By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
No one likes being the “new” person.
I advise the school paper at St. Ambrose. And I often encourage students to work on the school paper as a way to get experience and meet other students.
But I find they are often afraid to come to that first meeting. They don’t want to be the newbie. But when they do finally come, they find they are not alone. Some of the other students just started on the paper the week before.
That’s the way it is with a gym in January. You make plans all fall, pointing to January 1st. This is going to be the year you join a gym and get in shape.
But then the anxiety hits: You are worried about what to do at the gym. Everyone will look better than you. You’ll be judged. You won’t belong.
Gym anxiety is a real thing.
Fear not! There are ways to manage your anxiety so you can achieve your goals. Here are 4 ways:
1. According to the website, Routine Excellence, the first cause of gym anxiety is feeling uncertain. If you don’t have a history of going to the gym, you are uncertain: uncertain what to do,uncertain how to use the equipment and uncertain how to relate with the other people.
By doing a bit of research beforehand, you can knock back a bit of the anxiety.
Talk to friends who go to a gym and ask them about their experiences. Trust me. They’ll be more than happy to reassure you.
(Gym rats like to talk about their workouts. Most of us are unofficial experts in the field.)
If you can’t find a friend with gym knowledge, do a web search. There are videos that can give you an idea of what to expect before you walk in the door. YouTube can show you how to use any piece of equipment.
2. Another reason for gym anxiety is comparing yourself to others. Don’t.
Usually, no good can come of it (unless they provide inspiration or motivation). Cookie cutter ab-fabs are all smoke and mirrors. People come in different sizes, shapes, ages and chemical makeups.
Focus on yourself and your routine.
3. Many fear being judged. This is common to newcomers, but most people who go to the gym on a regular basis are too focused on their own workouts to think about anyone else.
Judging people has no health benefit and the people at the gym are there for their health.
4. Feeling that you don’t belong can also nag at you. After all, it looks like everyone else has been going to the gym forever. It looks like a high school clique!
That may SEEM true. But it’s not. Remember, some of them may have joined just the day before you. They might feel uncomfortable, too!
Bottom line: Don’t quit. In a week or two, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable. And you’ll be the experienced gym rat. But only if you keep going.
When I first came to the Quad Cities, I joined a gym that had state of the art machines that I knew nothing about. For the first few sessions, an employee led me through a workout on each machine so that I would use it properly.
Yes, I felt like a newcomer. Yes, I felt people were watching me and maybe I didn’t belong. And there was no way I was going to have biceps like that guy doing curls on the other side of the gym.
But that was in MY head.
A week or two later, I was on my own and noticed some new members were getting schooled on the machines. I realized that my initial fears had been unfounded, because I wasn’t judging them. I was happy for them. Happy that they made the choice to get fit.
Gym anxiety is real. We all face it at one time or another. It can be beaten … one trip to the gym at a time.
Meet Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell. Alan is a communications professor at St. Ambrose University and a former reporter for WQAD-TV who has exercised – and dieted – his entire life. Read Alan’s other blog posts.