You’re thinking about returning to the gym after a period away. It’s on your mind, but you’re feeling anxious and apprehensive about going. Whether it’s your first time ever, or you’re just making the transition back into fitness, the gym can be a place of anxiety for some folks.
It’s my sincere goal that everyone not only feels comfortable in the gym, but that it’s a place where you feel safe, confident and look forward to spending time in.
That’s why I wrote this list of 4 ways you can overcome gym anxiety!
1. First visit, then train another day.
This removes the barrier of having to do it all at once which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. The first time you go to join up, or the first time back after your break – just go to sign up. Wear clothes that you’ve got no intention of working out in (jeans & boots is a great one). All we’re going to do that day is get the membership set up, and maybe take a tour. This is a brilliant opportunity to scope out the equipment (or maybe new kit since you’ve been away) and gauge what times tend to be busier than others. Ask questions, and don’t be in too much of a rush to leave. Make sure you use the toilets while you’re there! This is time alone when you can collect yourself and have a chance to calm yourself if you’re feeling nervous.
2. Learn the person on the desk’s name – and use it!
The person manning the front desk may be a manger, a receptionist or a personal trainer. Take the time to chat, explain that you’re anxious, and let them take the time to chat to you about the best way to build up to training regularly. If you know one name, you’ve started one relationship. Good relationships are the start to any successful endeavour.
Let them take the lead; we really care that you’re having a good time in the gym, and any decent gym will take the time to make sure that you feel comfortable, and show you around. There may be a timetable of classes that you can take away, or maybe even fitness instructors or personal trainers around that can talk to you about getting started with some support. Managers may direct you to a specific person in their gym that tends to do well with anxious people.
3. Go when it’s quiet & start small.
Most gyms have times when it’s a bit quieter. It may be a good idea to prioritise working out during quieter times of day – most gyms will be quiet in the early and late slots, and busiest between 5pm and 7pm.
Going when it’s quiet gives you a chance to take your time with equipment which is unfamiliar, or ask staff to help you when we’re not too swamped with other tasks.
The first few weeks of any new habit can be challenging; tell yourself that you’ll stay for 15 minutes and if you want to leave after that, it’s ok. Make this time a little longer each week, and soon you’ll build up to 45 minutes to an hour.
4. Use headphones.
These take up next to no space in your gym bag, and allow you to disappear into your own world. Don’t be tempted to rely on them too heavily though – once you’re comfortable in the gym, headphones can make it difficult for people to speak to you. This might be exactly what you want – in which case, leave them in, but if you’re looking to get to know people they can be a barrier.
Finally, you have permission to leave the gym at any point. If you start to feel anxious, or that you’re just not feeling it today, know that you’re an adult and you can give yourself permission to leave it for that day, and try again another day.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about going to the gym was from actor and all round delightful human, Terry Crews. If it doesn’t feel good, you won’t stick to attending the gym, so treat it like a spa – give yourself permission to hang out there, chat, and leave if you want to, without working out.
More important than the workout is the habit of attending the gym. Work on the habit, and the rest will come.