Gym Anxiety–Yes, it’s very much a real thing. It means to have a fear of working out because you are not fit enough or don’t feel confident enough with yourself. It is common with perfectionists or anyone who has spent the majority of their lives scrutinizing their bodies and how they believe that they are not good enough. This can often times turn into a vicious cycle. You don’t like the way you look, so you want to work out. But you don’t feel that you can work out around people, so you don’t go to the gym. You tell yourself, “I’ll work out at home, until I look better.” But what does look better mean? Until you lose 5 lbs? 10 lbs? 20?!? Also, how realistic is it for you to workout at home? For me, it’s not realistic at all (Not hating on those who workout at home, but it is often hard to get started with this routine). I struggle with gym anxiety, but one thing I’ve learned is that like most kinds of anxiety, it gets worse if you give in to the anxiety. By not going to the gym, you’re giving this anxiety power while giving up some of your own power. Classes at the gym are okay, but they bring out the competitive side of me and don’t always lead to a mindful workout.
So here are my tips for Overcoming Gym Anxiety:
1. Come prepared. Make a plan. Think about what happens when you go to the grocery store without a list. You putter around trying to remember what you need to buy, but probably buy a bunch of unnecessary things. You don’t want to be doing the same thing at the gym, so plan ahead of time exactly what you are going to do. Which machines will you be using? How many sets? How many repetitions? Then, once you finish the things that you planned, you are done. Otherwise, you can end up working out for way too long because you’re not really sure how much is enough.
2. Make a motivating playlist. Personally, I like to listen to upbeat “girl-power” songs when I work out. It gives me confidence at the gym. I actually made my own playlist on Spotify of my favorite workout songs here. (P.S. It’s also very good for dance parties if you’re not planning on going to the gym.)
3. Dress to your level of comfort and if this means going out and buying a new outfit, do it.
4. Plan it out. Write it down in your planner if you are old school like me (I’m a bad millennial, I know), or put it in your phone calendar as an event. Or do both!! I also tally every time I workout. Your brain internalizes messages when you write them down.
5. Make modifications! Don’t expect yourself to be able to lift a lot of weights or to do a full pushup right away if you have never done so before. Making modifications will help you to do the exercises both correctly and safely. Even though I work out consistently, I’m still bench pressing only a little bit more than the bar and most of my pushups are on my knees. But I’m still at the gym doing the workout and feeling better afterwards. Making modifications also can prevent injuries by preventing overcompensation and joint-overloading from performing moves that are too heavy for your muscles to handle (my husband is a physical therapist).
6. Do not – I repeat – do NOT get intimidated by anyone at the gym or think that they’re judging you. This is my number one pitfall. This is especially easy to happen to you if you are a woman lifting in the freeweights area, because you are typically outnumbered by men. But the truth of the matter is that they are most likely not judging you, and if they are looking in your direction then they are most likely just impressed that you are lifting freeweights alongside them. Luckily for me, my husband has befriended some of the serious powerlifters and bodybuilders at our gym, and introduced me to some of them. I lifted weights regularly while I was pregnant, yet I was always self-conscious. One day, my husband introduced me to one of the most muscular lifters at gym, and all he said to me was how impressed he was that I was working out with freeweights while I was so close to my due date!