Fear of the gym

“The more you know, the more confident you will become … you’ll end up seeing familiar faces making it a lot easier to overcome your anxiety.”

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

With September here, there are a few things that remain certain at Wilfrid Laurier University; Starbucks sales go up, campus becomes 10 times busier and the gym becomes a zoo.

Why does the gym become so packed in September, only to level off just a few weeks later? Anxiety plays a huge role in preventing a ton of newcomers from returning to the gym ever again.

Picture this: you finally found the motivation to get your butt out of bed and make an appearance at the gym. First step is complete and you are feeling good about it, you’ve got this.

You get to the change room, shove your stuff in a locker and dawdle your way through the motions of getting changed, lacing up those sneakers and filling up your water bottle.

All of a sudden the feeling hits you head on.  A mixture of nerves, self-consciousness and anxiety has you wanting to curl up on the couch and continue Netflix bingeing.

Even after doing plenty of fitness research, the fear of judgment still persists. You fear that all the experienced gym-goers will think everything you do is illogical and incorrect.

Cue the defeat of your gym streak.

Dr. Jennifer Robertson-Wilson, associate professor from the department of kinesiology and physical education at Laurier shed some light on the feelings of anxiety that may come along with being new to the gym. She noted that it’s important to clarify your obstacles, be it anxiety about performing exercises or navigating the gym. It’s only then that you can work to improve your experience.

“Be open to the experience and let go of those negative thoughts. As soon as you get sidetracked on the negative thoughts … you need to go back to the beginning and remember what brought you to the gym in the first place,” said Wilson-Robertson.

When speaking to WLU graduate and current GoodLife trainer Amanda Voisin, she emphasized that “you have to remember that everyone is worried about themselves, their own workouts and not you and what you’re doing.”

If you want to make the gym part of your daily routine, it is important to overcome the nerves and anxiety you feel at the start and learn to amp up your self-confidence.

Wilson and Voisin believe one of the best ways to dull down the nerves is to grab a buddy. Doing so allows you to explore this new and foreign land together as well as stay motivated to continue going to the gym long-term.

Another tip Wilson has is to “explore your options.” Going to the gym doesn’t have to mean running on the treadmill full speed ahead for an hour or even lifting weights like you are training for the Olympics.

“Try out some group fitness classes, yoga, weight lifting, swimming, Zumba or intramurals,” said Wilson.

“A great way to become more comfortable and to find out what you like is to take a tour of the facility.”

If you still can’t shake the anxious feelings Voisin recommends you do your research.

“The more you know, the more confident you will become … you’ll end up seeing familiar faces making it a lot easier to overcome your anxiety.”

The anxiety you might be experiencing is totally normal, so let me be clear; it is more than okay to feel sweaty, anxious, nervous and self-conscious before you even start working out. I bet if you looked to your left and right at least one of those people has experienced the same feelings.

If you are on the other end of this situation and are a total fitness junkie who lives and breathes the gym, try offering a friendly smile to a newcomer.  Give them a compliment or strike up a conversation. Doing so just might convert a nervous newbie into a gym lover.

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