Overcoming your Gym Anxiety

You’re sitting in your car on a Monday night staring at the white lights reflecting off the gym’s sign, frozen. Your mind is racing, you imagine all the uncomfortable moments and scary situations that have happened to you, envisioning a scenario where all of those things happen at once, or worse. Flashbacks of scenarios that have never even happened race through your mind.

What if you slip and fall on a weight?

Or some type of wardrobe malfunction happens?

What if you just look plane stupid?

There’s a million questions in your head. You start thinking if this is even really worth it. If going to the gym is for you, or you’ll just never be able to attain the health and looks you want. Put a pause on your fears because,

Gym anxiety is completely normal.

First of all, the gym is scary. There’s a lot of people lifting things that could quite literally kill you, for one. Look closely, there’s stickers everywhere warning you to be careful. You probably even signed your life away on a gym-waiver. Secondly, where else is there a public place where people are consistently bumping into one another, sharing a space, being active and sometimes… people even socialize….for fun!

If you have social anxiety the gym can be a shit place to be. But it doesn’t have to be. With a few tricks to relax your mind and body, you’ll feel confident to overcome your gym anxiety and start to see that the gym can actually be your safe haven. A place where you go to relax, unwind and find strength. A place where you’ll see that while everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and exercise styles, for the most part they’re people just trying to look and feel better. Just like you.

Steps to Overcoming Gym Anxiety

  1. Write your workout down

Planning on going in the gym and “winging it”? Sure, that might work if you weren’t going to freak out with every social interaction that might be had when you stride over to a random machine that’s quickly swooped up by a much more aggressive sweaty gentleman.

You should have a game plan. You should know what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, how many sets and reps and where in the gym that particular piece of equipment is. This will take time if you’re just starting at a new gym, you’ll have to get familiar with the equipment first. Having a list of each machine or free weight you will be using will keep you on track in your workout. You can also arrange the workouts according to your gym layout so that you don’t have to walk around a thousand times. Avoiding wasted time, unfocused attention and confusion is key here. Have your plan on hand, follow it, and leave successful. Yes, at first this will take planning time, but planning time is much better than wasted time.

2. Speaking of time, give yourself more of it.

We all want to waste as little of our precious life as possible in the gym. We want to shove in as many exercises as possible in a short window of time, usually about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the workout. However, have you ever tried to rush through something only to realize it takes almost the same amount of time to do exactly the same thing in a calm manner? Except with the former option, you added extra stress and adrenaline to your body, which doesn’t mix well for the socially anxious in these types of situations. So, give yourself more time. If the workout takes 45 minutes, give yourself an hour. Allow yourself to get to the gym, come up with a game plan and work through your emotions. You’re not “wasting” time, you’re overcoming a fear and learning through a process, which is going to seriously help your confidence and self esteem, even outside of the gym, in the long run.

3. Schedule gym time during non peak hours

If you’re unfamiliar with gym settings, peak hours are basically before and after work, 6AM-8AM and 5PM-7PM are the usual busy hours, depending on the gym. Peak hours means more of everything about the gym, more fighting over machines, more naked people in the locker room, more dudes grunting on the squat rack, more beautiful women strutting their stuff, more more more! I can feel the anxiety bubbling up under my skin just thinking about it. Do yourself a favor and schedule yourself around these times if possible.

4. Go to the gym at the same time

Once you find the time that best suites you, stick to it. It will be nice to be able to see the same group of people at the gym. You can create a community by just a smile, a wave hello, and finally a friendly introduction. Headphones might even come off, nice people could come talk to you, you might even make a friend. You’ll realize that the people at the gym are just as afraid of you as you are of them, but once you get to know each other, it won’t be so bad after all.

5. If all else fails, do home workouts.

Home workouts are extremely effective, especially if you’re just starting an exercise program. Your body will physiologically respond to any exercise well if you’re just getting back into exercise. Home workouts are safe. There’s no one around to judge you, no traffic on the way there, no machines that are already taken, and if you keep your house clean it probably smells a lot better. Home workouts are great, and there’s no excuse as to why you can’t get a workout in due to social anxiety.

You win.

Do you struggle with social anxiety in the gym? What has helped you cope and still get an amazing workout in? Let me know in the comments below.

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