Everyone knows the feeling – you’re pumped to do a great workout, you have an awesome playlist, you’re excited to sweat – that is, until you walk into the gym and see hoards of people who look more fit and experienced than you, lifting seriously heavy weights and using equipment you’ve never touched before.
The feeling is daunting, and can ruin a workout for anyone. Being an introvert, gym anxiety has always followed me since I started venturing in the free weights. But for all of us who suffer from gym anxiety, luckily it doesn’t have to be permanent.
When I started college a little over a year ago, I was still glued to the elliptical and wouldn’t dream of touching any weights. After I tried a few Body Pump classes, however, I started to love the way lifting weights made me feel. One of my best friends started showing me bodybuilding exercises, and since then, I have always loved strength and conditioning workouts. The thing I didn’t love was the intense pressure I felt every single time I walked into my university’s gym.
It seemed there was always an underlying, unspoken competition – who can lift the heaviest, who looks the fittest, and who dominates the gym. I hated this stress I felt every time I wanted to workout – not only did I feel like I had to dress and look a certain way, I became nervous to try new equipment for the fear of looking silly or messing up. This ultimately led to a major dislike of my gym and led to my workouts becoming mundane and boring.
When I finally went home for summer break, I decided to do a workout in my local gym. Stepping into the gym at home was a completely different atmosphere. There were people of all ages and body types doing crazy workouts that I wouldn’t have dreamed of “embarrassing” myself with at school. I felt comfortable and welcome, not stressed. For the first time, my workout wasn’t focused on the environment around me, but on myself and what my body could do. That summer ended up leading me to better body image, better workouts, and almost no stress.
Going back to school in the fall, I made a decision that my workouts would no longer be focused on my environment, but instead solely on myself. And guess what? It turns out no one really cares what kind of workout your doing. By focusing only on myself at the gym, my workout became so much better and I began to feel much more comfortable in the school’s gym. As soon as I walked through the doors, my hat was on and my music was turned up until the second I left.
So for everyone that suffers from gym anxiety, the best advice I can give is to focus on nothing but yourself and your goals. Everyone is in the gym for their own reasons, and even though it may seem like people are hyper aware of you, I promise, no one is. Work out for you – not for the people who you’re around.
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