Gym anxiety can feel taboo, but it’s more common than you may think. Gwen Jones discusses…
The gym can be an intimidating place for beginners and those that are familiar with it, in fact a survey of 1,000 people found that 50% of people avoided the gym due to anxiety and fear of judgement. You may simply not like the gym environment or that kind of exercising and that is absolutely fine, by the way. But if your fitness goals include venturing into the gym, you’ve come to the right place.
It took me three months or so to face the looming gym at my leisure centre. The thought of even entering the gym during that time was so daunting, it wasn’t even worth trying. I spent my time there swimming and taking part in classes. I got my first tattoo and realised AFTER that I would now have 2-3 slots during the week to fill because chlorine and fresh tattoos are not a good mix. I am a firm believer that these things happen for a reason. With a schedule of exercising five days a week, finding different classes to fill those extra slots just didn’t really appeal to me. Cue the old, ‘SO, this is what I did’… But please note that these are ideas to take on board and not a ‘this is what you should be doing’. If even one thing on this list helps, I’d be happy.
1. It may be controversial but TikTok, when used with an open mind, can be a great place to learn off others
The algorithm on TikTok is quite handy in the sense that once you engage with one type of video e.g. fitness, spiritual, business, it will show more of those on your feed. When I was starting off and even now, I saved beginner how-to’s to a fitness playlist on my account. Nobody else can see this unless you make it public. It was really handy for digesting information and having something to refer to with regards to form.
2. Get yourself booked in with a PT or, alternatively, go with a friend who is familiar with the gym
Personal training isn’t necessarily accessible to everybody so if that isn’t an option, ask a friend if they would be willing to go with you a couple of times to show you the ropes. One of the most daunting things is the fear of everyone judging you as you walk around like a headless chicken in the gym. Going with somebody for that first session is a great way to familiarise yourself where everything is e.g. the free weights section, weights machines, cardio machines.
3. Try out some classes to gauge what works for you
It may sound a little daunting at first but classes can be a great way of easing yourself into the gym and even making friends if that’s a goal of yours. There are a variety of fitness levels when it comes to people who use the gym. Not everyone is at their peak of fitness and that is absolutely fine. Set goals to compare yourself with, not people!
4. If it’s weights your after but the free weights section feels too overwhelming, start with the weight machines
Weight machines are a great place to start if you feel overwhelmed by the seemingly intimidated energy of the free weights section. Most of them will have a little run down of how to use them also which is a plus. It is here that you can gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses which will allow you to walk on over to the free weights section with ease (should you wish).
5. Remember that you deserve to take up space
You pay your membership – you have as much right to take up space and use those facilities just like anyone else. Experience or level of fitness does not determine worth or how much space you are “allowed” to take up. Stop finding ways to put yourself down and ask if you would speak to a friend this way? Assuming the answer is no, why do you deem it acceptable to do it to yourself?
6. Your mind is fuelling off fear and not fact, remember that
Picture your anxiety as a scared child that simply needs reassurance from their trusted adult – you are the adult! That anxiety won’t respond well to anger, negativity or frustration. What it needs is lots of reassurance from you. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone into the unknown and see that it’s not as bad as the anxious perceptions make out, the easier it becomes each time.
7. Set yourself mini goals
Nobody ever steps foot in the gym for the first time full of confidence and knowledge nor should it be an expectation. Set yourself mini goals to hit at first. This could be using the treadmill, bike or elliptical machine. It could be actually stepping foot in the gym for a couple of minutes. Try to enter that space with an open mind and no expectations. Remember that you wouldn’t force someone you care about to do anything they really don’t want to do. Be kind, be patient and have faith in yourself.
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