Research shows that exercise can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. The irony is that for many people, the idea of heading to a gym or trying that new workout can actually cause anxiety. Exercise is crucial for physical and mental health. If you know (or even just suspect) that you have some fitness anxiety, take the time to address it and overcome this obstacle to your wellness.
What is Fitness Anxiety?
Beginners and experts alike can experience fitness anxiety. In general, anxiety can come from anticipating future problems. When thinking about your exercise routine becomes more work than actually completing the routine, you may be struggling with anxiety. People with fitness anxiety may find that embarrassment, intimidation, or worry get in the way of having the physical lifestyle they desire.
Are you struggling to get to the gym? Do you feel yourself constantly making excuses to avoid exercise? Rather than assuming you’re unmotivated or lazy, it may be fitness anxiety. Here are several symptoms to keep track of. If you notice these signs pop up consistently, fitness anxiety may be one of your obstacles to overcome.
- Physical discomfort before working out (stomachaches, headaches)
- Avoiding new or more challenging exercises
- Skipping appealing workouts when the gym is crowded
- Consistently blaming others or circumstances for missing exercise
- Putting exercise on your calendar and skipping at the last minute
- Negative self-talk before, during, or after a workout
- Feeling judged during workouts
Fitness anxiety can come from many sources. If you want to overcome these roadblocks, it’s crucial to identify the cause. Notice how you feel in these scenarios and which ones trigger your anxiety.
- Going to a new gym or class location
- Using unfamiliar equipment
- Working out in a crowded environment
- Adjusting to different abilities
- Feeling rushed or unable to complete a workout
- Not having equipment or clothing that you need
- Past criticism surrounding exercise (from yourself or others)
Ways to Cope
Simple ways exist to cope with the symptoms, no matter what’s causing your fitness anxiety. Many of these strategies involve changing your circumstances or finding ways to take control.
Hire a Personal Trainer
Spending money on a personal trainer might feel extravagant, but it’s worth the short-term investment. A trainer can guide you in an unfamiliar gym and teach you how to use the equipment. The trainer can also help you adjust to your current skill level and physical ability.
Stick to a Routine
Many forms of anxiety come from worrying about the unknown. Routines can help put the control back in your hands and minimize the number of surprises. Even though routine can feel monotonous, it can help ease anxiety while you build more confidence. Plan specific dates and times to work out. Choose a location and get clothes and equipment ready ahead of time.
Go With a Friend
Having a friend’s emotional and physical support can make all the difference. You’ll have someone on your team to help navigate new equipment or support you through the final reps. A friend can also help keep you accountable to your plan until it becomes a habit. If you don’t have a gym buddy, try attending group fitness classes for social support.
Verbalize Your Motivation
The emotional and psychological elements of fitness anxiety can make remembering the positive reasons for working out hard. Be purposeful in identifying and voicing your motivation. Write hype cards to put on your mirror. Add weekly fitness goals to your calendar. Plan milestone celebrations that highlight the progress you’re making. Ignoring your inner critic is easier when you have a different narrative ready to go. When you feel confident about yourself, you will also care less about others’ opinions.
It can feel overwhelming when anxiety gets in the way of your exercise routine. With some introspection and a change in approach, you can overcome this obstacle and continue on your fitness journey.