Have you ever worried about embarrassing yourself at the gym? Maybe you looked at someone who appeared in shape and felt discouraged because they "look" like they work out and you don't? Perhaps when the word "gym" is mentioned in conversation, you feel queasy or had knots in your stomach? You probably were experiencing gym anxiety and might have been unaware of it. You won't find "gym anxiety" in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5th Edition as a mental health condition. However, it's a phenomenon that causes people a lot of worries or avoidance of their local gyms.
Here are a few suggestions for overcoming your gym anxiety:
1. Go to the gym: Suppose you are avoiding your local Gold's Gym or Planet Fitness because you fear being shamed or embarrassed by people at the gym; you should continue reading.
Avoidance is how you cope; you don't want to manage the anxiety; you want to conquer and overcome it. The best way to do that is to go to the gym. The more you go to the gym, the less anxious you'll feel about people thinking, "You don't know what you are doing," or imagining someone approaching you and saying, "You are weak."
Usually, when we face our fears, we realize the "monster's" teeth aren't big and sharp but small and cute, like my sister's chihuahua mixed terrier 😊
2. Challenge what you are telling yourself: I'm referencing what I said above about telling yourself someone will approach you and say, "You are weak," or worried about someone laughing at you.
Are the upsetting thoughts leading to anxiety and/or avoidance of the gym feel real? Yes, it does, and are these thoughts and feelings 100% accurate? Hmm, maybe, maybe not.
For instance, how likely is it for someone to approach you and say you are weak, you don't know what you are doing, or flat-out laugh at you for trying to exercise?
If you tell yourself not-so-nice things about yourself and the gym, are you willing to talk to yourself more kindly? With a little bit more compassion? Try it and let me know the outcome.
3. Do Some Research: Educating yourself about exercises can help you feel like a pro in the gym. Hundreds of videos on Youtube demonstrating how to use exercise equipment are available to you.
Trust me; I've been going to the gym for some time, and occasionally I will watch videos to ensure I'm using good technique and form. Another thing to consider is hiring a personal trainer or signing up for a fitness class. Most local gyms have reasonably priced personal trainers and fitness classes for beginners and regular gym-goers.
4. Wear your blinders: Please don't get distracted by how much weight other people are lifting or how fast the person next to you is running on the treadmill. While at the gym, concentrate on the exercises you are performing and listen to your favorite music, podcast, or audiobook, and when done, leave the gym. The key here is to distract yourself from the "noise."
5. Bring a friend: Exercising with a friend or buddy can make going to the gym less anxiety-provoking.
"Gym anxiety" is more common than you think, and it creates challenges for people wanting to improve their appearance or maintain a gym routine. However, going to the gym, challenging your negative thoughts, doing some research, distracting yourself, and focusing on yourself can help get rid of your gym anxiety. Also, exercising has so many benefits that you would want to take advantage of today and hopefully, in the near future.
Shariff Ruffin wrote this article, and please credit him if used without his permission.
For support, Shariff Ruffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org