The thought of joining a gym can cause anxieties to surface. If this statement rings true for you, you’re not on your own. Many of us get worried or scared when they go to the gym. Gyms like Energybase are working hard to create inclusive spaces where people have an environment and support network to overcome these issues.
Some of the reasons why people get anxious about going to the gym include:
Feeling intimidated by other gym members
Believing that you can’t exercise due to feelings around a lack of personal fitness
Cultural and/or religious attitudes and beliefs
Body shape and/or size
Existing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or body dysmorphia
Gym anxiety is very real and it can be experienced by anyone. It does not discriminate between gender, size, physical strength, or how fit you are. If going to the gym leaves you feeling self-conscious or zaps your confidence to the point that you don’t want to go, read on, we can help.
Intimidated by the gym
Many people feel intimidated when they go to the gym, but it’s not just other people at the gym that can make a person feel lost or inadequate. The physical spaces can be intimidating too. Big open spaces lined with mirrors and complex fitness equipment are all aspects of modern gyms that can magnify fitness fear and gym anxiety.
It's understandable why so many people have reservations about going to a gym. Let’s look at some of these in more detail:
Why gyms can be intimidating
It's very normal for people to feel nervous when going to the gym and when we look at how many gyms work, it’s easy to see why.
Big rooms - Many gyms are designed in an open plan style. This means that the workout areas feel cavernous and can become quite crowded. There are often lots of windows and mirrors too. Some people can feel like they are being stared at in big gyms.
Complicated machinery -Trying not to look stupid or confused when attempting to use gym equipment is a very real fear for many people. Whether it’s cross trainer machines, an exercise bike or a confusing weights bench… all that equipment can be hard to master if you've never used them before.
Proficient exercisers - Many gyms have their regular members who know that particular gym very well. Although some of them can be very helpful, others can be a little impatient or rude to new members. If you’re new to exercising in the gym, this can feel unwelcoming. It is also intimidating if you are unsure about the right gym etiquette.
Personal fitness anxiety
For people that are worried about their bodies and how capable they are, gyms can heighten this fear and anxiety. An important aspect of feeling happy and comfortable when exercising is having the peace of mind that you are actually improving your body rather than harming it.
Before embarking on your fitness journey, talk to a healthcare professional and ask their advice on whether you should be exercising in a gym. If at any point, you start to feel anxious or concerned about your general health during a gym session, take a break and talk to a staff member.
Am I too overweight to join a gym?
If you think that your weight might be a problem, talk to a doctor before you start to exercise at the gym. It’s a rational fear to have, but your doctor is best placed to give you some good tips on what exercises to do. Your weight won’t actually stop you from exercising but it’s always a great idea to check with your doctor first.
The swimming pool is a good place to start. At Energybase, we have a full-size swimming pool, In fact, it’s the largest pool in central London, measuring 33 by 11.5 metres and with a maximum depth of 3.40m. Swimming requires gentle but continuous movement and is virtually a ‘no-impact’ exercise. It takes the weight off of your joints and allows for improved blood circulation throughout the body.
Swimming is fantastic as you’re able to control the intensity and length of your exercise session. It’s also a great way to measure your progress too. Start with small distances and gradually increase the number of lengths as you get fitter and more confident in your own abilities.
An existing mental health issue stops me from exercising
Going to the gym can cause anxiety to surface, but it might also relate to an existing mental health issue. This pre-existing issue might then act as a catalyst in bringing up new mental health problems such as an increase in anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem but completely understandable.
If you feel like this, it’s really important to seek help. Talking to a friend might be the first step but seeking professional assistance through your doctor or a private service could really help you to look after your mental health.
Does exercise help with mental health issues?
Exercise can actually promote positive mental health. Increased physical exercise has been found to boost mood, increase energy levels, and cause deep and restful sleep.
Due to endorphins being released during physical activity, doctors often recommend exercise to patients suffering from mental health issues. This is because exercise helps to promote a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically.
The physical and mental benefits of exercise can include :
Reduces the risk of developing depression
Reduces the risk of developing anxiety
Helps to build strong bones and muscles
Aids in brain health and memory
Avoiding type 2 diabetes
Protects against heart disease and strokes
Reduces the risk of developing types of cancers
Prevents early death
How can I deal with gym anxiety?
Here are seven quick tips to help overcome gym anxiety and get the most out of your exercise session:
1. Find a gym that has private areas - Some gyms have female-only rooms. Others have areas that aren’t as visible to passers-by. If you are self-conscious, find an environment where you feel as comfortable as possible.
2. Use a PT - Personal trainers are there to support you as well as offer guidance around what to do at the gym. They are great at being positive and motivating people in the gym so if you want to gain confidence, talk to a personal trainer. At Energybase, we have a team of personal trainers that specialise in different areas of fitness. They’re there to help you get the most from your gym session.
3. Bring a friend or fitness mentor - If you don’t want to use a personal trainer, bring a friend. Overcoming gym anxiety can be about working on your focus and confidence. An encouraging friend or mentor makes a fantastic gym-going partner. You can encourage and motivate them and hopefully, they’ll return the favour.
4. Exercise during off-peak hours - If you can, training during quieter times in the gym will help you feel less self-conscious and more focused on your exercise routine. At Energybase, we open from 7am to 10pm every weekday and 9am to 9pm on the weekends so there is plenty of opportunities to visit us outside of busier times.
5. Start slow - Whether it’s a set of exercises or a particular machine that you feel comfortable using, start slow. Don’t be too ambitious when it comes to your exercise sessions. When you start to feel more confident in the gym you can increase your activity. The Energybase gym is staffed by fitness professionals that can guide and instruct you around the equipment and routines when you first start to exercise in the gym.
6. Set achievable targets - Working towards realistic goals is advisable whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or new to gym-based exercise. Hitting those targets will increase confidence and deliver a lovely shot of adrenaline. Achieving your goals is a great way to feel good about going to the gym. Energybase personal trainers can help you to set up an action plan of how to set and achieve your fitness goals.
We hope that this article encourages you to see fitness and the gym as tools that can improve your physical and mental well-being. Share it with your friends and help spread the word.
Energybase gym & pool
Energybase is a gym and swimming pool operated by Student Central for the benefit of those that work, study and live in Bloomsbury.
We have different memberships available depending on whether you're a student or non-student.
Our facilities include a 53 station fitness suite, 33-metre swimming pool, up to 50 classes per week, remedial treatments, a sports hall and a multi-purpose studio. Membership of Energybase includes unlimited use of the fitness suite, swimming pool and classes.
Contact us today to learn more about our gym, book a tour or speak to one of the team.