Author: Lexi Nimmo
Many of us have experienced the frustrating anxiety surrounding the gym. I personally have struggled with gym anxiety for years, and would sometime drive all the way to the gym just to sit in the parking lot to hyperventilate for 30 minutes and then turn around and drive home. Sure, I got my heart rate up, but it’s not exactly the kind of cardio I was going for! Honestly it makes a lot of sense! The gym is often loud, bright, and busy which is enough to make anyone pretty anxious. If you are plus sized, you might have the added fear of criticism. The way our society treats plus sized folks, you can’t blame us for feeling self-conscious while exercising in public. The fact of the matter is, people usually aren’t paying attention to you! Most fellow gym goers are focused on their routine, their muscles in the mirror, or their favorite trashy reality tv show (who doesn’t love an episode of The Bachelor on the treadmill, amiright!?). Ultimately, whether people are looking at you or not, you are there for your own happiness and wellbeing and you deserve to sweat stress free! Over the years I have found a few ways to help me relax and enjoy my workout. Here are 5 tips to help you overcome gym anxiety!
- Take a tour! If this gym is new to you or if you’ve been too nervous to explore before, go in for a tour so you know where everything is! This way you can enter the building with confidence because you know exactly where you’re going. I suggest calling ahead to be sure an employee will be available to show you around when you arrive.
- Make a plan! Having a game plan not only helps you feel prepared but also committed to following through and you’ll be less likely to psych yourself out. Check online for the class/pool/track schedules or make a DIY plan with your own workout (i.e. I’m headed straight for the bikes, then weights, and finishing with stretches).
- Bring a friend! Invite a friend, family member or co-worker to join you. There’s safety in numbers and you might feel more secure with a gym buddy! If you are having a hard time finding someone to accompany you, you may have some luck on a Facebook group! Here in Nashville we have a Facebook group called Nashville Girls Group where women share advice and support and often do a variety of meetups! Many cities have groups like this, and they can be a helpful resource for finding a gym gal pal!
- Meditate! Before you leave the house, make some time for meditation. Meditating is a great way to decompress and center yourself. You can turn down the lights, play soft music, light candles, whatever relaxes you. Then close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths in for eight counts and out for eight counts. Let your mind go to a happy memory or imaginary place where you feel safe and soothed. Practice makes perfect, and the more you do it the more effective it’ll be. There are a lot of great apps for guided meditation. My personal favorite is Headspace!
- Talk to a therapist! This is the most important tip of all. No amount of meditation, moral support, or planning can replace actual therapy. I know that seeking professional help can be intimidating, but therapy can be life changing. No matter how much kale you eat or how many yoga classes you take, if you’re not taking care of your mental health you’re not going to feel well. If cost or location is an issue you can find affordable online counseling on websites such as Betterhelp.com. You can also try reaching out to local universities, as many graduate students see clients at discounted (and often sliding scale) rates.
Remember that your workout is just as important as anyone else’s and you have as much of a right to be there as anyone else. You are not alone! You got this!
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Photography: Michael Hoss
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