I am currently a senior at GCU finishing my degree in exercise science and I have a confession to make...I struggle with gym anxiety and intimidation… Yes, even as someone whos college degree is specifically focused on exercise and the use of gym equipment, I, like many others, suffer from this.
We all know that exercise is beyond beneficial towards our overall health and well-being, but it can be quite a process when it comes to utilizing the gym and pushing yourself to try new things that test and strengthen your physical abilities.
It's not necessarily the part of walking into the gym that's difficult. It's the moment when you noticed all the complicated-looking equipment when you see that guy or girl who is bench pressing or squatting weight that you have only seen lifted in the Olympics.
It's when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and look to the bodybuilder next to you. It's in the moment where you feel like every eye is staring at you and judging you but really they're not... The one judging you is yourself.
It only takes a few brief seconds of looking around at others for the thoughts of self-sabotage and disbelief to set in and become overwhelming. The comparison begins to chew away at even the smallest bit of confidence you took so long to develop. The lack of belief in oneself is the number one reason why we suffer from gym anxiety and intimidation.
When we listen to the discouraging thoughts we end up feeding them and they just become more prevalent in our minds than before.
We internalize them to the point where we actually believe those lies we tell ourselves.
We allow the lack in confidence to shorten our workouts, lessen the weight lifted that we know we can lift, and those exercises and equipment you wanted to try end up not getting used because of the thought that someone will be judging or the fear of disappointing yourself in your performance.
So, how can we stop fear from taking advantage of not only our physical health but mental health as well?
How do we stop allowing fear and intimidation to take control of something that is so healthy for us?
How can we stop beating ourselves up for taking strides in the right direction?
It's time that we kick fear to the side and start building strength physically, but also build strength in our confidence.
When we take a step back, outside of those gym doors, it’s easier to prepare yourself to kick butt in your workouts with the help of the most essential pre-workout, confidence.
Confidence in yourself begins when you stop worrying about what others think and start seeing what you’re capable of. The thing is you only realize what you’re capable of when you test your abilities and give things that may feel intimidating a shot. Only then will you realize ‘wow, I can accomplish so much more than I ever imagined’.
“Turn intimidation into inspiration”
Some significant things to remember and work towards in the process of conquering gym anxiety is accepting a reality we all face...Failure.
Everyone messes up, we're human and that is how it goes. It's not fair to yourself to put so much pressure on being perfect when the reality is, you will never be and that’s okay!
You will fail but it's the matter of letting that failure take you down completely or using it to propel you towards your goals and success. You won’t always hit your 1RM, you might fall short on the number of reps you accomplish during a session, and you might not lift your goal weight on your first attempt, but it’s how you let these moments impact you.
You can let it end there, in the moment of defeat, OR you can push through and try again because you will eventually accomplish it. You will get better and better if you allow yourself to stand up taller and stronger each time.
Another important thing to remember, especially when going to the gym, is the fact that everyone is there for the same reason: to get healthier and improve themselves.
People don’t go to the gym to look at you. I can guarantee almost anyone who has walked into a gym has had the thought that everyone is staring and judging them, at one point or another.
The reality is; when you have these thoughts you remember how uncomfortable it can make you feel and how much it tries to pull you away from your goals.
Why would someone want to make others feel that way if they too can relate to the intimidation it can cause?
So, when you walk into that gym keep your gaze set, not on the weight someone’s lifting, not on their ‘perfect body’, not on their outfit; but set that gaze on the goal of the day. One small goal a day is what will lead up to the accomplishment of the large goal you’re striving towards.
When it comes down to it, fear of equipment is what causes a large sum of gym intimidation and this is something that horrified me for the longest time and is still something I struggle with at times. We don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s in our nature to want to look like we have it all together and know everything, but we don’t. It is okay to ask for help. Whether you look it up on YouTube or talk to an employee, there is no shame in asking questions especially when it comes to exercises and equipment.
Not only will you gain a new skill that you will be able to apply to future workouts, yet it will also boost your confidence in knowing that you can finally take on that exercise or piece of equipment that was taunting you for so long.
Now take those steps forward, back through those gym doors, entering differently than you ever have before because you’ll be walking in with something you entered without for far too long: your confidence.
It's only when you push yourself that you will be able to really see all that you're capable of…And let me tell you, YOU ARE capable of more than you could ever imagine.
“What seems impossible today, will one day become your warm-up”