So despite my love for exercise, I used to have the worst gym anxiety. Like for real. Rewind to my crazy running days, I would always choose the pavement over the treadmill. Even in the dead of winter, even in the blazing heat of summer. And running was something I was good at.
Fast forward to my weight-lifting debut. For about six months, I trained three days a week, at 5:20 a.m. behind a wall on the far side of the gym. Kind of pathetic, right? Seems so awkward to me now- sorry Danny for making you stand there with me, but thanks. In training at that time and place, I hoped to elude…everyone. Though I may have looked the part (sort of…thin, but not lean), I felt so out of place.
Slowly, we migrated out from behind the wall into the scary place that was the gym. My fear was so real. Until now, my only exposure to weights was in my exercise science classes in undergrad, and even that was limited. That said, the equipment was totally foreign to me and consumed me like a jungle gym would a small child.
I wish I could say that my seemingly high energy state at that hour was a function of having been well-rested; rather, my extreme anxiety (coupled with my pre-workout coffee :)) drove me to be on alert, always. On alert for what, you might ask? Good question. An extremely self-conscious individual, I cared way too much about what other people thought (and in keeping things honest on here, still do to a certain extent #workinprogress). You know what though? Doesn’t matter.
I have the unique perspective of being on the other side of things now, as a trainer, and am here to tell you that EVERYONE is having these thoughts. Young, old, male, female, fit, unfit; you are NOT alone. And even if you feel like everyone is looking at you, new flash: they’re not.
Following is a breakdown of your gym demographic and the primary focus of each (I realize there are exceptions):
– The Meathead: himself
– The Soccer Mom, Female Collegiate: calories burned (likely on the elliptical)
– The Senior: crosswords and coffee at the front; I hate to generalize but for most of them, social activity > physical activity
– The High School guy: pretending to know that he knows everything and his [maybe] bulging muscles
– The High School girl: how do I look (FYI: It’s a gym!! Sweat first. Look pretty later.); after-school gossip sesh with girlfriends
– You: everyone but you
I’ve gotten a whole lot better, but definitely still working on it. Not long ago, weights sans trainer never would have happened. For a while, my only form of weight training came in the form of group exercise. It’d become a fun something for me to do, but no longer gave me the challenge it once did. Because I didn’t want to lose what I’d worked so hard to gain, I finally mustered up the confidence to grab some heavy dumbbells from the floor and marched myself into the comfort zone that is Women’s Wellness (WW). [Note: Dragging weights, benches, etc. across the entirety of the gym is arguably more awkward than just using them, in place. Not to mention the stares you get when you walk into WW with dumbbells > 10 lbs. Or actually use the bench lol.] Though I haven’t ventured out onto the floor with weights, yet, I will. In however many baby steps it takes to get there, I will get to the point where I can walk up to the squat rack like I own it (ha if you know me at all, you know that legs are by far my favorite thing to train).
You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again, but sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and deal. It might likely will not be comfortable, but that’s exactly why you need to get over yourself and just do it. I have learned it to be much less painful a process to confront a fear head on than to contemplate then contemplate some more. In my experience, when I give myself too much time to think, I over think. In some instances, there may be something to be said for that whole “act first, think later” mentality that I give my guy friends such a hard time for. Let me know what you think!