Handling Anxiety in the Gym

Joining a gym can be a really overwhelming experience, especially if it’s your first time in one. Unfortunately, 1 in 6 of us will experience a common mental health issue like anxiety in any given week. There are things you can do to minimise the effects of anxiety on your day to day life, so we’ve put together a little guide on how to manage it when coming to the gym.

Common sources of anxiety in the gym include:

  • Fear of being judged
  • Difficulty being in crowded spaces (especially following COVID-19)
  • Lack of confidence/issues with body image
  • Fear of asking for help Intimidation

All of these issues are valid and can be really distressing. The important thing to remember is that we, the staff at your local gym, and the other members, are all on hand to support you with whatever you need. Everyone has to start somewhere, and most of us have experienced the same feelings of worry that you’re having.

So, how can we tackle the effects of anxiety in a gym setting?

Firstly, remember that everyone is there to work on themselves. No one is looking at you, so there’s no need to feel watched! It’s normal to compare yourself to others but as you progress, you’ll find that you actually enjoy what you’re doing and don’t feel the need to reach someone else’s milestones. However, if you are ever made to feel uncomfortable, it’s important that you speak to a member of staff. Gyms should be inclusive, safe spaces for everyone to work on themselves without fear of intimidation or harassment.

Secondly, we are all aware of the challenges that come from being in a crowded space, particularly after the last 18 months. Going back to ‘normal’ can be a challenge and can cause serious anxiety about health and safety. Most gyms will now operate a booking system so that you can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that your class will be limited to a certain number of members, and the gym floor will never become too crowded. However, if you find that you are still experiencing anxiety in busy spaces, it could be a good idea to schedule your workouts for off-peak slots, e.g. early mornings or later in the evenings.

It’s a good idea to book in with a PT or book a tour of the gym before you start to get a feel for the space and gain a basic understanding of how everything works. That way, you won’t be starting from scratch, and it’ll help you to feel less like a newbie when you start using the gym.

Buddy up! If you're nervous about working out alone, bring a friend or family member who also wants to get fit with you so you can encourage each other and hold yourselves accountable. Plus, it’s fun! The gym shouldn’t be a place you dread entering, so make it enjoyable by doing it together.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so take it slow! Even a couple of half hour sessions a week is a great place to start. As you progress, you’ll find you can do more for longer periods of time, but work your way up gently. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself!

A great way to beat the gym-xiety is by booking yourself onto a class! Most gyms will have a number of classes included in the membership price, and they’re a great way to try something new and meet like minded people! For many people, the social aspect of joining a gym is the most important part. It can really help you to banish those feelings of intimidation and turn your gym sessions into an occasion you look forward to.

So, there you go! A little guide to dispelling anxiety in the gym. Remember, starting anything new can be daunting, and it takes a little time to get used to a new routine. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t be afraid to just give it a go!