For some people, it’s not the burpees, ten mile runs or leg crunches that are the hardest part of working out – it’s walking into the gym, class or sports group they’ve signed up to.
We’ve all had that familiar feeling; you pump yourself up ready to go, then as you take the steps to the treadmill/boxing ring/race start your self-confidence drains and the feelings of insecurity start to take hold.
But don’t let that stop you from exercising! New places, people and experiences are scary. And there’s no reason to feel silly for experiencing a pang of dread or feeling that you don’t want to participate.
From personal experience I often see people who feel these concerns and worries in their first sessions. Myself and my colleagues work closely to support people and make them feel more confident (something which is replicated across the industry).
Here are my top tips on how to drop the gym anxiety and make exercise something you really want to do:
Drop your misconceptions
When I speak to community members about why they don’t want to come into the gym or join an activity class, the majority of them say, it’s because everyone there will be better, fitter, thinner, muscle-ier… than them. Many believe that they are not in the right shape for the gym, class or activity.
But this just isn’t true. People of all ages, abilities and body shapes exercise and they all exercise for different reasons.
Take a look around
Before you sign up to a class or gym you can always ask to have a look around. You’ll be able to get a feel for the clientele and check they have equipment and classes that suit all abilities and levels. You’ll also get a good feel for the layout and which areas you’ll feel more comfortable in.
When children start a new activity, it can be beneficial to take them to a session for a look before they actually start. Like adults they can feel apprehensive in unfamiliar surroundings – especially when their parents may not be there for the whole session.
Choose the right venue
It’s important to choose somewhere you feel safe, supported and comfortable, otherwise exercising will become a chore – and we all know how much we like doing chores!
It’s worth taking the time to explore different venues before you sign anything to find out what you prefer. Some people prefer a traditional gym, whereas others may want somewhere that offers lots of classes, or has courts and pitches for team games. Ask your friends, colleagues and family – is there anywhere that they enjoy going or have heard good things about?
As women are more likely than men to stop their exercises if they feel uncomfortable, you may wish to choose a venue that offer women only sessions or sections.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re not sure how to use a piece of equipment, hold a pose, or if you don’t know where you’re going, then speak to your instructor or a member of staff, they will always be more than willing to help you.
Buy in the confidence
If you’re struggling at the gym and it’s affecting your motivation, consider employing the services of a personal trainer. Set your goals with your trainer and explain your reason for employing them, they can work on what makes you feel the most unconfident and can be that voice of support when your anxiety kicks in. Most gyms have in-house trainers who can be booked for one off or multiple sessions, and many have full time staff ready to offer this advice at all times.
Working with a trainer brings the added benefits of developing a training plan that is personal to you – meaning you’ll achieve your personal goals quicker, whilst ensuring you’re doing your exercises in the proper way.
We’re always more confident when we have a friend to support us, and this is no different when we exercise, especially when we exercise somewhere new. Find a friend or family member who has the same fitness goals and you’ll find exercising is more sustainable (and more importantly, fun). If you start to feel unconfident or anxious, share you experience and laugh about it with your friend.
When children start a new activity it can be especially daunting if they don’t know anyone. Speak to the instructor before your child is due to start, they will be able to buddy them up with someone of the same age and ability. Or speak to other parents and see which classes they take their children to. Having a friendly face waiting for them will make their experience a lot more fun.
Focus. And don’t compare!
We all exercise for different reasons – fitness, ability, body image; for some people it’s nothing more than a social activity. Concentrate on yourself and remind yourself how great you’re doing. If you’re still focusing too much on others, exercise at less busy times, or plug in your headphones – you don’t have to listen to music, pick an audiobook to get lost in!
We all suffer from anxious feelings from time to time, but don’t let it get the better of you. Remember, just getting up off the sofa and moving is amazing, so be confident, keep an eye on your goals and remember to tell yourself just how great you are. The more you exercise, the more confident you’ll feel.