Where does anxiety come from?
Even though in recent years, the discussion around mental health has become more and more prevalent and accepted, anxiety can still sometimes be difficult to talk about. So where does anxiety come from? Anxiety can be related to anything and everything and can stem from a major life trauma or may just be a buildup of smaller stressful situations. Anyone can suffer from anxieties such as social anxiety, shopping anxiety, separation anxiety, gym anxiety, and financial anxiety plus many many more. According to mayoclinic.org some common anxiety symptoms include feeling nervous, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, feeling weak, and trouble concentrating just to name a few.
One type of anxiety that many people, specifically women, experience is gym anxiety. That feeling of absolute dread even thinking about the gym but at the same time, feeling guilty about not wanting to go. So that begs the question, how to get over gym anxiety?
You’re not alone
If you are feeling anxious about going to the gym, just know you are not alone! Many people feel this way, men and women. It’s often a bigger concern for women specifically because of things like how they view their body image, safety concerns, and worrying about what others may think of them (also a symptom of social anxiety).
Safety at the gym
We’ve all read those stories about creepy guys at the gym preying on women or following them out to the parking lot. If you identify as a female, safety is probably on the top of your mind whenever you go out alone. The idea that you can’t go to the gym, a place where you are trying to better yourself both mentally and physically, without the worry of a man trying to hit on you or worse is a horrible reality. This may be a cause for some of your anxiety surrounding the gym. A great way to support you in getting over gym anxiety is taking precautions to make yourself safer such as, not walking to your car alone in the dark, sharing your location with someone, and joining a gym that has good lighting and with staff that are easy to talk to and understand your concerns.
Worrying about others
Worrying about what other people think of you at the gym of all places is such an oxymoron. A gym is a place where people go to work out and get healthy, but many of us are afraid to go because we believe we are “too fat” or “too thin”. First off, there are so many things wrong with that way of thinking that have nothing to do with the gym. “Healthy” is different for every single person and you are the judge of your body. Second, you are going there to be better for yourself, not to impress anyone else. Chances are, most of the other people at the gym are also having some version of those same negative body image thoughts about their own bodies. That girl who you think looks so thin and gorgeous is maybe looking at you thinking “Wow, that girl looks so curvy and beautiful”. It’s all about your perspective.
Another side to this is that women are taught to care about what men think of their bodies. I will only say this one time… YOUR BODY IS NOT FOR MEN! YOU ARE THERE FOR YOURSELF! PAY THEM NO MIND! Next.
Body image deserves its own blog post truly. All you need to ask yourself is, am I doing this to help my body and mind be healthier? If the answer is yes, ignore any other thoughts or doubts you may have. You are a boss and deserve to feel good about yourself. Body image is a constant struggle but if you try your best to ignore those negative voices, eventually, they will get quieter.
Alternatives to the traditional gym
If you’re like me and you’ve had your fair share of gym memberships but can still count on one hand how many times you have gone in your entire life, maybe the traditional gym just isn’t for you. And that’s okay! The gym isn’t for everyone but
that doesn’t mean that you are a failure or that you can’t still be fit. There are so many alternatives to the traditional gym. Broaden your mind to think about the at-home options or non-traditional fitness methods you could try. It may take a while to figure out what works best for you and your schedule but make sure you give everything you try a fair chance. And once you do find something you enjoy, stick with it! The rewards you will see mentally and physically will outweigh the momentary discomfort you may feel at the beginning of your fitness journey.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things including how we work out. At-home workouts have become much more popular since people are working from home and don’t want to go out just for the gym. There are so many options for personalized fitness subscriptions, some that involve equipment and some that don’t. There are also many free videos online. YouTube is a great place to find someone to follow along with. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, head over to Pinterest and find a workout to make your own! Just remember, listen to your body. Just because the lady on YouTube can do it, you may not be at the same level. So push yourself but also be careful not to push it too far and hurt yourself.
Okay, so the traditional gym isn’t for you, but what about non-traditional fitness methods? Have you thought about a women’s only gym? What about a class? Maybe something less intensive like yoga is your style and less intimidating. Depending on the season, yoga is sometimes offered outside in a park setting which may cause less social anxiety. Even something like a dance class is super fun and will get you sweating. And if traditional training is hard for you or you have an inquiry, think about doing aquatic fitness. Pools often offer aquafit classes, or if you’re more of a go-at-your-own-pace type of person, just go do some laps. Whatever you end up doing, in the end, something is better than nothing. Are ya still with me? I hope this is answering the question many of us ask ourselves of how to get over gym anxiety.
How to feel more confident in fitness
No matter if you’re going to the traditional gym, taking a class, or just doing an at-home workout, confidence is key! Here are some tips on how to feel more confident on your fitness journey:
Wear cute clothes
We all know what you wear affects how you feel. Investing in some cute and comfortable workout clothes is key! They don’t have to be skin tight if that makes you feel self-conscious but make sure they won’t be getting in your way if you decide to go baggier. Also, invest in comfortable, supportive footwear (even if you’re just at home). Your entire body will thank you!
Music affects our mood whether we realize it or not. Spend some time creating an awesome playlist of all the songs that pump you up! If you are getting good vibes from your music, it’ll motivate you to get moving. Also, if you’re going to be listening to your music via headphones, make sure they are comfortable! There’s nothing worse than having to take out your earphones halfway through your workout because they’re hurting you and then having to continue on with no tunes.
Get a friend involved
Having someone else involved will keep you motivated and force you to be accountable to someone else. Which if you struggle with getting motivated, is super important. It’ll also feel less intimidating walking into the gym or a class if you aren’t walking in alone.
Plan it out
If you are going to the gym or doing a home workout, plan it out. Know what you want to work on that day (don’t skip leg day!) and have some exercises ready to go or some machines you know you want to hit. This will make the gym look less scary if you know exactly where you’re going and what to do when you get there you’ll feel less intimidated. Researching something before going out to do it often helps calm anxiety no matter what that activity is.
If it’s possible, be strategic about the time you go to the gym. Usually, peak hours for the gym are before work (8am-10am), sometimes lunch (12pm-1pm), and after work (4pm-7pm). Going off-peak hours will mean there are fewer people at the gym and fewer people generally means less anxiety.
Get personalized help
If you really do want to make the traditional gym work but don’t know what to do and lack motivation, look into hiring a personal trainer. They can help you understand your body, the machines, and how to properly do the exercises without hurting yourself. They take into account your goals, abilities, age, and body type to make you a personalized workout plan. They can sometimes be an investment, but aren’t you worth investing in?
Healthier body and mind
Gym anxiety is totally normal so don’t be ashamed of your feelings. Explore some alternative options and see what feels best for you. Getting and maintaining a healthy body and mind will improve every aspect of your life. Working out releases a chemical in your body called endorphins. These reduce your perception of pain and also trigger positive feelings in the body. Besides keeping your body healthy and combating health conditions, exercise also promotes a better mood, better sleep, and more energy which in turn will make you feel more confident about yourself and everything you do!
By Hailey Pruden - Hailey is a makeup artist and small business owner. Her mission is to help women be the best version of themselves. Whether that is with words, makeup, or clothes. Hailey is recently married and hopes to start a family soon. She loves theatre, dance, her family, and dogs! You can find Hailey on Instagram or get in touch with her via her website.