With so many of us getting back into the gym after a long time away, it’s normal for anxieties about returning to normality or starting something new to kick in. Gym anxiety, although not spoken about too much, is an extremely common problem – one that is experienced by both genders. But what is it that makes us so anxious about the gym, and how can we combat this?
Why is the gym so intimidating?
The intimidation of the gym actually comes down from one very simple, and very understandable fear – judgement. The gym, though its purpose is to provide a space for us to exercise, is actually a form of social environment, and it’s very common for spaces of socialisation to cause feelings of anxiety in people. These feelings often stem from the fear of being perceived unfavourably and perhaps being judged. Unfortunately, that’s just human nature.
As a result, when we are at the gym, many people could have feelings of vulnerability – perhaps their fitness goal is to lose weight or build muscle because they are not happy with their appearance, or to improve their endurance because they aren’t happy with their running pace or stamina levels. When we are at the gym, we come to improve these physical aspects of ourselves, and are in a very public environment by doing so. So this anxiety is extremely understandable. The great thing is – now we’ve identified the root cause of these anxieties, we can work on getting past them.
It’s key in this instance to remember that whilst it might feel like everyone in the gym has their eyes on you, this isn’t the case. The likelihood is that they are focused on their workout, in a thought and world of their own, or maybe even feeling exactly the same as you.
Tips for reducing gym anxiety
Set Yourself Small, Achievable Goals
The easiest way to feel like you are in control and making progress is by reaching goals. One of our favourite things to do is making a checklist and tick off goals and achievements every time we hit them – whether those are big or small. Take this mentality into the gym with you! These smalls could include using a new machine, increasing your reps, trying a new exercise or even just stepping into the gym for the first time! Trust us, you’ve got this.
Make An Exercise Plan
As the old saying goes: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. This will always ring true. If you step into the gym with no set workout plan, chances are you’ll be walking around looking a little bit clueless. Having a workout plan set in your head before you go will give structure to your routine and again, make you feel in control.
If you’re concerned that having a plan will throw you off on the chance that someone is already using the equipment you wanted, switch it up. Do your workout in reverse – change the order, anything. Just always make sure to warm up and warm down properly first to prevent injury.
Bring A Friend
Who said you had to go it alone? Aside from easing gym anxieties, bring a gym buddy improves your experience in so many ways.
- Struggling to motivate yourself? Your friend is right there with you.
- Need a spot? They’ve got you.
- Want to have a bit of a gossip whilst you suffer through a plank? Covered.
We love to take a friend to the gym with us, as not only does this ease any possible anxieties, but you can learn from them! Maybe they’ve got a hot new exercise technique that you could try, or maybe they could help you with your form? Everyone can improve somewhere, and having a trusted friend come along with you for this journey is a great way to make it seem a little less daunting.
We All Started Somewhere
Remember that no one was born in the gym. Some people live and breathe for it – sure. But they were once a beginner, too. You have just as much a right to be there as they do – and they’ll surely remember their first day at the gym way back then.
Try to remember that so many people at the gym are more than happy to give advice or assist you in your workouts too – as we said, one of the best ways to learn and improve is through the advice of others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Focus On Your Workout
At the end of the day – you go to the gym for one main goal: to workout. Remember that everyone at the gym is here to better themselves, let off some steam and improve their performance. Focus on your fitness goals and use these as your motivation!
Utilise Off-Peak Hours
There are some really great twenty-four hour gyms around, so make use of these times! The busiest times are generally before and after work, so avoid 7am-9am and 5pm-8pm. If you can, try and squeeze in a midday workout or a late-night gym sesh, and you’ll reap the benefits of a much emptier gym.
Tips for starting out at the gym
A lot of people experience these anxieties when first starting out – but it’s no biggie. As above, there are plenty of ways to combat gym anxiety if the source of your worries are around looking inexperienced.
Talk to a PT
Personal Trainers (PT’s) are often walking around the gym offering advice or running classes when they’re not tied up with their clients. Many also run personal social media accounts offering their tips and tricks – so don’t hesitate to have a chat with a PT. Mention that you’re just starting out and ask for some advice, we’re sure they’ll be more than happy to help.
Organise A (Free) Introductory Session
When you sign up to the gym, there is usually a (free) non-obligatory introductory session. Don’t pass up on this opportunity! In this session, a PT or staff member will walk you around the gym floor, run through the equipment and different areas, and ask you if there are any particular areas you want to work on.
This is a great opportunity for some one-on-one advice from an expert, so ask all the questions – that’s what they’re there for!
We’re sure that after one of these you’ll feel much more ready to tackle and smash that first session.
Do Your Research
Google is your best friend. There are so many fantastic resources for workout inspiration, motivation and tips and advice – so use them! As we said, taking control and preparing yourself is the perfect way to build strong foundations for successful results and smash those fitness goals.
Going to the gym – whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth, can be daunting. We get it. If you’re struggling to relax, try some of The Relax Capsules and remember, the important thing is that you’re not alone in this feeling, and it’s one that can easily be navigated. Take that first leap and get back into exercising – once you’ve got a routine, watch your confidence and performance soar.
Don’t let the progress stop there, though – always be on the look out to up your workout game. We recommend pairing your workouts with The Energy Booster and smash those goals.
Browne, T. (2008). An investigation into exercise addiction and the correlates of eating attitude, anxiety and self-esteem in a gym population (Doctoral dissertation, Dublin Business School). Click here.