The biggest thing for years that stopped me joining a gym was anxiety. Fear that I would be judged for not knowing what I was doing. The gym to me was a big scary place full of massive guys lifting weights I could only dream of…..however I couldn’t have been more wrong. My gym is only 10% massive men, 20% teenagers taking selfies and maybe 70% old people killing it.
I feel that I was more scared of starting in the gym as I knew hardly anything. Social media definitely impacted on this. Seeing videos on Facebook of people mocking overweight people working out really had an impact on me. I feared that I too would be laughed at, made fun of. I can probably say that this definitely impacted the anxiety I felt when faced with the idea of working out in a crowded gym.
For the first few months I stuck mainly to the cardio section of my gym. Feeling that I should stay there out of the way of those who actually knew what they were doing. I longed to get my hands on some weights but I simply lacked the confidence to do so. So I just watched and watched. The things I saw amazed me. I saw elderly people killing it in the weight section, massive muscly men helping people who seemed unsure and just generally a community forming around me. This definitely made me realise that I wasn’t in a place where I’d be judged for trying my hardest and to me this really boosted my confidence. I slowly began to creep my way into the weights section of my gym but only when it was quiet. By going into the weights section when it was quiet I could familiarise myself with lifts without feeling like an idiot. Deadlifts very soon became my favourite followed by anything shoulder based and I noticed my strength quickly growing.
Now don’t get me wrong there were still days where I looked at the weights section and the feeling of anxiety left me unable to even attempt a lift that day. I persisted with it though determined to reach a point where I could walk in confidently with my head held high. For me I found headphones and an awesome playlist helped me massively. It is incredibly hard to not feel confident when listening to your favourite songs. Whether it be some cheesy pop songs from the 70s or heavy metal there is a type of music that calms everyone down. On days when I felt that the gym was too crowded I would grab a bench in the corner of the room, a set of dumbbells and just focus on me and getting my workout in. By forcing myself to do some form of weight training, even in the far corner of the gym, I was starting to realise that no one was watching me. Everyone was so engrossed with their own workouts, their own goals, that they didn’t even notice I was there. In my head everyone was watching constantly. Every friendly smile was one filled with malicious intent. In reality it was simply a kind person smiling at someone who felt very out of place. Once I realised this things became a lot easier. I no longer felt afraid asking a friendly face for advice or even trying out new things even if I fail.
Still to this day I look at the weight section and think “no there’s too many people. I can’t do this” but now instead of hiding away I jump on the treadmill and warm up for my lifts. My entire warm up I psych myself up, giving myself the pep talk I need to be successful. If after this 15 minute pep talk I’m still afraid of walking into that weight section I don’t. More times than not the pep talk works and I feel good enough to go and kill my workout. If not I don’t let it get to me and I feel this is key to helping overcome any anxiety in the gym. If you sit and beat yourself up for not doing as well as you feel you should be doing then you’re doing yourself no favours. I personally find that if I get angry at myself for not overcoming my anxiety that I just end up feeling worse about myself. That is not what we want. We want a positive outlook which will bring about positive results. Every single workout where I push myself out of my comfort zone leads to personal growth. Just the other day I pushed myself and hit my deadlift at 60kg for the first time, in a crowded gym! It just goes to show that despite feeling anxious once I psych myself up and get into the zone I can overcome it and achieve great things.
So my top five tips for overcoming anxiety in the gym are:
1) Have a playlist that you can lose yourself in- whether it be cheesy pop, gangsta rap or heavy metal. You do you boo
2) Workout clothes you feel comfortable in
3) A motivating post workout snack- something to look forward to when you’re done
4) A pep-talk to prepare yourself pre-workout whether it be during your warmup or on your way to the gym
5) A positive thought process- Gotta think it to do it darling!