Fitness Friday! Gym Anxiety

It’s #fitnessfriday and this week is dedicated to everyone who has gym anxiety. You know who you are. I’m talking to those of you who want to go to the gym but you’re afraid of being judged, afraid you’ll embarrass yourself, and afraid you’ll hurt yourself.

I get it. It’s overwhelming when you walk in. If you’re short and fat like me you probably immediately notice all the tall buff body builders standing around, or the long and lithe yogi standing on their heads. It feels like all eyes are staring at you in judgment. You want to turn and run. Don’t.

First, know that 99% of the people in that gym are too busy to notice you. Rule of thumb, the more buff and built they are the less they notice you. Not because you are so lame you’re invisible, but because they are working too hard on themselves to notice anyone. Fun fact, the gym is the one place it’s acceptable to be 100% self-centered. Don’t worry about the remaining 1%, we’ll get to them later.

The main obstacle to overcome gym anxiety is knowing what to do. The machines aren’t difficult to figure out on your own, but if your form is bad then you are cheating yourself out of the benefits of the exercise and putting yourself at risk for injury. It’s worth the time and money to pay for a session with a personal trainer to learn a routine. But, if you can’t work with a trainer at least ask them to show you how to use the machines properly. There are thousands of articles on the internet that list free gym routines, and apps available on smart phones that act like a virtual personal trainer, but nothing replaces a set of human eyes ensuring your form is correct.

The other obstacle to overcoming gym anxiety is your head. Stop with the negative self talk! You belong at the gym. We all do. No one is laughing at you. No one is talking about you. People who go to the gym regularly are in their own mental zone listening to the music coming through their headphones or earbuds. They are focusing on their movement and counting their reps. If they are grimacing it’s not because of the sight of you it’s because they are pushing their body through its limits. Scared you’ll make a fool of yourself? I’ve fallen off an exercise ball, farted loudly in yoga class, and forgot to wear a bra so my boobs flopped around ridiculously which is cute when you’re in your 20s but scary when you’re in your forties. Despite these much too human moments I still go to my gym; why? I still go because I’ve seen others do the exact same thing, and I give them the same grace they give me. I pretend I didn’t notice and mind my own business. Of course, there is that 1% I mentioned earlier. Remember that playboy model who posted the picture of the woman changing in the locker room at an LA Fitness a few years ago? Well, in addition to invasion of privacy, she body shamed that poor woman fiercely and shame on her! The fact is the woman changing is a winner and that model is a loser. If you got yourself up and out of the house and into the gym to workout then you are a winner. You are a winner because you showed up. It doesn’t matter if this is the first time or 100th time you have started to exercise. You showed up. You are taking the right step to take control of your life and your health and 99% of the people in that gym are with you, supporting you, and will cheer you on. The big buff body builder grunting over that barbell would be honored if you asked her or him to show you how to lift correctly. That cross fitter hanging from the chin up bar will make time to show you how to do a burpee or a mountain climber or any of those exercises on you list. That yogi standing on her head will not mind if you ask her how you should stretch after your workout. What they all have in common is that like you, they are there to work on themselves, not to judge others.

So let go of your fear and get yourself to the gym! Below is a super easy workout you can do with a set of dumbbells. It’s a great way to get started until you build up enough confidence to ask for help.

Warmup – start on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical for 10 minutes to get your heart rate up.

Exercises – Do three sets 10 reps of each with a set of dumbbells. Dumbbells should be heavy enough to increase strength.

1. Goblet squats

2. Overhead dumbbell press

3. Bent over dumbbell rows

4. Front Raises

5. Woodchop

6. Plank – Hold for 30 seconds

Cool down- Take time to stretch out your muscles holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

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