Going to the gym can be stressful, especially if you're looking to slim down and are self-conscious about your figure. Don't worry, you're not the only one who struggles with gym anxiety, and there are ways to get around it.
Social gym anxiety is a common thing. Most people looking to work out casually or to get back into shape usually don't have six-pack abs or the perfect beach body starting out, and that's ok. This combined with a lot of stigmas and stereotypes about gyms being only for people who are fit or the gym rats who eat, sleep, and breathe exercise, it's no wonder gym anxiety is so common. There is a lot that can go into stirring up those anxious emotions when thinking about going to the gym, and tackling the problem can be different for each individual depending on their own personal struggles.
What cause gym anxiety?
One of the strongest driving forces behind social gym anxiety, and social anxiety as a whole is low self-esteem. If you have a poor body image, generally speaking, the last thing you'll want to do is go to a place where everyone is in better shape than you to work out. You might feel like you're being judged, or that you're not good enough just because of the environment. From there you just convince yourself not to go, stay home, and put off getting in shape even longer, feeding into the core problem even more.
The mind tends to remember and focus on the bad experiences we have more than the good. It's why you always remember your first car accident, and sometimes avoid certain roads for a while because of it, or even avoid certain habits altogether. While it's supposed to act as a protective reflex, sometimes it does too good of a job and can keep us from doing things that really are good for us. So, if you've had a bad experience at one gym, don't let it get you into a habit of avoiding gyms altogether.
People as a whole generally don't like change. We like to have our routine, go about our business, and keep things comfortable. It's part of why it's so hard to break habits, and also why it's so hard to make new ones. If you're looking to make going to the gym a normal routine, your mind is going to fight you on it. It's just the nature of the beast, and one of the ways it might resist change is through anxiety.
Overcome Fitness Fear
The good news is that anxiety doesn't have to win. You can beat the anxiety and do what you need to in order to get in shape, but those first steps are going to be the hardest. Here are three ways to overcome the biggest obstacles standing in your way, and the best ways on how to cope with gym anxiety.
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Make A Safe Space
This might sound a bit strange, but it works. Find something you can focus on while you're at the gym, be it losing yourself in your music, watching a good movie, or even just meditating while you work out. Whatever you can use to block out the environment, bring it with you. When it comes to treadmills and exercise bikes, a lot of them have holders for your smartphone so you can get some music going or watch something on the screen while you get your cardio in. If you feel like the world is watching you when you go to the gym, use this to your advantage and get lost in your own safe space. If meditation is more your speed, doing some deep breathing exercises before you even get out of the car can help calm your nerves and help you take those first few steps in the door.
Do Your Research
If you've had poor experiences with one kind of gym in the past, do some research on local gyms near you. Certain gyms cater themselves to different types of individuals, so you might be better off finding a gym that offers one on one lessons with a personal trainer or gyms with a focus on acceptance and self-betterment. A personal trainer can help keep you focused on working out in a judgment-free environment and keep your focus off of everyone else in the gym, and finding the right fit in terms of gyms is very important. You want to be able to feel comfortable working out and have a gym that offers what you need. Most gyms offer tours of the facilities so you can get a feel for the environment before getting started so take advantage of it to scope things out.
Lastly, you can look for gyms or fitness centers that are affiliated or referred by sports medicine and physical therapy practices. These facilities tend to have a more therapy-focused approach, and the clientele tends to be less of the beach bod variety and more your average Joe type of person.
Make a Schedule
Starting new habits is hard, especially in the first few weeks. That's why accountability is important. Make a schedule, write it down or set alarms in your phone and stick to it. If you need to have a gym buddy to drag you to the gym, so be it, but the key is to make it consistent. After the third week or so it'll be like second nature to you.
The hardest part about dealing with social gym anxiety is always those first few visits. Once you're at the gym and working out, everything gets better from there. You can lose yourself in your exercise, and the natural endorphin release from working out will help melt away that anxiety after a few minutes of light exercise. Once you're over the initial hump, you'll be well on your way to getting in shape and feeling accomplished with yourself in the process.