Gym Anxiety Is Real — Here’s What To Do To Get Past It

gym anxiety


For some people, walking into the gym feels like boarding the mothership — they know that they’re exactly where they’re meant to be at that particular moment. But for others, the dingy room crowded with sweaty, grunting humans with darting eyes sends their hearts racing… and not in a good way. If you experience a similar sensation after mustering up the motivation to go get your workout on, you might struggle with a little something called gym anxiety.

Gym anxiety can manifest in a multitude of ways, from feeling like everyone is staring at you because you’re doing an exercise incorrectly to thinking you’re constantly in someone’s space and getting on their nerves. Sure, those thoughts occur to most people from time to time, but when they’re related to gym anxiety, they are all-consuming, intensely distracting and workout-destroying. So if those little voices inside your head won’t shut the hell up as you step up to the treadmill or head over to the stretching mats, give the following tricks a try.

Visualize the best case scenario.

As soon as your mind starts racing with all of those negative, panic-inducing thoughts, manually shut that shit down and override your automatic anxiety mode with positivity. Tell yourself (out loud if you have to!) things like “He’s looking at me because my new leggings are super cute” and “I know I’m crushing this ab move because my core is on fire!” and “I know I only have two minutes left on this treadmill, so I’m going to sprint it out.” Once you’ve practiced positive visualization for a while, you become a lot better at blocking out external stimuli that trigger your anxiety in the first place.

gym anxiety
Unsplash/Juan Pablo Rodriguez

Pump up your playlist.

If you can’t drown out your anxious thoughts with more optimistic options, recruit your music to do it for you. Add all of those “Dance like no one’s watchin’!” tunes to your main workout playlist, and crank the volume the second you walk out of the locker room. (Just still be kind to your eardrums, okay?) Happy lyrics, strong vibes and good beats can reroute even the most toxic self-talk. Plus, they easily drown out any of the banging and clanging of weights, and sighing and panting of fellow gymgoers that get you so worked up in the first place.

Pick a new mantra… and use it.

A lot of people think mantras are a woo-woo tactic, but we gotta say — using these short phrases on repeat has helped us overcome some of our greatest obstacles. From crossing marathon finish lines to dealing with frustrating family members to navigating awkward roommate situations, mantras have plenty of rightful places in our lives that have nothing to do with a yoga mat or meditation pillow. So pick your mantra — maybe “I’m doing this” or “Today is mine” — and let those three words run on a loop through your mind for as long as you need them. If you focus on this internal chant, your brain won’t be able to force anxious thoughts to the forefront.

Try a little meditation before your sweat session.

Sometimes your gym anxiety gets the best of you because you rush to the stationary bike straight from a long ass workday that already had you stressed to the max. So instead of compounding all of that cortisol in your body, try taking a five-minute break to just sit with your eyes closed and focus on taking long, deep breaths. Giving your brain even a brief reset can make you that much more resilient to your own anxiety, staving it off before it takes hold. Mindfulness is a powerful thing, friends.

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