What makes going to the gym so anxiety-inducing? Navigating the sea of confusing equipment on a crowded gym floor filled with sweaty bodies can exacerbate the intimidation that one feels when heading to the gym. ‘Gymtimidation’ is a very real and debilitating feeling, especially for those who want to start their fitness journey but have failed time and time again to take that very first step.
Reasons for Gym Anxiety
Gymtimidation happens for several reasons, centering upon fear; of being judged by others, potential injuries, and failures. This causes us to put things off when there is a chance that it will not succeed. Just as the most common fear in the world is often cited as public speaking, the fear of heading to the gym parallels this. According to Dr Margee Kerr, the act of going to the gym is a social activity. Along with the upsides of socialising, working out at the gym also comes with its potential pitfalls:
Similar to starting a new job, a new school, or giving a presentation, working out in front of others can powerfully tap into our insecurities. In these moments we inspect ourselves for areas we feel unsure or uncertain of our own competencies.
Coupled with the fact that starting something new is not always the easiest as it catapults us right out of our comfort zone, picking up strength training can be downright nerve-wracking. In any case, we should not let this stop us from achieving our goals of self-improvement. Here are four suggestions that can help you overcome your gymtimidation and make that first move towards a stronger and fitter you.
Tip #1: Set SMART goals
This seems like a no-brainer, which causes many to overlook their importance. By writing our goals down, we are able to break the complexity of the challenge down into smaller, bite-sized tasks. This motivates us and keeps us on track. Write down what you want to achieve within the week and also in the long run to gain an overview of your journey. Are you seeking to improve in strength or gain physique changes? Write down the types of exercises you currently know and those you want to master. Writing all your goals down makes exercising realistic and doable, giving you the satisfaction of crossing one item off your to-do list as you move along. Now, get to work by setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals!
Tip #2: Start with simple home exercises
Who says you need a gym to get active? Instead of jumping right into the deep end, begin by working up your strength and confidence before heading to the gym. Start with one realistic workout that you can do immediately - your simple home routine can consist of just one or two exercises. It could be a few push-ups done on the wall or a few squats before you get comfortably seated for that 2-hour long online meeting. Find heavy ‘weights’ from home - be it that 1.5 litre bottle of water or a backpack stuffed with your favourite tomes, you can begin progressing your exercise movements easily. Exercise does not have to be confined to the formal setting of a gym; options are limitless if you just get creative!
Tip #3: Visit during non-peak hours
If you are still keen on exploring the gym, facing an entire spectrum of heavy, complicated equipment while jostling for that one last set of available dumbbells can be highly discouraging. To ease into your workout routine, pick an optimal time when the crowds are thinner (not literally) and you will have the freedom to try out various equipment. Though most of the time what we perceive as judging stares are likely just flights of our imagination, it is easier to try to avoid the crowd by going at less crowded times. Best timings to visit are mid-mornings or afternoons and late in the night, when people are hard at work or fast asleep!
Tip #4: Find a workout buddy
The hardest part about starting on your fitness journey is feeling like you are doing it all alone. Grab a workout buddy and enjoy the process by crafting a routine with exercises that both of you enjoy. This ensures that you have fun in the process while you keep each other accountable. You could find someone who is a complete beginner just as yourself, so that you could both learn together. Alternatively, find someone who is familiar with the use of exercise machines so that you will have someone experienced to guide you. One of the best solutions is to hire a coach, as not only are they well-versed in navigating fitness equipment to ensure efficient and safe workouts, they are also trained to tailor workout programs catered to your needs. No more fumbling about and seeing little to no improvement without a clearly structured workout program. Think of it as investing in learning a new skill, much like learning a brand new language. Mastering strength training will hold long term benefits for your health and wellbeing!
Starting your fitness journey can be difficult, but with these tips, you will be able to get started. The first step is the hardest, and remember; everybody’s journey is different. There is no need for comparisons. Set your goals realistically and work towards them at a comfortable pace. Change it up every so often to not feel bored and to see progress in your strength. Lastly, always give yourself time to recover, for self-care is an essential part of fitness. Now that you’re armed with these suggestions, go out there and work it!