Work Through Gym Anxiety, Here's How
At some point, all of us have felt self-conscious at the gym. Whether you're new to the scene or just feeling out of sorts during your workout, gym anxiety is more common than you think. Feeling self-conscious at the gym isn't an ongoing problem for some people. Still, for others, gym anxiety is a social anxiety disorder (SAD) that can interfere with otherwise enjoyable routines.
Imagine the thought of working out in a crowded gym, anticipating an upcoming exercise class leaving you so anxious that you experience physical responses such as a panic attack. For some people with SAD, exercising in public triggers these symptoms.
How The Gym Can Trigger Social Anxiety
Aspects of a gym or exercise class can be intimidating enough for the average person, let alone someone who experiences social anxiety. These aspects may include:
- Feeling self-conscious about your body
- Feeling intimidated by people who appear in better shape
- Changing clothes in front of people
- Difficulty with equipment
- Discerning people are staring at you
- Experiencing difficulty keeping up in group classes
- Worrying about interactions and small talk
- Uncomfortable in exercise clothing
Coping with social anxiety at the gym involves building your confidence about working out in front of people. The more often you go to the gym or attend workout classes, the easier it will become and the more confident you will feel.
Determine what triggers your anxiety the most at the gym and work on those aspects. If your trigger is regarding the use of equipment, schedule a private lesson with gym staff to better acquaint you with how each piece of equipment works. Purchase workout clothing that makes you feel confident and that you like wearing. The more you focus on what you can control, the less out of control you will feel at the gym.
Choose A Gym That Suits You
Not all gyms are created equally. Some gyms are massive, catering to people enjoying the free reign of equipment. Other gyms are smaller, concentrating on small classes and personal fitness instruction. If you are unsure about what gym is right for you, take tours of several establishments to determine the best fit. The more comfortable you are at the gym, the less anxious you will feel when you are working out.
Take It A Step At A Time
Instead of throwing yourself into a situation that causes you stress and anxiety, take it a step at a time. To avoid the crowds, consider going to the gym at off-peak times or taking smaller exercise classes. Wear headphones and listen to music or audiobooks to keep your mind focused on what you are doing and not what others are doing. While you are getting used to your gym, be kind to yourself and make decisions that put your needs first.