7 Tips for Overcoming Your Gym Anxiety
No two athletes are the same, and neither are their relationships with fitness centers and gyms. Though some may look forward to their workouts, others may dread them. Even gyms that create a welcoming, inclusive environment can still cause stress for some athletes.
We refer to this phenomenon as gym anxiety.
What Causes Gym Anxiety?
Gym anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. Like any other challenge, it’s something you can overcome if you work at it. To put it to rest, though, it’s helpful to understand where it comes from.
- Body Image
Yes, the nation and the world have come a long way in terms of body positivity, but we still have a long way to go. There is still plenty of counterintuitive body-shaming happening around our country, even when said body is exercising. The nerve of those naysayers is just astounding — people of all shapes and sizes should be encouraged to hit the gym and feel their best.
For athletes heading to the gym in hopes of weight loss, this negative attitude can be very harmful, and even deter them from working out publically for fear of being criticized or excluded.
- Skill Level
Everybody starts at the bottom, but when you’re watching other athletes lift staggering weights, twist into perfect yoga positions, or run like the wind, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never catch up. Besides feeling discouraged right off the bat, some athletes even begin to psych themselves out about their classmates or coach or instructor judging them. Though this isn’t actually going to happen — trust us, your fellow athletes are focusing on their own performance, and your coach just wants to help you improve — it can really cause negative thinking.
- Social Anxiety
For some, dreading the gym doesn’t feel particularly out of the ordinary — the same anxiety occurs whenever they need to face a large group of people. Social anxiety or phobia is said to affect about 15 million Americans, so if that rings true, know that you’re not alone, and there are ways to cope. (Hopefully, some of our tips will help as well.)
- Time Stress
We get it. You have a million responsibilities. Whether you’ve been up since the crack of dawn wrangling your children and depositing them safely at school, putting in 100% at your job, studying your head off, or a legendary combination of all three, your schedule is packed. You tell yourself that you’ll hit the gym after work. You even bring your activewear to your job!
But when you’re finally finished with a long day, the idea of heading anywhere besides your bed or comfy couch can spark some serious anxiety.
- Peer Pressure
You’ve always liked hitting the treadmill and elliptical, but your group of friends is suddenly all about CrossFit. They’re also following a special nutrition cleanse that you’re not enjoying, but you’re afraid of what they’ll say if you tell them. After all, you don’t want to be labeled as unhealthy or unfit.
Though exercise is personal, some people forget that and think of it as a competition, or something that’s black and white. That attitude can be harmful to athletes and lead to gym anxiety.
Regardless of what’s causing your gym anxiety, we want to help. Your team at Jack City Fitness is here to help and encourage you no matter what your fitness level, size, or experience may be.
7 Tips to Overcome Gym Anxiety
If you’ve been struggling with gym anxiety, try a few of these tips from our team.
- Have a Laugh
They say laughter is the best medicine. Though we’d recommend you head to the doctor if you, say, break your arm, there are cases where this proverb rings true.
Let’s use yoga as an example. Maybe you went to a yoga class once and it felt like a disaster. You were sore and sweating and insecure that everybody knew how much you were struggling. After it ended, you vowed never to set foot in another yoga studio.
Fast forward a few years. Your best friend does yoga. Your boss does yoga. Your mom does yoga. They all claim that learning the ancient practice has improved their lives tenfold. They all feel amazing — and they all look amazing. You want to join them, but you think back to that one tough class from 2009 and balk, thinking, “Everybody is already ahead of me.”
You don’t go. Instead, you continue to envy their perfect posture and seemingly perfect discipline.
We get it. It’s hard to jump back on the horse (or in this case, yoga mat). But it’s totally doable, especially if you go into it with a lighthearted attitude.
Try this out: have a laugh. Look up some exercise or yoga memes, or ask your friends to tell their most embarrassing “farting-while-stretching” story that apparently happens so much in these classes.
- Look For Your Niche
Saying you’re going to “the gym” is as broad a statement as saying you’re going “to Europe.” Sure, it’s truthful, but anybody who has actually been to either of these places knows how big and variable they are. In both cases, what you decide to do once you’ve arrived is up to you.
If you are traveling in Europe and have long been fascinated by the ancient Romans, you probably wouldn’t start out in Sweden. However, if you spent your childhood obsessively reading about Vikings, Sweden might be your first stop. Given your passion for the topic, you probably have some historical sites and special spots on your itinerary to ensure you don’t miss anything. Because of this, you feel prepared and excited, not anxious about missing out or making mistakes. Even if your travel buddies lightly tease you for nerding out about Nordic gods, you feel confident.
This same rhetoric applies to attending the gym, and it is a surefire way to soothe some anxiety. Doing something that you like and feel comfortable with will give you the same confidence you have when you speak about a subject you’re well-versed in, like the concept of Valhalla.
So, if you’ve always been a fast runner, there’s absolutely no reason why you should go to the gym and feel like you can only lift weights. Start out with something that you feel confident doing. Not only will you arrive with a better and more positive attitude, you already have a base level of experience or skill which will enable you to progress quicker. Once that happens, you’ll be more naturally inclined to try out other, less familiar workouts. Your body will likely adapt better, and you won’t be in your own head about it, as you’ve already proven to yourself that you can improve and grow athletic skills.
- Practice Mindfulness
Whether you are dealing with generalized anxiety disorder or occasional bouts of gym anxiety, we know how horrible that can be to live with. Anxiety in all its forms can range from unpleasant to downright debilitating. Many people that we know have found they needed professional intervention to manage their anxiety, like therapy and counseling or medication.
Even if you are in therapy or on medication, working on mindfulness is a powerful tool for anxiety management. This can mean meditating for a few minutes every morning, repeating a daily mantra, or finding some mental and physical balance with yoga.
- Talk to Your Coach
It doesn’t matter if your workout choice is a group class, personal training session, or anything else. If you’re feeling anxious or pressure about your time at the gym, it’s a good idea for you to speak up. We know that can be incredibly intimidating, but try to breathe easy, as any good fitness center has a team of empathetic, enthusiastic coaches who want to help their athletes. That means being understanding of any hang-ups, anxieties, or worries, big or small.
If you’ve been avoiding that one dance class because your instructor has you switch lines and you don’t want to be up front, tell him. If you’ve stopped seeing your coach because you didn’t want her to be disappointed when you don’t practice at home, be honest. Your coaches are real people who have made it their mission to help others build their athletic skills. They won’t judge you — they’ll help you find a solution.
If they do act rude and judgemental, that’s on them, not you. However, that kind of attitude means it’s time for you to find a new gym. Jack City is always accepting new partners!
- Buddy Up
Everything’s better with a friend! If you have a pal, coworker, sibling, or even romantic prospect who you don’t mind getting a bit sweaty around, why not make them your gym partner? It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable for your fitness while still being a low-pressure situation. It’s your friend, after all, and you won’t shame each other for making mistakes, having an “off” day, or even occasionally skipping the gym all together. The relaxed environment can allow for a lot of personal growth as well as some great bonding opportunities. Some gyms even offer custom group training classes, so your whole crew can reach goals together.
The best part of working out with a friend? When you finish, you can unwind together over a refreshing drink and the classic Friends ep where Monica and Chandler work out together.
- Try a Custom Workout
For some, there’s just too much going on at a gym — it’s over-stimulating, which often triggers anxiety. That can be pretty frustrating for those who still want to work out and hone their athletic skills. Sure, there are some great YouTube videos out there, but you cannot interact with those. That’s where custom online training comes in very handy. It allows for a remote workout plan that is designed around your skills, not some random YouTuber’s — and you can do it from your own home. This is also a great option for frequent travelers who stress about staying in shape while on the road.
- Find a Gym That Cares
The most important factor of overcoming gym anxiety is working with a solid gym that makes you feel secure, not stressed. If you happen to be living in Boise, Idaho, we’d like to point you in the direction of that very gym.
Jack City Fitness was built to help Idaho’s finest athletes hit their full performance potential, hone their skills, and find a renewed sense of confidence. Whether you’ve been an athlete for years or are a complete newbie, our fleet of coaches will show you the same level of respect, encouragement, and professionalism. We know that gym anxiety can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to support our partners to the fullest.
If you’d like to see for yourself, shoot us a message or call (208) 999-1111. We’ll invite you over to our gym, which is outfitted with all the latest equipment and elements that you need to really dig into your routine. Try our free fitness consultation, chat with some of our coaches, peek into a class, or even speak with a few of our existing partners to see how they’ve found their time with us. If you like what you see, we’ll sign you up to be a partner — this gives you 24/7 gym access as well as the ability to work with coaches, take classes, and use all of our resources as much as you need.
We know how strong you are, and we want to help you find that power. Come and see us today!