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2.5.2024 09:51

How to battle gym anxiety, psychologist reveals

Research has shown that over half (58%) of brits feel self-conscious in the gym, but with those exercising regularly having better mental and physical health, how can you overcome gym anxiety and make the most of your gym experience?

With this in mind, Live Football Tickets have partnered with BACP registered counsellor Georgina Sturmer, to provide top tips for overcoming gym anxiety, as well as the psychology behind this.

Four tips for overcoming gym anxiety:

  1. Start small & easy

Setting yourself small and achievable goals when going to the gym can help improve your confidence. Beginning with a small 15-20 minute cardio workout for instance may be simpler, and less daunting for your first few gym visits. Once you are more comfortable, you can then build up to longer durations, or a more varied workout regime. 

  1. Plan ahead and scout in advance

Planning which workouts you will do, which machines you plan to use, and in which order, can help avoid any uncertainty throughout your workout. You could also visit your gym before you begin using it for your workouts, to familiarise yourself with the equipment, the layout, and any other extra services it may offer. Staff are always happy to help so if you are unsure of any of the facilities, asking questions can help ease your mind. 

  1. Consider group classes, personal trainers, or having a gym buddy

Partnering up with a friend and doing workouts together can act as a source of comfort or reassurance, and could build you up to solo visits once you’ve become more comfortable.

Alternatively, a personal trainer can be helpful if you are unsure on the exercises needed to achieve your fitness goals, and can also show you how to correctly use any equipment you may need. Try a couple of sessions to familiarise yourself with the workouts and equipment, then once you feel more at ease, you can implement their techniques into your own solo workouts.

Going to any group fitness classes can also be a great idea for those who are unsure on how to exercise. Attendees can follow and replicate the instructor’s exercises, and potentially make new friends within the group. 

  1. Use mindfulness techniques and be consistent

For more persistent gym anxiety, it can be helpful to go in with some mindfulness techniques or breathing exercises that you can utilise if necessary.

For example, the 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding that breath for 7 seconds, and then exhaling for 8 seconds. This helps focus the mind and body on breathing, calming your nerves and helping to decrease anxiety symptoms.

Alternatively, the 333 rule is a valuable mindfulness technique for when your anxiety occurs. The aim is to identify 3 objects, 3 sounds, and then move 3 body parts, which helps ground you and reduce intrusive anxious thoughts, helping to manage your anxiety.

If your anxiety is manageable through using techniques such as these, being consistent and persisting in your gym journey can be very rewarding. Not only can your confidence grow, but you can begin to reap the mental and physical benefits that exercise brings. 

BACP registered counsellor Georgina Sturmer provides expert psychological advice around gym anxiety, as well as tips for overcoming this:

“With gym anxiety, there’s a sense that when we go to the gym - or even think about going to the gym - we risk being overwhelmed by our fears or worries. This can manifest in all sorts of ways.  We might feel frightened or overwhelmed. We might find ourselves making excuses or creating ways to avoid the gym. And we might also notice physical sensations when our anxiety becomes triggered.

“Understanding our anxiety: When we experience a sense of anxiety, we are not always able to tune into what’s going on. But if we reflect deeper, we can understand that there are a whole host of reasons why we might fear or worry about going to the gym. Maybe we are worried that we will embarrass ourselves, that we won’t know what to do. Perhaps there’s an element of social anxiety about interacting with other people. Once we really start to understand what’s underneath our anxiety it can help us to tackle it.

“Noticing patterns: We might notice that the idea of going to the gym makes us feel anxious. But it’s worth keeping track, or perhaps making notes in a diary, to see what else is going on. When the anxiety overwhelms us, thinking about what has just happened. The thoughts that are going through our mind, any self-criticism or catastrophizing. When we notice and track these patterns, it helps us to have a more rational approach to our anxiety. These actions might also help us to understand ourselves better. If we struggle with our self esteem then this might leave us feeling as if we don’t deserve to spend time or energy on our own wellbeing.  

“Figuring out what might keep you calm: Be your own best friend. If you know that the idea of the gym leaves you feeling anxious, think about what you can put in place to help you along your way. This could involve some calm breathing or integrating some grounding or mindfulness practices.

“Celebrate success: Consider setting some achievable goals, and congratulate yourself when you meet them. The key is for these goals to be simple and achievable milestones.  This might feel hard if we are prone to perfectionism, or self-criticism, but it’s useful to practise feeling proud of ourselves.”

Methodology:

  1. Live Football Tickets wanted to provide some expert tips to help people overcome gym anxiety.
  2. To do this, they scoured multiple reputable websites such as verywellmind.com, and planetfitness.com.
  3. Live Football Tickets then partnered with BACP registered counsellor Georgina Sturmer, who provides expert commentary on the psychology behind this, and expert tips to overcome the anxiety. 
  4. Research was collected April 2024, and is accurate as of then.

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