Overcoming Anxiety over Going to the Gym

2 February 2022

For many people just going to the gym can cause a great deal of anxiety. It can come from poor body image, dealing with equipment, feeling judged, or dealing with locker rooms and other person’s sweat. The current term is “gymtimidation”.

It can stem from different causes but some of the more common premises are:
Intimidation from never having gone to a gym since high school (where you were not especially athletic). Questions pop into your head like: Will everyone be fit and trim and I will stick out like a sore thumb? How will I start? This is called situational anxiety.

You are not really a germaphobe but with all of the pandemic precautions you are very uneasy about a crowded gym or using common lockers or showers.
You will be changing clothes in front of someone else, even if your body is in really good shape.

Unfamiliar equipment is daunting and you don’t want to feel like a fool.

Since so much of our fear stems from the unknown, do as much preliminary research as possible. Go online and look at comments as well as the photos of the place. Find out what classes are offered and sizes. Before you commit to a membership, ask for a tour. This is important because not only will you be able to ask questions, but the staff will be more accommodating since you have not yet signed on the dotted line and forked over your credit card.

Start gradually. Even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. Remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If someone questions your short time, you can always say that it was all the time you could squeeze in today.

You may feel more confident if you go with a friend or coworker. However, it won’t do any good if they go off after only a few minutes. Make yourself clear that you need someone to walk you through the equipment, show you some exercises, and explain how things generally work. Look for a group session or class where they seem to be having some kind of fun.

Hire a trainer. Even if it is only for a single session, it may be worth it to set up a round of exercises. If your budget allows, you can sign up for a month or two to help you move to new levels.

Plan ahead. Not only will it maximize your efforts, it will reduce the fear of the unknown. If you can develop a routine at least per workout, you can focus on the exercise and not any of the extraneous factors that make you uncomfortable. If the locker room is a problem, figure out how to change before and then head straight home for a shower and clean clothes.

Use stress reduction techniques like deep breathing. Focusing on your diaphragm expanding and contracting has shown to lower stress and cortisol. You can also talk to yourself with positive reinforcement.

As you continue with your exercise regimen, it will become emotionally easier. In fact researchers have found that exercise improves both depression and anxiety, leading to better mental health.

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