How to stop letting gym anxiety get in the way of your workouts

Embarking on a fitness journey is always going to feel daunting.

Deciding to sign up to a gym, especially, can be a huge first step for some.

In a survey by sports and fitness equipment specialists, sweatband.com, 52% of respondents said they prefer to work out from home rather than in a gym.

While the lockdowns proved just how great home workouts can be, for more than a third of people, not going to the gym isn’t about getting a better burn at home.

Gym anxiety is endemic.

Sadly, 39% of study respondents admitted to feeling uncomfortable in public gyms.

For 22% of these people, this is because they don’t feel competent using gym equipment.

This number rises for women, with 28% saying they find gym equipment intimidating.

While gym anxiety is more likely to affect beginners, explains qualified Level 3 PT Yanar Alkayat, it can strike at any time during a fitness journey.

‘If you’re new to a gym environment, unsure how to use a piece of equipment or unsure of what you’re doing then it’s totally normal to feel a bit anxious,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘There might be some body image or perception worries or thoughts about how you look while performing a move or lift – this is all totally normal.

‘Even the more experienced can feel anxious.

‘For example, if you’re working out somewhere new or with people or kit that’s unfamiliar to you, there might be some shyness or self-consciousness then, too.’

While gym anxiety is perfectly normal, it doesn’t have to define your fitness journey and defeating it will help make you mentally strong as well as physically.

How to beat gym anxiety

‘Whatever feelings of anxiety or insecurity you might have, don’t forget you can work through them,’ says Yanar.

Here are six tips for beating gym anxiety:

Figure out your plan before your session

Going into the gym without a plan can leave you wandering around like a lost puppy.

Prepping your session before you head to the gym can make things much easier.

‘Avoid walking around aimlessly or half heartedly and prep your session before you walk into the gym,’ Yanar says.

‘Having a plan will keep you accountable, it will give your session some structure and focus, and give you a sense of accomplishment once you’re done.’

Action it: ‘Your plan can be on paper, in an app or even in your head,’ says Yanar.

‘How it looks is your choice, and whatever works for you, but it’s the number one thing to have before you start.’

Do your homework or work with a pro 

If even the thought of planning a workout leaves you feeling confused and frustrated, remember there are a lot of resources you can use to help clear the waters.

‘Empower yourself by reading and learning about fitness through your own research or by talking to people,’ Alkayat suggests.

‘You might look up the equipment or exercises you’re interested in doing, how to work towards certain goals or the reps and sets to put in your plan.’

Working with a PT will also allow you to gain an understanding of fitness and exercise while giving you the confidence that you’re heading in the right direction.

Action it: ‘Working with a PT is a great place to start to build your fitness knowledge and how to move with correct form,’ says Yanar.

‘You might even like to watch people in person or someone qualified on social media to see how they do it.

‘Even if you’re a more experienced gym goer, working with a coach on your own specific needs and goals is a great way to elevate  your skills and experiences.’

Ask an instructor on details you’re not sure about

‘It’s not just understanding the equipment but finer details like best form, body positioning and choice of weights that can make all the difference on how you feel and what you get out of your workout,’ explains Yanar.

You may want to ask for guidance to make sure you’re performing your exercises correctly, safely and efficiently.

Gym instructors are always happy to help if they’re not busy.

You can usually find them wandering the gym floor or behind the reception.

Action it: ‘Don’t be afraid to ask someone to demo a move or get their opinion on the best reps or sets for a specific goal – gym staff are there to help,’ says Alkayat.

‘Fitness can get a bit nerdy so the more conversations you have about the details, the more confident you’ll become.’

Take a friend or make friends 

How does the saying go – a problem shared is a problem halved?

‘There’s nothing like calling on a friend to make the experience more relaxed and fun,’ Yanar tells us.

‘Fitness buddies can boost confidence, keep you accountable and be a great support.

‘Feeding off the positive energy of others can help to squash feelings of insecurity too.’

Action it: Alkayat suggets choosing a friend who is keen to work on similar things to you but won’t distract you too much.

‘If your friend has slightly more experience than you, then that’s even better, making it a great opportunity to pick up a few new tips,’ she says.

‘Choosing a community-based gym or fitness class might be worth considering too.’

Gradually expand your comfort zone

Remember: fitness journeys are long, and there’s no need to rush.

Yanar says: ‘Be patient and understanding, wherever you’re at.’

If that means sticking to the movements and equipment your comfortable with at first, that’s fine.

Action it: ‘Don’t rush moves, try to lift beyond your comfort zone or compromise on form just to try to cover up any anxiety; it might end badly,’ adds Yanar.

‘Better to do what you know well and safely and gradually expand your skill set and experience.

‘Fitness is for life so there’s no hurry.’

Remember that feelings of anxiety are temporary 

Finally, remember that gym anxiety is temporary and the more you face it head on, the easier it will be to manage.

Yanar tells us: ‘When something is unfamiliar, the sense of awkwardness can be quite strong.

‘But once a space or movement becomes more familiar, a sense of ease will grow.

‘So don’t forget that feelings of anxiety will eventually pass.’

Action it: Understanding why you feel anxious can be a big step in feeling more comfortable, Alkayat adds.

‘If you stick at it, it won’t be long before you’ll be taking it all in your stride.

‘Just don’t forget to look back to see how far you’ve come and give yourself a high five.’

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