by Tiffanie Grady-Gillespie CPT, owner of WickedFiTT in Casa Grande
To some people, it can be awkward to do almost anything when you are surrounded by a room full of strangers. When you combine that awkwardness with the embarrassment that many people feel about their bodies, it is easy to see why people would be nervous about working out in public. The good news is that there are ways to overcome your gym anxiety when taking group fitness classes.
Let’s face it – we all have our excuses for avoiding workouts, but “gym intimidation” can be one of the most powerful in preventing people from exercising. Many people are worried about being judged and say, “I need to get into better shape before I go to the gym, or group fitness classes.” Looking back, I think that may be one of the biggest concerns I have heard throughout my (few) years in the fitness industry. And my favorite reply is, “How do you think those people got into such good shape?” I understand, we are all worried about what everyone else is thinking, but honestly, no one is paying attention. They’re focused on themselves and the important things, like breathing, staying upright and not dying.
Here are just a few tips to make the group fitness experience less terrifying:
There’s safety in numbers, and you quickly realize that everyone is a different age and body size and all are struggling together. You’ll probably also discover that you’re not the worst one there. It’s encouraging, because there’s always someone behind you and someone better than you. (And P.S. It’s OK to own the back row until you feel more comfortable).
That brings up my next point. Almost everyone is as nervous as you are. If they say they’re not, they’re probably feeding you a white lie. For many people, the thought of working out in public is downright scary. Fortunately, everyone else in the room is thinking the same thing. And halfway through class, everyone will likely be so focused on the intense workout, that they will hardly notice those around them anyway.
Focus on YOU! When you’re seriously working hard, you won’t have time to compare yourself to others or to look around and catch them watching you work your butt off. Concentrate on you, and consistently remind yourself of how great you’re doing. Try bringing a friend with you. When you’re with a friend, you feel more relaxed and are able to have fun. You are accountable to each other; you help to motivate each other and can share a laugh and learn from your experience.
The beauty of group fitness classes is that you don’t have to know what you’re doing, because the class instructor will do that for you. And in the classes, you can expect a friendly environment where most people are trying out new exercises and aren’t expecting any experts. What’s more, as long as you tell the fitness class instructor you’re a newbie, we will usually be more than willing to help you out and give you extra attention, if you need it.
Be confident. The best look you can adopt when attending for the first time and trying to overcome anxiety is one of confidence, because as long as you look like you know what you’re doing, you’re golden. Confidence is everything, and before long, you’ll trick yourself into actually feeling self-assured, even before you realize it.
Finally, the most important thing to realize is everyone has been a newbie, and everyone gets that. The hardest part about going for the first time is getting yourself there, but once you get inside the doors and realize that everyone there is in their own world, you’ll likely see that there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.