Beating Gym Anxiety

Maybe you’re new to the gym and feel a bit anxious about being out of place. Or perhaps you’re not confident in the exercises you see people doing. Or there’s a chance you’ve even felt insecure for not looking the part and being as “fit” as other people in there. Possibly crowds of people make you uncomfortable.

Any one of those things or a combination of multiple, or any other reason for having gym anxiety…. IS COMPLETELY NORMAL. It won’t last forever. Believe it or not, everyone has felt it at some point, even those who you wouldn’t expect it from. Having someone tell you that it’s all in your head never helps, because quite frankly, you know it’s in your head – you just don’t know how to get it out. So let’s address the different causes for this unsettling feeling:

Uncertainty:

Being unsure of something can affect you both physically and mentally. The physical aspect of this may impact the effectiveness of your workout because you either don’t know where to start or you second-guess all of the movements and end up not having a solid session. But it’s also psychological because uncertainty is stressful and can make you self conscious.

It can be stressful not knowing how to interact with other people in the gym, not understanding the equipment, or just not being sure what’s effective and what isn’t. To make this a little easier, do your research before you set foot in the gym; having a set program to follow makes it much easier to stay out of your own head. Look up videos on YouTube, search for inspiration on social media, meet with a trainer, or ask a friend who is more experienced to help you.

Comparing & Judging:

Making comparisons between yourself in the gym can sometimes have a negative impact on your self esteem and create an uncomfortable environment if you struggle with gym anxiety. This is another thing that all people in the gym have felt before but this is something you’ll have to continually practice to get better at. Making comparisons is okay… What’s not okay is feeling like you aren’t good enough before you lack what someone else may have. Instead, start developing an attitude that comparing yourself to others isn’t a negative thing and instead look at it as a goal. If you make an upward comparison and come up short, try to frame it as showing you have room to grow instead of highlighting your flaws.

Another way to avoid comparisons in the gym… Just don’t do it. But how? Again, this is a natural response in a situation where you may feel a bit nervous but it really can be simple to just block out your surroundings. If you focus more on the work your body is doing, the less you’ll focus on the other gym goer’s. Mindful lifting and exercise are actually incredibly important… focus on breathing, pay mind to the muscle activation, follow your lifting cues, etc.

The feeling of being judged is something goes hand-and-hand with comparisons at the gym. If you’re in a new environment, chances are, you’ve probably considered what other people may think of you. But to be completely honest – people are at the gym to workout and chances are they don’t care who else is there or what they’re doing

Most people at the gym are going to be strangers to you. If they are judging you, can that really affect your workout? Their judgment can’t physically affect you – it can only mentally affect you. And that can be pushed out because you probably wouldn’t want to be friends with the kind of person who judges other people at the gym anyways. Anyone who ever has any negative thoughts about you does not have your best interest in mind and quite frankly doesn’t deserve for you to waste a single thought on them.

Small changes that can make a big impact:

  1. If crowded gyms are a large number of people stress you out, go at slow times of the day. Avoid the “prime time” by asking the staff when the traffic is the slowest and work that into your schedule.
  2. Find a gym that isn’t completely covered in mirrors. I find that this helps me stop obsessing over appearance and picking myself apart and lets me focus on my lift. This is also a good way to rely on how your body FEELS during your exercise for proper activation instead of just making sure you look acceptable in the eyes of others.
  3. Wear something that makes you feel confident and comfortable! Being dressed in an outfit that makes you uncomfortable and insecure is the fastest way to make you feel self-conscious at the gym. Whatever it is you enjoy… shorts, long pants, loose-fitting items, tight and form-fitting clothes, neutrals, bright colors, whatever it may be that makes you feel good.
  4. Try home workouts until you get comfortable if you need. Being in the comfort of your own home can put your mind to ease – but try to move into different settings from time to time so you don’t get bored.
  5. Fill your gym playlist with some good tunes that pump you up and make you feel excited to workout! Update your music often to keep things entertaining.

Remember: it won’t last

Gym anxiety won’t last forever and these tips may not solve all of your problems right away. However, hopefully they will help your mindset if you’re having a hard time being comfortable in the environment. Face your fears, get stronger, and remember everyone has been in your position before.

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