Are you afraid of the gym, because being among all those superfit people intimidates you to no end? Here is why it’s ok and how you can handle this.
Some Fears Lurk
You know, when I was a teenager, I was super skinny and physical strength was as alien to me as, well, as talking to girls without profusely blushing.
In other words: I was socially very awkward and this didn’t exactly get better when I saw all those strong guys who apparently worked out and used that to intimidate the weak ones. Like me. Thinking of going to a gym where they were going and do the same stuff they were doing was simply impossible to comprehend. It felt like competing with these guys on their home turf, where they got a 5,000 m head start and all surely being out to ridicule me.
Fast forward to me being 35 and, at least on paper, all grown up. I wasn’t skinny anymore, I was fat. I knew I needed to lose weight. The first thing that came to my mind then was of course joining a gym, because that is where you are said to get rid of fat and get fit. I had gotten a grip on a lot of the anxieties the younger me had, but when thinking about visiting a gym I learned that at 35 you can feel the same fear you felt when you were 15.
The Fear Is Real
If you confess this fear to others, you might have some well-meaning people around you that say, “you don’t have to be afraid.” Which doesn’t exactly help, does it? It’s like telling a person afraid of heights it is perfectly safe and ok to go to the 100th floor and enjoy the view – the fear is there and the fear is a fact. And the stronger you push against the fear, the stronger it seems to become.
For anyone trying to improve their fitness and feeling this, it looks like a vicious circle: the reason for the low self-esteem is being overweight and / or lacking muscle, but the low self-esteem keeps you from going to the place where you supposedly are able to correct it.
What to do? After the self-confession-I-was-like-you part in articles about gym anxiety normally come these tidbits where you are told all the usual stuff about therapists, hiring personal trainers, using the gym at off-hours, using earphones and all the rest. If any of that works for you, cool! You have gotten a handle on this and I salute your for it. Because you are mentally stronger than I was!
I’m Still Afraid, You Fool!
But there are people thinking, fine, I know all that, and I’m still afraid! You know what? I knew all that and was still afraid, too! If the fear is this strong, it has to be handled from an entirely different angle.
I finally realized that I couldn’t do it, and if I can’t go to a gym, I will have to do fitness and losing weight at home if it is to work at all. As a result I spent endless hours investigating how I can strengthen my body and lose weight without stepping into the outside world. I made a lot of mistakes and the route I took to end up where I am today probably was not the most direct way. If I hadn’t been this afraid, I might have gotten better results in shorter time, who knows?
But it was my way and the one that worked for me. Getting stronger, having lost weight and possessing more knowledge about working out was what was needed to give me the self-confidence that enabled me to today go into a gym and not minding being looked at.
If all those well-meaning people, advice columns, therapists or whatever don’t help you overcome the fear, say it’s ok to be afraid and go and do it your way, too!
Picture courtesy of “UNE Photos“.