The gym can be a scary place.
There might not be a mass of gigantic spiders or someone forcing you to walk on a tightrope three hundred feet above the ground. However, there are muscular fitness gurus grunting over at the weights station and a pack of runners on the treadmills comparable to cheetahs in a full sprint. As you take in your surroundings, the confidence you spent all morning building up, before opening the gym’s glass doors, wavers and a strong feeling of insecurity begins to sink in; Oh, hello there gym anxiety.
What is gymtimidation?
Gytimiditaion or gym anxiety is the fear of being judged based on one’s fitness level and/ or uncertainty involving equipment or classes. It is a strong feeling of intimidation and I can tell your right now that it does not discriminate between gender, size, strength, or how fit you are.
Gym anxiety is universally experienced by so many people and I was one of these sufferers. When I started my weight loss journey back in October 2015, the thought of joining a gym had my stomach twisting into knots. I was very overweight- verging on to the line of obesity according to the NHS- and had finally made the concrete decision that I was tired of living an unhealthy lifestyle and hating myself for it. However, I was too afraid to exercise in public due to very low body confidence and self-esteem that was non-existent. Thankfully, I was aware of Cassie Ho and her incredible Blogilates workouts that only required a small amount of space and a mat, thus I could get fit in the comfort of my flat. I followed her monthly calendars and worked out 6 days a week for the next eleven months. Shredding approximately two stone and I felt amazing. I learnt to love myself, my confidence was at an all time high and I’d made that butterfly transition you never thing is possible for yourself.
I reached a point where I wanted to start lifting weights and whilst I loved my blogilates workouts with Cassie, I was craving a new challenge where I
could focus on becoming even stronger. I thought that because I was finally at a point where I was clearly very fit and was proud of the body I had worked hard to sculpt, walking into the gm would be a piece of cake. Oh how wrong I was…
Just because you are confident in yourself does not automatically mean that your fear of the gym is suddenly diminished. If you’re waiting to get fit to go to the gym then, my dear Wildling, you are fighting a loosing battle and I’m a great example of that. Just read over that last sentence and understand how crazy that thought process is. Being terrified to walk into a gym is no reason to miss out on the unlimited value of being active. Moreover, to aim to be in great shape before stepping through those doors lacks a fair bit of logic. It’s time for you to live up to your full badass potential and get over your gym anxiety once and for all. If you never confront your fears, they’ll never leave. Here are my steps on how to beat your gymtimidation once and for all and be able to strut in there like you own the place and throw down on your health goals like a boss.
Create a routine
The most important step on overcoming your gymtimidation is avoiding going in there and feeling completely overwhelmed and bewildered on what to do. Creating a workout routine and planning out what you will do before stepping in, is vital for eliminating gym anxiety. The machines can look a little confusing and scary when you’re unfamiliar with them and you want to make sure you’re exercising safely and effectively. You want to ensure you are going to get results as this will keep you motivated and excited to exercise.
When I decided to start going to the gym, I do some thorough and extensive research to learn as much as I could about the machinery, the recommended workouts for my fitness level and everything in between. As I had already been working out for a year beforehand and just wanted to start lifting weights. I chose to go with the push, pull and legs route. This meant that on day one I would focus on push exercises that would target my biceps, forearms, back and trap. Day two would consist of pull exercises to work my triceps and chest. The final day would focus on all leg workouts to work my quads, hamstrings and quads. I would then repeat this for another three days and that was my weekly workout routine.
This is recommended more for pure strength training and was what most bodybuilders follow. If you are a pure beginner it is better to do more of what I did with blogilates and target one area each day; abs, legs, butt, arms, abs and cardio. This is great as you get each parts of your body accustomed to working out and allows you to experiment on different exercises.
I started by looking at the workouts on bodybuilding. (Don’t be put off by the title of the site). This is a great place to get advice from gym experts and many respected gym trainers share their workouts for free. There are also plenty of videos demonstrating how to use gym equipment. I would highly recommend following a few on here and focus on doing safe workouts so you learn the basics on how to work your body successfully, practicing proper form and getting comfortable and familiar with the gym and it’s equipment. Focus this for the first month and then in 6 months or even a year, you should have good understanding on what works best for you and what you enjoy to start building your own workout routines.
Once you have your workout planned out, make sure to print it out or saved on your phone so you can keep track as you go through the exercises. Try and walk into the gym with your mind solely focused on what you are going to do and which part of the gym you are heading to first. Make sure to only concentrate on you and no one else. Their opinions do not define who you are. Moreover, most people at the gym are there to focus on themselves and not wasting time judging you.
Blast your music through your headphones to drown out those negative voices in your head and work hard. When you are concentrating on your workout, you’re too busy to concern yourself with those around you. Another tip is wearing a hat and pulling this down as I found this helps block out the view of my surroundings and allows me to just focus on myself. It also gives off the vibe that you don’t want to be approached which is useful if you’re getting sick of men trying to chat you up.
Talk to someone
Being completely silent might feel comfortable but it can have it’s disadvantages in the long run. This may seem contradictory in regards to my previous point, however, talking to someone every now and then can help ease your anxiety also. It allows your brain to realise that these people are in fact human, just like you!
Exercise during off-peak hours
If the thought of a buzzing gym is making your nervous, consider starting to go during off-peak hours, first. Peak hours will vary depending on the gym and location so I’d suggest asking the front desk what time the gym is at it’s busiest. Armed with this knowledge, you can then make the decision on which time works best for you. This will mean you can avoid most of the hardcore fitness junkies and get comfortable in your environment. As your confidence builds, I’d recommend considering in going to the gym during peak times to push yourself further out of your comfort zone. This will result in your gym anxiety fading entirely and before you know it you will be one of those fitness junkies as well! On a side note, it’s always useful to see how other people use the machinery correctly so you can discreetly learn from others.
Bring a friend
If your anxiety is getting the best of you, bring a friend for emotional support that you enjoy spending time and will help you to feel more relaxed. Sometimes, you just need to take that first initial step and once you’ve been with a friend, you’ve proven that you can go there and survive. Even if a spell of gym anxiety arises, don’t fight it – share a laugh about it with a friend, and learn from your experience. Embrace your discomfort and see it as an opportunity to grow.
It’s important to remember that everyone that goes to the gym was once in your trainers and had to start somewhere. Never fail to believe in yourself or stray from your goals. You should only ever be in competition for the act of comparison is the thief of joy. If you find people watching you, know that it is most likely they are admiring your determination and motivation or learning your techniques.
If not now, when?
Have you suffered from gymtimidation?