Gym anxiety

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I'm a university student and I have gym access with my tuition, but I'm in 3rd year and I still haven't used it because of anxiety. My gym at home is full of mostly old or disabled people, so I feel comfortable there. But a school gym will be full of young people my age, possibly very fit, glamorous, and attractive and competent in all things fitness.

I'm afraid I will do things wrong and be laughed at or simply be conspicuous because of my size and unfitness. Not knowing the facility is bad enough, but getting yelled at or told off for maybe doing something wrong is terrifying. And looking sloppy in front of everyone....

At home I don't care how I look at the gym but now I am very afraid. I want to use the facility, especially the pool. Are there ways to calm down or minimize possible embarrassment?

Replies

  • Jessyd76
    Jessyd76 Posts: 539 Member
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    I can't imagine a university gym being too much different from a commercial one - aside from the obvious median age.

    I've been to many a gym. When I was a clueless newbie just learning the ropes to a more seasoned lifter. I've never been laughed at or had anyone make a negative remark to me - ever. From my experience, most folks are there to work on themselves. They are usually too focused on what they are doing to notice what others are doing.

    I'd encourage you to try it out. If you feel more comfortable starting with something familiar - start off just on the treadmill so you can get the lay of the land.

    If you want to venture out to new pieces of equipment see if your university offers a class or a trainer. Granted this was 20 years ago, but mine offered both.

    Another option, do you have a friend who goes to the gym? Ask if they can show you around and help you put together a basic routine. I've done that for many a friend. I'm happy to introduce them to my happy place - I think others will be too!

    You can totally do this! We've all been there and had to learn at some point! :)
  • Miss_Mania
    Miss_Mania Posts: 163 Member
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    I used to suffer from terrible social anxiety. To the point where I never left my home for basically 8 years and that is no exaggeration. I didn't answer the phone and I ran and hid in the room whenever people showed up - even if they were family. So I definitely do understand how much anxiety can affect someone's life.

    My advice to you however is to the bite the bullet and do it. At the start of this year I weighed 372 lbs and despite all that was going on in my life I knew I needed to confront the gym head on and finally get my life sorted out. I had fears of breaking machines, doing something wrong, people giving me dirty looks and laughing at me. Literally none of that happened. Infact, I was one of the most supported people at the gym. People were encouraged and inspired by me.

    Exposure therapy is the only way to confront anxiety and gain control of your life. Yes it is unknown what you will come across and yes you will be surrounded by people who give Ken and Barbie a run for their money. But this isn't about any of them. No one cares about other people when they're at the gym, they are far too involved in themselves. Everyone is watching their own bicep or *kitten* in the mirror.

    Is there anyone you could convince to go with you? If not. My suggestion is to go into the gym, put your headphones on and drown the world and your own thinking out. Do this for you bro, you got this!!!
  • Jenne089
    Jenne089 Posts: 4 Member
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    Hi, I was the same way. I avoided gyms by working out at home with my home workouts. (It did work). But last spring I decided to go to my universities gym. Thankfully my friend went so I met her up and it was a good way to slowly introduce. To be honest no one has ever laughed or even said anything to me when I was starting out, or doing something wrong. My biggest advice is to go and just take things slow! If you aren't comfortable there, and you think that people will judge you for doing it wrong. I would just take it slow. Get on the machine and see the options and how it operates. Even observe people around you. As mentioned before, most people do pay attention to their gym needs.

    Make this about you, not them. Try not to care what you look like at the gym, because you aren't there to impress the gym members, you are there for yourself.

    Good luck!
  • 999tigger
    999tigger Posts: 5,235 Member
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    But a school gym will be full of young people my age, possibly very fit, glamorous, and attractive and competent in all things fitness.
    Or just people there for the same reason you are which is to do some exercise. They arent interested in you. Maybe go for an induction and you will see they are just normal people.
    I'm afraid I will do things wrong

    Go for an induction or have a plan of what you will do then you cna follow that. Good prep can give you confidence. You already saud you have used a gym before. You cna get advice on putting a plan together or get a PT to work one out for you.
    and be laughed at or simply be conspicuous because of my size and unfitness.

    Everyone is there for the same reason, people understand that and empathise with the effort you are making. Trying to get fitter is soemthing you all have in common, some people are just a bit further along the road.
    but getting yelled at or told off for maybe doing something wrong is terrifying. And looking sloppy in front of everyone....

    This isnt going to happen. If you know what to do before you go there, then that will help, but if not sure then ask. Take small steps though and ease yourself in.

    1. Nobody will be looking at you they are interested in themselves.
    2. You are there for the same reason.
    3. Go for a look around, so you realise its just a normal place.
    4. Go at a quiet time when there are fewer people to ease yourself in.
    5. Make a simple plan of what you might do and ease yourself in. Maybe start at 15 minutes and then keep adding things as you get more comfortable.
    6. If in doubt ask.
    7. Maybe go with a friend if needed or use PT (if you can afford it, but not essential) for a few sessions, who can devise a workout .
    8. Headphones and music are handy.
    9. Some gyms specifically run beginners classes which might make you feel comfier.
    10. Anxiety is normal, but if you keep going then it lessens substantially as you find your fears are never likely to happen.
  • Lizzy622
    Lizzy622 Posts: 3,705 Member
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    You already paid for it. Why not use it? As stated above most people are there for the sane reason as you and are probably just as self conscious. Maybe buy one nice outfit and one good bathing suit. Something you feel comfortable in but is not too loose. Sometimes an outfit can be all the confidence you need.
  • b0urb0
    b0urb0 Posts: 10 Member
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    I personally just dont care about other people I just go and do my things. It took me a while to get there but I realized that most people don't care about who's there either so chances are they won't care what you do. And some people are quite nice you'll see, they may offer a tip or 2. When I see someone doing something very wrong I politely ask them if they would like an advcie or tip, some say "thanks i'd rather do it on my own" and that fine other will say yes and it can help them improve form or prevent an injury. But the first time is the hardest, the more you'll go the easier it gets. One way to start is to go when its the least crowded so you get use to the gym and a few people, if you keep the same schedule you'll often see the same people it should help you get past this. In all my years going i've never seen someone openly judge or laugh at someone else, of course they may have an opinion but who cares they will keep it to themselves.
  • the_log_lady
    the_log_lady Posts: 40 Member
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    kae612 wrote: »
    Are there ways to calm down or minimize possible embarrassment?

    anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/adult_hmsocial.pdf

    Great up-to-date strategies for dealing with social anxiety here. You can do it!

    Step one for the pool could be "Walk around the pool when it's quietest, fully dressed". Build from there. The idea's not to go beyond what you can cope with, but to challenge yourself/your beliefs, all while using stress reducing strategies.

    It might help to wear your cap and goggles and invest in a subtle robe a la Olympians, for a quick incognito shrug and launch into the pool. Stay in the slow lane until you speed up, and you'll be fine.

    These Robie Robes are fabulous! Just the thing :Dhttp://www.swimsmooth.com/robie-robes.html

  • Ceratopsy
    Ceratopsy Posts: 2,100 Member
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    I agree with the lot, I recently confronted my gym fear. One thing I noticed about the glamorous people there though is that they are there before I get there and they leave after I do. At first all I saw were their "perfect" bodies, cute clothes and nice hair, then I noticed how hard they are working and sweating. They are putting in a lot of hard work to keep that amazing body, they have earned it. There is no reason why you can't earn yours too. Most of them, if they even look at you, will probably respect what you are doing because they know its hard work. As far as the pool goes though, that was a big challenge for me also. I kept thinking they will all think I am too fat for life or something horrible once they saw my 300lb body in a swimsuit. It took me an hour in my car to psyche myself up before I could do it. It was very worth it though. Once I get in the water all my anxiety goes away. I think with the fact that you are familiar with your gym at home you should have no problems working the machines at this one. Also maybe as a warm up before working out you can walk a few laps around the gym to get a feel for it. When you want to look at something closer just stop and stretch for a sec.

    I wish you the best!!
  • Frankilou25
    Frankilou25 Posts: 57 Member
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    I know how you feel! but trust me, your thoughts are far worse than the reality. Everyone else there is doing the same thing with the same motivation, to get fit and healthy. Is there any one you could go with for the first few times? If not, load up your iphone and just focus on yourself. Maybe start off with the excercises and equipment you know well and get a feel for the place first before trying new things. There should be PT/staff around to help you, even if its just an intro it might be an idea to take them up on the offer just to get used to everything. Also maybe going when you know it would be quiet to begin with until you have your confidence up might be an idea. But I have never been to a gym and had/seen anyone laugh at people out right, that's even at me when Ive fallen off the treadmill not once but twice :D ! Ive found many gym and class buddies just from going to the same classes or arriving at the same time, theres always going to be someone else in the same boat as you! good luck!!!
  • kiela64
    kiela64 Posts: 1,447 Member
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    Thank you all so much!!! I thought no one would go with me, but I actually spoke with a friend today and she said she wants to check it out to go running. A different area of the gym, but it would be a start! We'd only have a short block of time together, because I have class, but it would make it so much easier.
  • Dootzy1
    Dootzy1 Posts: 2,208 Member
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    You have a RIGHT to be there. Own it, dear girl. If they judge you, that is their weakness. Enjoy the workout space.
  • the_log_lady
    the_log_lady Posts: 40 Member
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    kae612 wrote: »
    Thank you all so much!!! I thought no one would go with me, but I actually spoke with a friend today and she said she wants to check it out to go running. A different area of the gym, but it would be a start! We'd only have a short block of time together, because I have class, but it would make it so much easier.

    :smiley: !!

  • slideaway1
    slideaway1 Posts: 1,006 Member
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    Going to the gym is a great way of getting over social anxiety. Nobody will stare at you. Everybody is in the same boat. I respect anybody that is in the gym. Just make the first step, that's the hardest part. It will be really helpful to your self confidence or anxiety issues in the long run, please trust me on that.
  • jkal1979
    jkal1979 Posts: 1,896 Member
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    I'm sure that once you get there you will find that your assumptions are wrong. I live in a college town and the gym I go to has a lot of student members. They are no different than other people there. They are in all shapes and sizes and wear what they are comfortable in.

    If you feel uncomfortable with the equipment, it might be a good idea to look into taking a P.E. class next semester. That way you can get instruction on using the different equipment and they will help you develop a routine.
  • cebreisch
    cebreisch Posts: 1,340 Member
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    My husband had anxiety before going to the gym too because he didn't want to go in there all "flabby" and have to work out around these real muscular people. Of course he's a size 2 civillian....I'm at 300 pounds.

    I told him you're not going to the gym to worry about what other people may or may not be thinking. I don't care what other people think. I'm there to burn calories. Yeah - I may not be the most adept at using the machines, but who cares. I haven't ever used them in such a horrible manner that people felt necessary to come correct me. I don't really pay attention to what other people are doing either. I'm not there to impress anybody. When I go to work, I don't care if people see me work....so if I go to work out, why should that be any different?

    I know everybody doesn't necessarily have that attitude. If you're more comfortable going to where your mother works, then go there until you get enough confidence to use the one at school. Do what works for you. There is no shame in going to work out there, as long as you're working out. That's what's more important than where you work out.
  • kiela64
    kiela64 Posts: 1,447 Member
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    I picked up a calendar today for when the pool is open and when the (free!!!) group fitness classes are. I was marking it up to see what ones I could go to. It would be really great if I could work it into my daily routine at school. But I think what would be best is going on a friday (probably fewer people I think? Do you think there are certain days/times with fewer people?) and just checking it out without time constraints. I already feel better having tangible information!
  • the_log_lady
    the_log_lady Posts: 40 Member
    edited September 2015
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    kae612 wrote: »
    ...probably fewer people I think? Do you think there are certain days/times with fewer people?

    Call them and ask! It's an extremely common question (I worked at a gym/pool many years ago). They won't think anything odd about you asking, or expect/need/want an explanation from you why you want to know.
    kae612 wrote: »
    ...I already feel better having tangible information!

    Yeah, the unknown and imagination can have a field day with anxious tendencies.

  • mbaker566
    mbaker566 Posts: 11,233 Member
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    i didn't read all the responses. but just go and poke around. and like any gym, you can probably get a tour.

    i find when i know what to expect and the literal lay of the land, my anxiety subsides substantially
  • Commander_Keen
    Commander_Keen Posts: 1,179 Member
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    kae612 wrote: »
    I'm a university student and I have gym access with my tuition, but I'm in 3rd year and I still haven't used it because of anxiety. My gym at home is full of mostly old or disabled people, so I feel comfortable there. But a school gym will be full of young people my age, possibly very fit, glamorous, and attractive and competent in all things fitness.

    I'm afraid I will do things wrong and be laughed at or simply be conspicuous because of my size and unfitness. Not knowing the facility is bad enough, but getting yelled at or told off for maybe doing something wrong is terrifying. And looking sloppy in front of everyone....

    At home I don't care how I look at the gym but now I am very afraid. I want to use the facility, especially the pool. Are there ways to calm down or minimize possible embarrassment?

    Find out what the hours are.
    Find out when its the slowest.
    Have you checked out the gym.. maybe nobody even goes to it.