Going to the gym would be easy if only getting there wasn’t the most challenging part. However, you are not alone if the prospect of accessing the locker room, navigating the equipment, or being observed and critiqued causes you anxiety.
Everyone is susceptible to gym anxiety, sometimes known as “gymtimidation,” particularly now that many people have returned to gyms after exercising at home during the COVID-19 epidemic.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of gym phobia, offer suggestions for how to deal with it, and offer alternative ways to get your exercise in.
What exactly is fear of the gym?
You may have experienced all three of these emotions at some time in your life while contemplating a workout in a gym: anxiety, intimidation, or embarrassment.
You may be self-conscious about how you look or how well you perform. Perhaps you feel embarrassed because you don’t know what to do or how to operate the equipment, and you’re afraid of what other people will think of you.
You may be hesitant to go because you think it’ll be too hectic or dirty, or all the necessary machines will be in use. Also, maybe you avoid the locker room because you feel awkward getting ready in the presence of strangers.
It’s OK to feel this way; you’re not alone.
Anxiety disorders are the most frequent mental health illnesses, impacting about 30% of individuals throughout their lifetimes, as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reported. Tension in the muscles and a desire to avoid situations bring to mind the APA’s definition of anxiety: “anticipation of a future issue” (1).
Working out is good for your mind as much as your body. Knowing what causes your gym anxiety and how to deal with it, you may overcome your fear of exercise and enjoy all its advantages.
When can we expect to feel anxious about going to the gym?
Gym anxiety, like any other kind of anxiety, may be complicated and unique, but here are some frequent situations that may bring it on:
Yes, a newbie like yourself.
You may feel uncomfortable going out at a gym for the first time or after a lengthy break. Are they all going to be more fit than me? Have opinions formed about me? To what end, and where do I even begin? These reactions to novel circumstances are known as “situational anxiety” (2).
You’ve switched fitness centers.
You may have been going to the same gym for a long, but you suddenly decided to try a new one. Anxiety may arise from having to learn a new routine and layout, as well as from having to locate and utilize unfamiliar equipment.
You’re experiencing some issues with the machinery.
The leg press machine may be something you’d want to utilize, but you’re not sure how to set it up. You feel awkward and ashamed.
Adapting in public is a need.
You may need to change clothing before or after your exercise if you are coming straight from work or if you have other plans for the time after your workout is done. You don’t want to do this in a public setting like a locker room.
It’s packed in here at the gym.
Many individuals feel anxious in crowded indoor areas, especially in light of the current epidemic. Anxiety after the COVID epidemic is genuine, and the prospect of returning to life as it was before the pandemic may cause apprehension and worry (3Trusted Source).
As a woman, you may feel uncomfortable going out in a primarily masculine environment, such as a weight room.
The weight room may be scary for a woman, even if you’re not a gym beginner.
It was observed in a study of 116 women in their twenties that although many were aware of the advantages of resistance training, few completed the minimum amount that is suggested.
Time and effort were mentioned as obstacles by several respondents. Nonetheless, studies also revealed that factors including fear of being judged or intimidated and a lack of familiarity with the equipment had a role.
According to the findings, women may find the inspiration to reach their fitness goals if they have access to a women-only weightlifting class or section of the gym (4Trusted Source).
Methods for coping with the fear of the gym
You may overcome your fear of the gym and put in productive exercise by using a few simple tactics.
Take the time to learn about the subject and get to know the
Some anxiety stems from apprehension of what lies ahead; overcoming this apprehension by arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible will assist (5Trusted Source).
You should first look into the school, its services, and the courses it provides, all of which can be done online. Following that, stop for a tour to get to know the place and the people working there.
To begin slowly
Your first time at the gym is a better time to go all out. Begin with a manageable 10- or 15-minute session on a cardio machine or even simply stretching, and consider it a workout. Then, expand from that foundation.
Get yourself a trainer.
Just one session with a personal trainer may teach you a great deal about what exercises to do, how to execute them, how to set up the equipment, and how to schedule your routines.
Be explicit about what you’re looking for; it’s OK only to want to try out the facility and its amenities for a single session.
Put in a request for a specific schedule if that’s what you’d like. After a couple of weeks of implementing that plan, consider setting up a follow-up appointment to take your routine to the next level.
Meet up with a friend and check it out
Going to the gym with a loved one or trusted advisor might help ease any anxiety or uncertainty about the environment. In addition, doing so removes some of the delays. When you have reached a point of fitness-buddies comfort, it’s time to go out on your own.
If you’re looking to get in shape, try a group workout.
You may not thrive in group workouts if you suffer from social anxiety.
When working out with others, however, you may follow the lead of the teacher or your workout partners, which can help reduce the stress associated with not knowing what to do. Once you’ve adjusted to the group exercise routine, you may find that your mental health improves due to the social support you’ve gained (6).
Make a schedule and an exercise plan.
A game plan is essential for eliminating uncertainty and increasing efficiency.
If you have a set plan for the exercises you want to do and the sequence in which you want to execute them, you’ll be free to give your full attention to your workout rather than wondering what to do next—worried about utilizing the locker room? Come to your activity already clothed.
Take several deep breaths and try to think optimistically.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try practicing diaphragmatic breathing to bring yourself back to the present moment. This kind of breathing, in which the diaphragm is used actively to expand the stomach, has been linked to reduced stress and cortisol levels (7Trusted Source).
Negative self-talk may also be reframed. If you’re at the gym and worried about how other people see you, try rephrasing your worries into affirmations such as, “That individual is there to work out and focused on their own activities,” instead of “That person thinks I’m fat and out of shape.”
This explanation may seem too basic. However, you may have greater confidence to face your fears and enter the gym if you begin by recognizing the negative thinking pattern, then gradually question it and switch to positive self-talk.
Never give up!
Going more often can boost your self-assurance, making it simpler to take that first step inside. It’s understandable to want to avoid the gym if going there causes anxiety, but finding effective coping methods and sticking with them can lead to long-term benefits.
Is there any evidence that exercise may alleviate anxiety?
Researchers have been looking at how physical activity might help with mental health issues like anxiety for quite some time. Evidence suggests that regular exercise may reduce the prevalence of both fear and sadness.
Anxious and depressed individuals, according to research from 2015. spend much more time sitting than the general population (8Trusted Source).
Luckily, physical activity has been linked to improved mental health. Regardless of the physical activity you engage in. New research indicated that you would experience positive mental health advantages.
The study’s 286 participants were divided into three groups: high-intensity, low-intensity, and control. Both anxiety and depression symptoms improved more in the exercise groups than in the control group (9).
If you’re wondering how much exercise is required to see effects, know that both high- and low-intensity exercise may boost mental health. Anxiety may be reduced with as little as 10 minutes of fast walking daily (10Trusted Source).
Getting over your fear of the gym and getting solid exercise is excellent for your emotional and physical health, but if you cannot accomplish that, keep physically active.
Exercise alternatives for anxious episodes
If fear of the gym prevents you from getting enough exercise, consider these options.
It’s now possible to get a wide variety of high-quality fitness-related applications, and many websites provide streaming access to various exercises. There will always be a solution, even if you need the proper tools.
When the weather is nice, exercise by walking or jogging, playing tennis or basketball, or jumping in the pool. Outside the confines of the gym, there are many opportunities to maintain physical fitness.
Try joining a local, less intimidating gym.
If you’re intimidated by gyms because of past experiences, switching to a smaller, friendlier gym may help you overcome your fear. Changing your environment might be the catalyst for your success.
Anxiety about beginning a new adventure at the gym is common. Concentrate on doing one thing at a time, such as making a strategy, to ease your anxiety.
Seek expert treatment if you feel your gym anxiety is severely interfering with your life or isn’t improving despite your best efforts to overcome it.
If nothing else, remember that everyone in the gym once started from scratch. They all overcome obstacles to become the first people to enter the building. Your home should be anywhere you can relax and feel safe since your health and happiness are of the utmost importance.