How to Overcome Gym Anxiety
We've all been there before. Ready to finally start your workout, only to see people lifting twice - no three times - the weight you are about to lift. Suddenly you start to feel self-conscious, small, and unsure if you even belong at the gym.
That's gym anxiety, and I'm here to tell you everyone has had it at one point.
Gym anxiety is a common problem for new or returning lifters and is often a big reason why newer lifters are scared to join their local gym. The gym can be an intimidating place, and people can get gym anxiety for a number of reasons. From our research, we've narrowed it down to the 4 biggest reasons why people get gym anxiety.
4 Biggest Reasons for Gym Anxiety:
You feel judged
You feel like you don't belong
You compare yourself to others
1. You Feel Judged
Everyone feels like they're being watched at the gym, both new and old lifters alike. Everyone's self-conscious about the weight they lift, if their form is good or not, how they look, etc.
But in reality, no one's paying all that much attention to you. Maybe you'll see some glances here and there or some people looking in your direction, but that's it. No one's thinking anything bad towards you, simply because they don't care. People at the gym are too busy focusing on themselves and their own workouts to care about others at the gym. It's important to understand that no one is going to shame you for being at a gym. In fact, most people are happy that another individual wants to improve their physical fitness. If you ask anyone at the gym how to do a certain exercise, almost all of them would say that they would be happy to help.
2. You're Overwhelmed
Weightlifting can be overwhelming both in and out of the gym. The gym itself can be an intense place for newcomers. The sound of weights clacking, loud grunting, and treadmills running can be quite the intimidating scene. There will be many equipment and exercises that seem foreign to you. You might feel uncertain because you don't know what to do, how to interact with other people, where to find the equipment you need, or even how to use the equipment properly.
Outside of the gym, you might feel anxious researching what type of exercises to do. Sets? Reps? AMRAP? BMI? HIIT? There are hundreds of different terms and lingo out there that it's easy to be confused about what they all mean.
Getting overwhelmed is only natural, so the best thing you can do is to ease yourself into it. You don't have to learn everything all at once. Start with the basic things you do know that interest you. Maybe you've heard of the bench press or the squat. Watch a quick video on how to perform the exercise on YouTube then follow their steps with no weight on the barbell. If you're unconfident that you can perform the exercise with the barbell, look for similar exercises that use lighter or no equipment. Exercises like the bench press can be substituted with dumbbells instead of a barbell for example. Alternatively, you can ask a friend or someone at the gym to show you how it's done! Again, most people would be happy to show the ropes to a new lifter. In fact, most people would take it as a compliment.
3. You Feel Like You Don't Belong
Many people who go to the gym for the first time might feel that they don't belong there. They think they might stick out like a sore thumb or that they don't feel athletic enough to be at the gym.
It's easy for new gym-goers to feel this way because everything seems so unfamiliar. From the environment, to the people, to the equipment, everything can seem so daunting.
So how do you feel like you belong at the gym? Well, the easiest way is to keep going to the gym.
But instead of going to the gym, clueless about what you want to do, come prepared beforehand. Do some research on workout routines and find one that looks the most appealing to you. If your goal is to get stronger and build muscle, we recommend starting with a beginner 3-day program like "StrongLifts 5x5". These types of workout plans require you to workout 3 times a week and focus on essential barbell movements that many other workout plans will also include.
Once you've found a program that you would want to do, write down the exercises on your notes app or on a spreadsheet. Research how to do the exercises beforehand and go to the gym and do all the exercises that your program requires you to do. If one station is full, do a different exercise until it's free.
Over time, the more you go to the gym, the more you'll start to feel more comfortable at the gym. After all, once you start going a lot, you'll feel like you've become a regular member of the gym instead of a newcomer.
4. You Compare Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to others is something that almost everyone struggles with, both in and out of the gym. It can feel demoralizing to struggle with a certain weight only to see another person lift it with ease. But we have to remember, our biggest competition is ourselves.
No one starts the gym by lifting twice their body weightnot. It's a slow, arduous journey that takes time and dedication. Most of the gym-goers you see have been at it for years. There will always be someone who is bigger, stronger, faster, etc.
I'm not saying to never compare yourself to others, but it shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of how you determine yourself. Instead, you should compare yourself to yourself, always striving to outdo how you performed before. Remember, fitness is a journey. Track your progress and see how much you improve over time. Set goals for yourself, but learn to love the steps along the way. The more you focus on yourself, the more you focus less on others.