Gyms generally see an influx of membership around new years, although membership numbers will drastically drop after a couple of months as many people begin to feel what is dubbed as:
What is known as gym anxiety may sound a bit ludicrous to some, but it is a very real problem in our culture. There are thousands of people in the U.S. alone who will avoid the gym out of fear that manifests as physical symptoms associated with gym anxiety:
- panic feeling
- pounding heartbeat
- stomach upset
- and much more
Why does this occur? In one word, in can be summed up to judgment.
There is a massive fear in our culture of being harshly judged and ridiculed for being even slightly overweight. This happens a lot within gym and fitness settings.
There are many who fear this judgment in outdoor activities as well. How many of you avoid bicycling for fear of what the people behind you will think or say? How many will avoid taking up jogging because you don’t want to see the disgusted looks on people’s faces as you stomp past them, sweating profusely and maybe jiggling a bit too?
The most important tip to get over this kind of anxiety is something that sounds so incredibly simple, yet is the hardest thing for most of us to do nowadays:
Learn to accept and love the body you have. Period.
Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. You are different and unique, and you must learn to appreciate the beauty in that regard. You must accept who you are and essentially teach yourself not to care about the cruelty and judgment of others.
The best way to do this is to pity them. Pity the people who are so unhappy in their own skin that they must torment you in yours.
Another way to get over the fear of judgment in a workout setting, and gym anxiety, is to take a workout
partner with you who will keep you distracted. Take a friend who will lighten the mood and keep you motivated so you don’t feel so targeted in the gym setting.
Also, when you walk into the gym, put your blinders on. Inside your mind, use a phrase or affirmation that says something along the lines of, “this is for me, not them.” Some of us prefer to use more vulgar phraseology that gives us confidence to walk through the doors and onto the treadmill, but say whatever works for you.
While judgment plays a big role in gym anxiety, so does intimidation. All that equipment can be a formidable sight. Even the terminology that explains which muscle groups this or that machine works can be confusing. If this is the case, it would be beneficial to go with someone who knows the equipment well, or hire a personal trainer for at least a few sessions so you can learn the equipment.
Many gyms offer a few free personal training sessions as a bonus for signing up with them. Take advantage of this, and choose a trainer who will not only explain things in a way that makes sense to you, but someone who will make you feel motivated and comfortable in the gym setting. Thus, lessening your gym anxiety drastically.
There are specific group workout classes that offer core strengthening exercises with use of the equipment. These classes are free with membership, and you will be able to work side-by-side with people who are at varying levels of fitness, along with a teacher who is especially skilled on the machines.
For the most part, however, most of the gym anxiety comes from the fact that we just don’t like to feel like we’re being harshly critiqued based on our weight or looks.
We lose steam, motivation, and self-confidence at the first dirty look we get as we walk through the gym, and that can seriously impact our ability to have a good workout, and to continue to return to the gym. Humiliation and rejection in a social setting is terrifying for a lot of us.
You can avoid this kind of gym anxiety in several ways, aside from what was mentioned above:
- Go at off-peak hours, when the gym is not so packed
- Create an outdoor workout routine, this is a great time of year to start hiking, biking, and brisk walking
- Bring your gym home. If you have room, get some exercise equipment and work out in the comfort of your own home.
- Choose a gym that you are comfortable with: all male/female, big or small, chain or family owned. The idea is to pick one that feels right and comfortable, as well as one that offers what you want.
- Finally, congratulate yourself for making this decision.
It takes courage and outstanding will-power not only to make the decision, but to look for ways to overcome the gym anxiety that comes with joining a gym. Believe in yourself. Nobody will be as great as a motivator or discourager as the voice inside your head, so make sure the voice is a healthy one.
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