Gym anxiety – don’t worry, we have ALL experienced it!
Elements Head Coach – Sam Brindle
We’ll let you in to a little secret, we all get it. Literally, everyone. It’s completely normal. And it can be really exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. Gym Anxiety can be a crippling feeling, whether thats several nervous toilet trips before a workout ( sounds like me…) or the fear of judgment stepping into a new space. The key to understanding this feeling is it first recognise that it is a natural reaction to the fear of the unknown.
I can confidently say that before every physical challenge, workout or even just going for a run I experience anxiety like every other person. Unfortunately with an over active mind, I consider all the scenarios that could go wrong during that physical exertion. From the Fear of the potential pain and suffering I’m about the experience to the worry that I cannot complete the task ahead. There have been many situations like this, and after copious amounts of caffeine and years of understanding my body and mindset have become accustom to this feeling allowing me to move forward.
So why do you and I experience this???
Firstly its a natural chemical reaction within our body which helps us assess the situation ahead. Our brain is calculating all the possible factors that could happen and deciding whether its about to let your legs move forward or freeze you on the spot.
Secondly we are taking in the fear of the unknown and as daft as that my sound even stepping through the door to a new gym can be that fear!There also may be other factors at play for some, have you had a previously bad experience in a gym environment? Have you suffered an injury? Are you in a completely new environment? Has certain lifestyle factors changed that may influence your mindset when coming to the gym?The Fear of the Unknown ???
But I have been to gym before!
Touche! Even to this day before any workout or event, my stomach has done 17 somersaults and wants me to visit the toilet every 2 minutes. Its even worse when I have it planned for the day, week or months before!Knowing that I’m still in the same familiar environment does not change the fact I’m nervous about the pain in my lungs or muscles I am about to experience! How do you cope with Gym Anxiety? It has taken many years for me to master my mind when its telling me to stand still and my 2 cups of coffee I just had want to quickly exit my body. But I have a few tools in my armoury I call upon when I need to step up to the task ahead.The Cookie Jar.
For me this refers to a place where all of my previous physical challenges, struggles and accomplishments live. Whenever I have completed something physically and or mentally enduring I stick this in my cookie jar so when the going gets tough I can reach in their and pick out something that I know is much more demanding that the task I’m about to take on and remind myself that I have the mental and physical fortitude to break through the barrier of anxiety and go a little further. Haven’t had any physically demanding accomplishments? Doesn’t matter I guarantee at some point in your life you have met adversity that you have overcome! This needs to go in that cookie jar for you to reach in and remind yourself of how robust you really are!
The Fear Bubble.
My second go to tool is the fear bubble. And I use this figuratively.The Fear Bubble for me is a way of coping with a demanding and stressful situation, inside and outside the gym environment. It allows me to manage my premature fears of a situation that hasn’t happened yet. An easy way for me to explain this is painting you a picture.“Tomorrow” I have planned to run 100 miles (not sure if I can actually manage that!)
I know the time, place, what I’m wearing and all the other controllable factors I can manage before that task. What I cannot control is what is going to happen on the day during that event….
So how do I use the “Fear Bubble”? Very simply I place this Fear Bubble in the place that I know I’m going to have to deal with stress. It allows me to remind myself that here and now, I’m safe and out of harms way. No reason to panic! It reminds me that even driving to the event I’m still safe! All the way upto the start line of this 100 mile race! Im still safe and in control! Where I place this Fear bubble is right after that start line.
I know that when I step into this, I’m in and ready to take on the task. But allows me to deal with the external stressful factors in a manageable and know that until I get into that bubble that I’m completely fine. How can you implement these tools? First start building up your cookie jar, think of all the times where you have had to rise to a stressful situation and overcome it. Start putting those away and build up your armoury!
Secondly start applying the Fear Bubble to daily life. Use it in situations you feel anxious and uneasy in. Put that fear bubble at the front door of your gym and allow yourself before you get that bubble to remain calm and collected. But when you enter that bubble you are ready to tackle whatever physical or mental stress lies ahead.
Finally …. Always a little further.
The pain and anxiety will always pass. Remind yourself when you are in that fear bubble that this moment of stress will pass, dig into your cookie jar and move forward.
AUTHOR: Sam Brindle