. For example, you may have had horrible experiences of people overstepping your boundaries at the gym. In that case, having a trusted workout partner may help to make you feel more safe and secure at the gym.
Having a friend or a group of friends with you can also take attention off yourself and combat self-consciousness. Additionally, they can help you handle gym equipment or support you when you’re lifting weights or barbells.
Without a doubt, it feels incredible having someone cheer you when you’re close to passing out from an intense session. Plus, if you do mess up somehow, you have a buddy to laugh it off with. It’s a great way to curb embarrassment and soften its blow!
2. Work with a personal trainer 🏋️♀️
This is a great tip if your experience level is the cause of your gym anxiety. Getting the help of a personal trainer is a fantastic way to boost your self-confidence and assure you that you’re handling your workouts well.
Not only will you feel less out of place, but a personal trainer will also correct your form and teach you how to utilize gym equipment correctly.
If you don’t like the thought of having a personal trainer, you might want to consider joining a fitness class in the gym. It’s a great way to connect with people of similar interests. Working out with a group of people may also keep those feelings of loneliness and self-consciousness at bay!
3. Bring your own accessories 🎒
My anxiety shoots through the roof when I have to scamper to the other end of the gym in search of certain accessories or pieces of gym equipment. If you feel this way too, bring along whatever you think you will need. Take along your barbell collars, barbell pads, yoga mats, or anything else that you can squeeze into that gym bag!
Doing this can also help you feel more prepared, and you won’t have to scurry to and fro in search of accessories or equipment at the gym.
4. Look over your workout plan before going 📝
Visualize your workouts beforehand to give yourself a solid idea of what you want to do in the gym.
With a goal set in mind, this can keep you focused and stop you from feeling lost or wandering around awkwardly in the gym. If you’re familiar with the layout and placement of equipment in the gym, you can plan your pathing, too.
Of course, fingers-crossed things go according to plan. However, let’s say the gym equipment or machines you planned on using are fully occupied or not functioning.
Such unforeseen circumstances can foil our plans and send us spiraling into a panicked mess. If you want to avoid this, you may wish to devise alternative strategies or workout regimes just in case Plan A falls through.
5. Get prepared when trying out a new gym 🕵️
Your first day at a new gym can be a frightening experience. We all start somewhere, though!
When trying out a new gym, preparation is key! Get familiar with the gym’s layout, including where the toilets or locker rooms are located. You can do this by asking a friend or bringing along a buddy familiar with the gym layout.
Alternatively, you can check out the gym yourself to get a quick look around and familiarize yourself with the place.
6. Start small 🌅
Instinctively, we all want to set sky-high goals to fuel our motivation. That works for some people but can backfire for others. If you have gym anxiety, you might want to start with a more straightforward or shorter workout routine at the gym.
Gradually increase the length and complexity based on your pace. Setting more achievable goals at the start can boost morale and confidence. Hopefully, checking off every box on your workout list gives you a rewarding sense of satisfaction that keeps you eagerly coming back for more!
Additionally, you can practice your workout routine or new exercises at home. Knowing you’re well prepared can enhance your confidence at the gym.
7. Prepare a playlist 🎵
No one can deny the power of a kickass playlist! Good music can keep you on top of the world and in the zone while working out. Not to mention that it can enhance endurance and reduce fatigue!
So, invest in a pair of noise-canceling earphones and listen to some exhilarating tunes while working out. It may help take your focus off the noise and distractions happening around you. To a certain extent, this also helps curb comparison as you’ll be focused entirely on yourself and your own progress.
8. Celebrate your achievements 🙌
You deserve a pat on the back each time you overcome your fears and anxiety and make it to the gym.
By default, we may focus on negative thoughts and what we lack. Still, don’t undermine your accomplishments. Stepping into the gym might be an everyday routine for other people, but a massive step of boldness and courage for you. Avoid comparing what you’ve achieved to what they’ve achieved. There’s always more room to show yourself love, grace, and encouragement!
Helping Others Cope With Gym Anxiety
Perhaps you don’t have gym anxiety or know someone struggling with it. Maybe you’ve wrestled with gym anxiety yourself, and you want to help others going through the same battle. In that case, there are some practical ways you can help.
1. Don’t be a bystander 👀
No one can deny that speaking up for someone else requires a great deal of bravery and boldness.
Admittedly, I have a lot to learn, too. I’ve been a bystander in situations where the insensitive actions of others caused myself or other gym-goers a great deal of anxiety and distress.
Based on the recent results of my Instagram poll, almost 3 out of 4 people who took the poll have some form of gym anxiety. Many of them linked their gym anxiety to how people behaved or looked at them in the gym.
A realization struck me. Ignoring the actions of those harassing other people or crossing their boundaries without consent is as good as promoting or tolerating that behavior.
We may have a long way to go. Still, the little steps you and I take in speaking up against this sort of behavior can help those struggling with gym anxiety feel safer in the gym.
2. Tidy up after yourself 🧹
After utilizing certain gym equipment or accessories, put them back where they belong. Leaving accessories lying at inconspicuous corners of the gym can be a massive inconvenience to the following user and may aggravate their gym anxiety. Instead, put the weights, barbells, and accessories back at their designated location to make things simpler and less stressful for the next user.
3. Be wary and respectful of peoples’ boundaries 🛑
Always be mindful of both the physical and emotional boundaries and the personal space of other people in the gym. Stay alert and attentive to their body language. Say they are constantly backing away from you. In that case, you may be too close up in their personal space!
Additionally, if you’re unsure where their boundaries stand, ask for consent before doing anything that might make them feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Most importantly, respect their no’s and don’t bargain for leeway!
Going to the gym might be a nerve-racking experience for you, and that’s okay. Your fears and concerns are valid. The first step to conquering gym anxiety is acknowledging that those feelings are real but not allowing them to limit what you can do.
Partner up with trusted friends and family who can support you. Plus, don’t forget to celebrate your milestones and achievements throughout the journey. No matter how big or small, they are a step in the right direction!