How to overcome exercise anxiety so you can work out with confidence
22 March 2019
WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand
Because when it comes to exercise, beginners fear is a very real thing.
Whether you’re surrounded by gym-junkie friends who seem to know what they’re doing or you just find the idea of heading to the gym very intimidating, there’s no denying that exercise can create a rising sense of apprehension, especially if you’re not a regular yourself.
Whether you’re returning to the world of exercise or starting for the first time, certain fears can get in the way of you reaching your full fitness potential.
In order for you to love and not loathe exercise, here are some common gym anxieties and some alternative solutions to coach you through it:
Ignore the gym peacocks
Don’t get us started on the people who perform a ‘move’ and then strut around the room hoping to catch people’s attention – aka the gym peacocks. When working out, the best thing you can do is focus your attention on yourself and your own progress… It also pays to remember they are far more interested in themselves than they are at looking at you, so keep doin’ those squats girl, you’ll be confident in no time!
Ask for advice
A common mistake that people make is entering a gym and using the equipment before understanding how to use it. Aside from making you feel tentative, it can also cause an injury that’ll knock your confidence and stunt your progression.
Personal trainers and gym instructors generally have great people skills so don’t be afraid to ask them questions even if it’s “how do I target my back fat?”. They can steer you in the right direction and help get you to where you need to be.
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Another myth is that their services are super expensive, but most gyms offer a free induction or personal training session to get you up and going.
There are a million ways to move
Being inside not your thing? No sweat. Exercise doesn’t just have to take place at the gym – there are so many ways you can get your body moving without running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
Ballet, Zumba, aerial yoga, running, walking, netball, boxing, climbing, swimming or stretching – these can either be done at home, in smaller classes, on your own or in a team environment. It’s all about finding something that you enjoy and feel comfortable doing and then rolling with it.
Rope in a buddy
Having a fitness buddy is a great way to reduce exercise anxiety because they share half the load with you and add a sense of familiarity to a sometimes scary experience.
When you’ve got your bestie by your side there will be guaranteed laughs, but also a bit of healthy competition in the mix – win!
Remember everybody started somewhere
Although it may not seem like it, a key to feeling more confident about exercising is remembering that everyone started somewhere – even the person performing the one-handed handstand push-up may have been sat on their sofa this time a year ago.
Comparison is the thief of joy, so try not to compare yourself to anyone and move at your own pace; you’ll thank yourself later.
Get a good playlist
Any time or any place a good playlist will distract you and mentally cheer you on – headphones are also a bit of a human shield if you don’t want that annoying person to chat to you in the gym, so put them in and blast those ’90s bangers.
Stop overthinking exercise
Don’t worry about the people around you, whether you’ll get thirsty or hungry or whether it will hurt.
In order to immerse yourself fully in your work out, you need to focus on what you’re doing (a form of mindfulness) and not what you’re thinking. Headphones in, time to get working.
Most gym fears are in your head
There is actually nothing that scary about a room with squidgy yoga mats, inflatable rubber balls, things you push or pull and people in overexposing-Lycra.
Changing your perception of where you work out is one of the keys to enjoying your session. Remember when you’re at the gym that just like you, most people are counting the minutes until they leave and can jump into bed for a Netflix binge.
A version of this article originally appeared on Grazia UK.