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Overcoming Gym Anxiety In 2021

[Tips From A Trainer]

created by: zack mathews

You might be feeling anxious or stressed about starting your journey to a healthier, happier life because of certain fears revolving around the gym.

Doing something new can be a bit nerve wracking but when I feel myself scared or nervous about something, I think about one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the things with which you think you cannot do” 

Seriously, what an amazing quote that is, I love it!  Think about how much more confidence and happy you will be with yourself once you overcome this fear.

As a personal trainer, I've worked with hundreds of clients, many of whom had gym anxiety just like yourself.  Today I want to share with you these fears and how to overcome them.

Fear Of Being Judged

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This is the big one.  You feel it, I felt it, and most people think it before going to a gym. 

Most of us are going to the gym because we are trying to get healthier and change our appearance in some way, shape or form.

It doesn't matter what your goal is.

Lose weight.

Gain muscle.

Maybe both?

We all have an idea of what people are going to think of us.

You think you are going to walk in the gym and people in amazing shape are going to be eyeing you, making rude comments to their friends, and laughing at you as you walk by them. 

That feeling of being judged might be overwhelming and makes you not want to workout at all. 

Well I have three things to tell you.

1. No one cares what you are doing or how you look. 

It seems hard to believe, but it’s true!  Almost everyone is there because they want to do exactly what you’re there to do. Workout, feel good, get a sweat in, and leave.  Seriously, people are way more interested in themselves. And as of recently, their phones!

2.  You are your own worst critic. 

When you see yourself everyday in the mirror, you are much more likely to see your flaws and make up even worse things about yourself than the person that will walk by you for 5 seconds in the gym. 

No one is judging you harder than yourself.

So get in the mindset of loving your body and enjoy this journey you are about to be on.

3.  If there is someone that is judging you, they are a lousy person and not worth your time.

Every once in a while you will see an article or video of someone recording someone in the gym either doing something silly or body shaming them, and at the end of the day, they are not worth your time to think about. 

They are few and far between.

But save your breath for something that is going to make you better, not worse.

Fear of Failure

Gym Anxiety Fear of Failure

Think about these athletes or gym members that are in great shape and are able to run fast, lift heavy, and make everything look easy.  Do you think they just walked into the gym one day and did everything perfectly?

Highly unlikely.

People fail, over and over, to eventually get where they are at.

It’s good to fail. 

You learn from it and get better the next time.

There are going to be times in your future gym sessions where you fail.

Maybe you can’t lift a certain weight for one more rep and need to drop it.

Or you have to jump off the treadmill because you are so out of breath.

Guess what?

That could be failing for some, or you can change your mindset about it and know that it’s going to make you better and stronger the next time you do it. 

Be proud of obstacles you will run into along the way, it’s a part of the process.

Do you know what failing is to me? 

Giving up completely and not trying again.

So as long as you keep working and putting one foot in front of the next, you will never have to worry about “failing”.

Fear Of Not Knowing What To Do

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One of the reasons many people have gym anxiety is because they don't know what to do once they make it inside the gym.

Could you ride a bike the first time you tried?

Probably not.

Were you an expert the first time you played a new video game?

No.  Although I was pretty darn good at Mario Brothers the first time I played.

Just like anything in life, you have to learn how to do new things.  The same idea can be applied in the gym. 

No one is an expert their first day in the gym and it will take more time to learn certain movements than others. 

Thinking back on it, it took me forever to learn how to deadlift! I just could not get the movement right, but after months and months of trying, I finally was able to start doing it correctly and pain free.

What’s the best way to overcome this gym anxiety of not knowing what to do?

Have a workout plan that you follow. 

There are plenty of programs online for beginners to help them workout for the first time, so use those resources that are available for you.  Videos, pictures, and programs are all great resources that you should be using.

I made an article helping you get prepared for you first day in the gym by teaching you movement patterns, and the basics in exercise and nutrition. 

If you want to check that out, click HERE. 

If you have a plan to follow, it will decrease the likelihood that you just aimlessly walk around the gym, never gaining any confidence in your abilities.

With your plan, you will know exactly what movements to do, how many times to do it, and it will leave you feeling accomplished after you finish it.

Fear Of Asking For Help

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I’ll never forget watching this young guy.

Maybe 17 or 18, attempting to bench press a weight that was way too much for him. 

He had started at the gym a couple week prior with a trainer, and I could tell he was new to the gym based on what the trainer was working on with him. 

He was progressing nicely and then one morning I saw him working out by himself and attempt to bench press 185 pounds.

I was worried that he would not be able to press this much weight so I kept an eye on him, and sure enough when he lowered the bar, it got stuck on his chest. 

I quickly jogged over and brought the bar up for him.  He thanked me and we went our separate ways.

This whole incident could have been avoided by simply asking someone to help watch over him on this lift.  Many people get embarrassed to ask for help and instead risk injury or just ignore doing an exercise all together.

Being new in the gym, you will find times when you are not sure exactly how to do an exercise or machine. 

The good news is people are always willing to help you and I have never heard someone say no and laugh at someone for asking for help in the gym.

I guarantee you know a skill that you could teach someone in the gym if they asked for you help on it, so why can’t you ask the questions you are unsure about to help overcome your gym anxiety?

Also, most gyms will have personal trainers around the gym floor so if you spot one not helping a client, ask for some advice. 

If the trainer is doing his job because he or she wants to help make an impact on people’s life (which I hope they are), they will be happy to help you.

Fear Of Change

Gym Anxiety Fear of Change

This final one is a bit different.  It doesn’t have to do with a fear of being in the gym, but rather a fear of the changes that will occur in your life when you begin your transformation.

We are all creatures of habits.  You get used to your body, used to eating the same things, doing the same activities, spending time with the same people.

Now that you have decided to make a change, a change for the better, it might scare you a bit about what the future looks like.

What are people going to think of me? 

Will my friends and family be supportive of me or will there be resentment with my life changes? 

Will I have new hobbies and give up old ones? 

All these questions might be popping up in your mind and making you jump to the worse case scenario in all of them. 

The fear of change is scary but you have to know why are doing this. 

I’m sure you want to move better, have less pain, feel stronger, and lose some weight. 

All those things will equal a better life over the long run and it’s important to keep those thoughts in your head when the bad ones come knocking.

If someone or something is bringing negativity in you life as you change, it’s time to consider your options. 

You need to have those conversations about how you are feeling if someone is bringing you down, you need to remove yourself from situations if you feel they are toxic, and you have to know you are doing this because you want to be a better person.

This journey isn't all about just changing your body and getting rid of your gym anxiety.   As your body changes, your mind and life will change too. 

It’s an awesome journey to be on and I wish you the best of luck with it. 

Remember to enjoy the process and not let gym anxiety hold you back.  Take action with what you have learned today and I know success will come your way.

Good luck!

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