Sometimes, the hardest part of going to the gym is not lifting barbells for the first time but simply walking through the door. Many aspects of a gym class can be intimidating enough for average people, let alone for those with social anxiety. This condition is characterized by extreme fear in different social settings — in this case, at the gym. People suffering from a social anxiety disorder or SAD find it difficult to hang out with new people, worried about being judged or scrutinized by others.
According to a review article, overweight individuals are more likely to experience symptoms of SAD. The link between obesity and social anxiety stems from issues that overweight people often face. These include underlying health problems, increased stigma and lower self-esteem.
However, if you’re a plus-size individual who’s hesitant to start your fitness goals due to social anxiety, you’re not alone. At one point or another, you might feel intimidated by other fitness freaks who might be in better shape than you are. You fear that if you hit the gym, you’ll become a subject of ridicule. Or maybe you think everyone is staring at you, which makes changing in front of others feel like a nightmare.
While it’s normal to encounter social anxiety the first time you visit the gym, it shouldn’t stop you from getting the exercises you need. Luckily, there are ways to overcome social anxiety at the gym, which we’ve broken down into four categories such as doing prep work, boosting confidence, fine-tuning daily diet and choosing alternatives. It’s time to keep gym anxieties from getting in the way of your fitness journey.
Know Before You Go
The motto “Be Prepared” isn’t just for the boy scouts. You have to do some prep work if you want to step foot in the gym without anxiety. Some equipment can be intimidating for beginners who have no idea how to use them. The lack of knowledge, in addition to body-shaming, is another factor that contributes to gym anxiety. You feel like people will mock you for not knowing how to use a leg-press machine.
The know-before-you-go strategy can help lessen your dread of using unfamiliar equipment. There are various video tutorials on the internet that can help broaden your horizon, so you’ll know what to expect from a gym class. You may also tour the facility ahead of time to meet the trainers and check out various equipment up close. A sense of familiarity before you start may help you feel less anxious on your first day and move forward.
Boost Your Confidence
Negative thoughts affect your confidence, making you feel worse about yourself. You might think that everyone in the gym is already in shape. Definitely not. Many people go to the gym in hopes of improving their looks, as well as how they feel about their bodies.
To help build your confidence, you need to alter those negative thoughts with more realistic and helpful ones. For instance, if you think you’re too fat or too thin to exercise, think of how your confidence will grow when you keep trying and finally achieve your desired shape. And, if you feel like everyone is judging your figure, realise that these people came here to concentrate on themselves and their own workout anyway.
Another tip to help boost your confidence at the gym is to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that make it easier to move and prevent potential injuries during workouts. Also, consider taking all-natural supplements like CBD in the form of CBD gummies UK, easy-to-swallow capsules, topical creams or post-workout protein bars. This compound is thought to aid in addressing anxiety, improving focus and relieving pain – all of which can help during your fitness journey. In addition, you may visit the gym with a friend or a family member with more experience so they can guide and support you throughout your first few sessions. Once you feel more at ease working out with a gym buddy, it will be easier to go out on your own.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
In addition to exercise, a well-balanced diet not only helps you lose extra weight but also lowers your risk of developing health issues related to obesity. Make sure your daily diet contains fruits, vegetables and other foods rich in fiber and protein. Limit or avoid processed foods, unhealthy fats and sweets altogether.
As it turns out, eating a healthy diet also helps enhance mental health. Serotonin is the happiness hormone responsible for regulating mood, sleep and appetite. This hormone is largely produced in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that the food you eat has a significant impact on your natural serotonin production, thereby affecting your mood.
Still struggling to find your place at the gym? No worries. There’s no need to rush. It’s best to start slowly and just be kind to yourself when something triggers your emotions. Luckily, you have plenty of options if you feel like you’re not yet ready to pursue gym classes with other people. Firstly, you can sign up for more secluded classes with a personal trainer to avoid huge crowds. However, if you think this whole gym thing just doesn’t suit you, there are other physical activities you can start working on, such as walking, running or swimming at home.
Perhaps, you might also find that having your own gym at home would be ideal if you’re determined to embark on a new fitness journey. Here are important factors to consider when building a low-cost gym at home:
A personal gym does not really have to be fancy. There is plenty of secondhand equipment for sale and available for auction sites, which are half the price of new. Plus, knowing your fitness and body shape goals can help you make smarter choices when purchasing the equipment.
For example, if you want to improve your endurance, a treadmill must be necessary. But if your focus is only on building muscles, then purchasing a treadmill may not make sense at all. Invest in the necessary equipment only, especially when you are using a small space where large machines might have no room for.
Some equipment can be installed or improvised on your own. Consider a pull-up bar or sandbags that are made from leftover construction materials, for example. You can also use alternatives such as weights, resistance bands, and an exercise ball, holding to the fact that workout machines can be very pricey.
Fill your workout space with an ideal atmosphere that will drive and inspire you to work hard. For starters, you can add some useful paraphernalia like a spare smart TV for workout and yoga tutorials, a sound system if you want some cool music to keep you moving, padded flooring for a comfortable workout, and a wall mirror to watch yourself.
You can skip out on workout machines but invest in a set of barbells and plates if possible. This equipment will be the center of your workout as you can use the set for multiple exercises that will improve your entire core. Kettlebells are another versatile type of exercise equipment worth spending on. Kettlebells can replicate several exercises that you do with dumbbells without really consuming much of your space.
Working out from home may be an ideal solution to gym anxiety. However, you’ll be surprised by just how much confidence you’ll have in all aspects of life if you try to face your fears slowly.