Happy Juneteenth, Everybody!
I’m going to preface this post by saying I am in no way, shape or form an expert on mental health or anxiety. I CAN tell you, that Gym anxiety is very real and I have experienced it throughout my journey. I come to you, the day before I go back to the gym after a 2.5 month COVID-related hiatus to help you (and myself) cope with this very real fear.
Specific things tend to cause me to be anxious in the gym. They are nothing to be ashamed about, it’s just, I think, our brains being overactive when they really have no reason to be. Some of the triggers that I experience are being intimidated by people I feel are in better shape than me. At one time, I believed I was the biggest female in the gym. I didn’t want to go because I just knew other people had to have been looking at me and judging me. Regardless of whether or not it was actually happening wasn’t the issue. In my brain, it was definitely happening.
Another one is not knowing how to use the equipment properly. Who wants to be the person that sits down at a machine and spends 10-15 minutes reading the instructions before actually working out? I know I didn’t. Just another reason for people to stare. This also really hit me when I started to lift. I just didn’t want to get into it because I knew I didn’t know what I was doing.
Lastly for me, making small talk. I generally don’t like talking to people in public. I avoid it at all costs. In the gym, you’re occupying the same space and often times are forced to talk to people. What do you say, how do I approach this person, what are they going to think of me when I start speaking? All of it is very scary, believe me.
So what can you do about it?
“Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it.” ~Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
One thing that I know started a lot of my gym anxiety is the thought of going in alone. FIND A BUDDY! Find someone you know you can count on, to be by your side, especially when you’re feeling anxious. I know it sounds simple, and for a lot of people it is. You just have to get out of your own thoughts and focus on something positive. Working out with a friend or a trainer, really helped my anxiety.
A lot of my anxiety comes from overthinking and I’m sure I’m not alone on this. Instead of thinking that everyone is staring at you, think about it realistically. The reality is, 99% of the people in the gym are focused on themselves and their own workout. They don’t care much about you or what you’re doing. They have a task and they are set out to complete it. Your thoughts impact your mood and your behavior. If you’re thinking well, you’re feeling well, you’ll work out well.
Build yourself up! I learned that as I kept going to the gym and became familiar with my environment, my anxiety started to fade away. The other side is also true, the longer you avoid an uncomfortable situation – the more anxious you will become and you may never get over your fears. Tackle them head on! I also started looking up lifting techniques and different workouts I knew I could figure out at the gym, so that when I got there, I knew exactly what I was doing and was able to focus on actually getting the workout completed. One of the biggest anxieties I failed to mention above kind of goes along with worrying about people looking at me. I was never real feminine. Now a-days, you can go to the gym and see females in close to nothing. That makes me extremely uncomfortable because I know, at this present time, I can’t and choose not to dress like that. You can battle that fear by buying gym clothes you know you will like to wear and be comfortable in. For me, that was my Georgetown apparel. I think I went some like almost 60 straight days wearing a Georgetown t-shirt, and that felt good to me.
When I first started working out, I was at Planet Fitness. Just the thought of going to a bigger gym alone gave me anxiety. Go help with that, I started researching gyms and seeing if I could see what the inside of the gym looked like. This was how I found my current Gold’s Gym location that I go to. Expose yourself to a new environment and picture yourself working out there. I fell in love with my gym almost instantly. This is MY gym.
If you’re still struggling with the thought of going and working out at the gym – ask for help! Going to the gym with someone who already knows their way around, or signing up for a session with one of the gym’s trainers is great for this. Nobody said you had to go through this alone. Professionals are out there to help you cross that bridge.
Welp! Tomorrow is the big day. I seriously can’t wait to get back into my gym and get this work going again. Thankful that I’m able to do so. Wish me luck!
A lot of this came from my own experiences with gym anxiety, but the following website is EXTREMELY interesting and helpful on this topic: