Getting Over Gym Anxiety
I used to loathe going to the gym. Not because of the workouts, but because I felt so uncomfortable there. I was hyperaware of how out of shape I’d become and the idea of going to a place filled with chiseled bodies and wall-to-wall mirrors sounded like some kind of curl torture. I’m also an introvert prone to social anxiety, so going to new public places isn’t exactly my forte.
However, at some point in the last few years, the gym became my happy place. Now, I’m teetering on the edge of being a total gym rat. While I am in better physical condition, there are still a ton of people stronger, faster, & more athletic than me at the gym. So, what changed? Here’s 7 things I realized that helped me get over my gym anxiety:
Everyone is focusing on themselves
I was convinced everyone would be starring at me or making comments about me. This fear was one of the biggest causes of my gym anxiety. The more time I spent at the gym, the more I realized everyone was just focusing on their own workouts and oblivious to me. Lesson learned: no one watches you when you work out. Besides that one guy who comes up to you and tells you how to correct your form. Don’t worry though – that guy does that to everyone. He’s just a jerk. And his “advice” is wrong 75% of the time. Just ignore that guy and don’t ever, EVER become that guy.
Everyone makes an idiot of themselves
I used to dread trying anything new at the gym because I was afraid I’d make an idiot of myself. I envisioned myself falling off machines or (maybe worse) being completely oblivious to the fact that I’m doing something totally wrong. What I didn’t realize is that this happens to everyone at some point. Even the most skilled athletes occasionally have a blooper moment. Just last week I was warming up with some arm circles and somehow managed to hit myself in the face and send my glasses flying across the room. It wasn’t the first time I did something and caused a scene, and it certainly won’t be the last. If you ever make an idiot of yourself, know that you’re in good company!
You don’t magically gain confidence from being fit
It’s really easy to be intimidated by some of the hard bodies you see at the gym. I know I used to think, “Man, I wonder what it’s like to feel that good about my body.” However, the more fit I became, the more I realized fitness has nothing to do with confidence. There are figure competitors and triathletes who are way more insecure about their body than me. Ideally, everyone would be at the gym to do something they enjoy or just to stay in good health. However, the fact is a lot of people are at the gym because there’s something they want to change about their body. So, the person you see in a crop top flashing a six pack may be just as insecure about their body and as uncomfortable as you are. Don’t wait until you look a certain way to find confidence, seek confidence in who you are today.
It’s okay to ask for help
If you really feel intimidated and unsure how to use equipment, ask for help! Many gyms are happy to give you a more detail tour of the facility if you’re having trouble navigating around. Also, look into beginner workout classes. Classes are free at a lot of gyms and provide you with a little more direction and guidance for your workout. Lastly, consider signing up for a personal trainer. Yes, personal training can be pricey, but a good trainer won’t bully you into buying a whole bunch of sessions. Look for a trainer willing to do just a handful of sessions to teach you some basic exercises and get you comfortable with working out on your own.
You don’t have to do it alone
I love working out with a partner. Having someone you trust and feel comfortable around can instantly help ease gym anxiety. Gym buddies can provide motivation when you feel like you just can’t do it. Additionally, it’s great to have someone to turn to and ask, “Am I doing this right?” or someone to laugh with you when you knock your glasses across the room.
Your best is good enough
Remember that this is something you’re doing for you, no one else. Don’t feel like there’s certain things you “have to do” or certain things you have to achieve. Taking some of the pressure off of yourself can help ease gym anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to set goals and push yourself. However, your goals should be realistic. And if you fall short of those goals, be gracious with yourself!
Avoid peak times (if you can)
As much as I love being at the gym, I instantly start getting stressed out if I arrive and it’s totally packed. Trying to navigate through a sea of sweaty people is difficult for anyone, regardless of fitness level. That’s why I started working out in the morning. Believe me, I hate waking up at the butt crack of dawn. However, my gym, like most gyms, is a total shit show from 4pm-7pm. And if I workout later in the evening, I can’t sleep. So, for me, mornings are ideal. For other people, it may be 8pm. If you work less traditional hours, capitalize on that flexibility!
Having a little bit of gym anxiety, especially when you first start working out, is totally normal. Just remind yourself why you are going and that whole reason gym exists is to help someone get into better shape. However, if gym anxiety is a major issue for you, consider talking to a counselor, therapist, or coach!