Of my many excuses to avoid fronting the gym for a workout, anxiety is my main deterrent. When I walk into the gym, everyone stops mid-workout to cast their judging eyes over my unfortunate Dad Bod and ill-fitting workout attire. At least that’s what my mind convinces me is happening.
It is a problem that a lot of blokes face. This could be due to a multitude of reasons including low self-esteem, the fear of being judged, or fear of failure. Not to mention the ever-present expectation on blokes to exhibit masculinity and confidence which seems to be amplified in a gym environment.
I have pondered ways to overcome anxious feelings in my preparations for starting a consistent gym routine and have come to the realisation that although the stigma remains, it should not prevent gym sessions. After all, everyone working out in the gym had to start from scratch at some point. In fact, I would wager most of the people in the gym are either feeling self-conscious or have felt anxious at some stage in their gym experience.
With this in mind, I have put together a list of techniques that I’ll be using to help manage my gym anxiety for the sake of improving my physical health and mindset.
Develop a Program
Wandering around aimlessly in the gym is counterproductive when attempting to quench anxiety. Instead, I’m going in with a clear and simple program so I know exactly what I’m doing and don’t feel like a fish out of water. As advised by my gym-attending brother-in-law (who is built like a brick shit house), it is best for beginners to start with compound exercises which will work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and provide the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of results.
Timing is Everything
Google provides a nice little bar graph when you search for venues which allows you to see when it busy and quiet times. I am opting to go to the gym at a time that isn’t as busy (early in the morning) at least for a few weeks until I can build up some confidence.
Make it a Habit
Making gym workouts a regular part of my daily routine will not only be hugely beneficial for my health, but it will also help me become more comfortable in the gym environment. According to Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, the habit loop involves a cue, routine and a reward. For me, the cue will be waking up, the routine will be going to the gym and completing a workout and the reward will simply be to document my progress (spreadsheet nerd alert).
Another key takeaway from the book for me was the importance of self-belief when developing a new habit. That is where the next section comes in.
I will personally be drawing support from my wife. I don’t just mean encouragement and positive affirmation (although that would be nice) but working with her to share essential responsibilities and making sure I have time for the gym whilst ensuring she has time to work towards achieving her ambitions.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.Arnold Schwarzenegger
Another important aspect of extinguishing anxiety is adhering to general gym etiquette. This includes sharing equipment, using a towel and cleaning sweat off machines and placing weights back on racks. It’s simple stuff but may help to avoid uncomfortable interactions.
Finally, keep in mind you are doing this for yourself. You pay your membership and have all of the same rights as anyone else using the gym.
The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. New York : Random House, 2012. Print. Duhigg, Charles.