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Our best tips for easing your nerves.
If you’ve ever tried a new fitness class, lifted weights in a crowded room, or hopped on the last treadmill in a packed row, you’ve likely been faced with a case of “gymtimidation.” Whether you’ve just begun your fitness journey, you’re getting back into it after a long break, or you’re shifting away from home workouts after COVID, joining a new gym can make you sweat in more ways than one. That first day working out in front of others naturally sparks some nervousness, regardless of your fitness level. But not to worry–gym anxiety is incredibly common, and there are several ways to ease your nerves.
Why Do I Get Anxiety When I Go to the Gym?
Studies show that 50% of Americans suffer from gym intimidation. In fact, working out alongside strangers is so anxiety-inducing for some that it causes them to avoid the gym altogether. If you’re new to the gym, you may perceive others as more experienced than you and fear judgment. Exercising can feel vulnerable for anyone, especially those who are self-conscious about their bodies. Changing in the locker room might trigger insecurity, and comparing yourself to your fellow gym-goers is a tough habit to break. Gym anxiety is particularly daunting for women, who may feel pressure to look a certain way at the gym or fear unwanted attention or harassment from male counterparts. Not to mention, in the wake of the pandemic lockdown, social anxiety and discomfort around crowds are on the rise, so the bustle of the gym before and after work is off-putting for many.
How Do I Stop Being Overwhelmed at the Gym?
Don’t let your negative thoughts surrounding the gym stifle your motivation! If you’re one of the unlucky many who suffer from gym anxiety, one of the following methods may help you overcome your jitters and reach your fitness goals.
Work with a Personal Trainer
If you’re able to, investing in a personal trainer will likely help you overcome your “gymtimidation.” Working with an experienced professional instructor adds a certain layer of comfort, and you won’t be in the weight room or on a cardio machine alone. You’ll also be alleviating some of the uncertainty by allowing someone else to plan your workouts for you. Even if you’re only able to schedule one trial session, that time spent with a fitness professional will give you a jumping-off point. From there, you’ll have the know-how to plan your own workouts and execute the exercises properly.
Plan Your Workout Accordingly
If you’re a beginner at the gym, planning your workout routine in advance may put your mind at ease. Try The Ultimate 7-Day Gym Plan for Beginners, or look for Youtube videos demonstrating exercises. Going into the gym with a plan will eliminate some of that fear of the unknown you may be feeling and give you something to focus on. You can also adjust your workout to fit your current fitness level and comfort zone. For instance, if you’re not ready physically or mentally to try out the weightlifting machines, try doing some simple bodyweight exercises on a mat.
Here are some great routines to follow at the gym:
Hit the Gym with a Buddy
If hitting the gym alone fills you with dread, consider asking a friend or family member to join you. Taking a group fitness class or following a workout program together might make you feel less vulnerable and give you a sense of solidarity. You’ll function as accountability partners and both get to reap the benefits of regular exercise! Ask if your local gym offers guest passes, referral rewards, or family discounts on memberships.
Take a Moment Before You Go
If you’ve struggled with anxiety disorders before, you know how difficult taking that first step can be. If you feel a negative thought spiral or physical anxiety symptoms coming on, take a moment before you head into the gym. It might help to practice some deep breathing–this will slow your heart rate down and ground your thoughts in the present moment. Stepping into the gym well-prepared may also grant you peace of mind. Make sure you’re wearing gym clothes you feel comfortable in, your water bottle is filled up, and your workout for the day is mapped out. If you’re particularly uncomfortable around crowds and have a flexible schedule, consider hitting the gym at off-peak hours. You can even warm up before you walk in to get that first step out of the way (and get some endorphins flowing)!
If All Else Fails: How Do You Break Gym Anxiety?
If you’ve taken steps to combat it but still can’t find the root of your gym anxiety, it may help to switch things up. Try a new type of exercise or group fitness class–there are so many out there these days! You can even work some home workouts or outdoor runs into your routine until you’re more comfortable frequenting the gym. Search online for exercise groups in your area to find like-minded people and build confidence. There are a million ways to stay fit–even if your gym anxiety feels insurmountable, you don’t have to give up on your fitness goals!
Here are some home workouts you can start with:
“Gymtimidation” can feel like a paradox–you know getting a workout in will improve your mental health, but hitting the gym is a stressor in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that everyone in the gym was a beginner once, and they’re likely too busy with their own workout regimens to scrutinize yours.
Getting over gym anxiety takes time, but it is so worth it! Give one of these strategies a shot and let us know how it went in the comments below!