Gym Anxiety: Overcoming Fear in the Fitness Environment
Gym anxiety is very real. While for some, it can be their sweet spot to relax, feel happy, and be confident, for others, it can be a space of triggers and nervousness. Do you also feel anxious before heading to the gym? Or maybe you have noticed that your worries hold you back from stepping foot in the gym at all.
It is important to acknowledge that it’s normal to experience gym anxiety. Those feelings are valid, and you might have them for a while until you’re more comfortable in the gym.
What Causes Gym Anxiety?
One of the many elements that can lead to gym anxiety is the worry of being judged by others. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, anyone can have this fear of being mocked and criticized. This often leads to a feeling of embarrassment and inadequacy. This emotion is made worse, particularly, when gymgoers criticize your workout.
Past experiences can dampen an individual's confidence level and further contribute to gym anxiety. Any perceived mistake can feel like a failure at the gym. This fear is often influenced by what we see on social media. We see images and videos of 'perfect' bodies that distort our perception of our own bodies. In short, body image concerns are pervasive and correlated to how you feel at the gym. If you already have some insecurities, it can be even worse.
If you have been experiencing excessive anxiety thinking about how others may perceive you at the gym, which stops you from going there, it might be time for a quick health check-in. Some individuals with social anxiety disorder are likely to avoid public spots as much as possible.
How to Get over Gym Anxiety?
While everyone can experience various levels of gym anxiety, there are many ways to manage it. Initially, it can be challenging, but are you willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
1) Plan it Out
Creating a workout plan to follow eliminates all confusion. A large part of anxiety stems from a feeling of uncertainty. Bring a little piece of paper, make a note on your phone, or save a workout video to bring with you.
If you are not sure where to start, you can start with a basic YouTube video on what you can expect on your first day at the gym. The more prepared and planned you feel, the less anxiety you are likely to experience.
2) Mental Preparation
Before any fight comes mental preparation, and if the gym is your battleground, you need to think of all the resources that may be of use to you. Sometimes, when you are in the gym and the anxiety kicks in, it’s hard to think clearly.
What can do in this situation is perhaps watch videos before you go, talk to yourself, try visualisation techniques, and do a quick warm-up.
3) Choosing your Environment
Going when the gym is less crowded can be less intimidating. You can also look up the equipment you want to use before hitting the gym. Decide the type of clothes you want to wear, the mat you want to carry, and the gym you want to be a part of. It is up to you which environment you want to choose. If you are new, they will usually take you on a tour before you sign up.
4) Start Somewhere
Sometimes our apprehensions can stop us from even taking the first step. It can just take five minutes of your time. Start with something that keeps you motivated. Start with realistic goals and track your progress if you can. No matter how you do in the gym, appreciate baby steps. If you made it to the gym today, congratulate yourself for doing so.
5) Find a Buddy
Finding a partner can help you feel more comfortable and put your gym anxiety at ease. When you have someone who shares the same concerns as you or is willing to support you in your journey, the gym experience becomes less intimidating.
Remember that you deserve to take up space and use the gym just as any other gym member would. Everyone starts out somewhere. If you notice that your anxiety is spilling over into other areas of your life and not just the gym, you may benefit from an additional consultation. Gym anxiety can be managed once you allow yourself to make mistakes and have fun.
Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.
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