Conquering Gym Anxiety

I’m not sure about you, but my office building has a gym for all of its employees – something that I had never experienced before I started working in tech! In my mind I had this picture of me leaving my office every day at 4pm, going to the gym for an hour, and then driving home. I pictured myself toning my arms and gaining muscle, I was so pumped!

However, when I got my keycard to go to the gym, I started to freak out. This meant I had access to the gym. And I could actually start to go.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes gyms, and especially new gyms scare me. I always feel like a new kid on the first day of school, I don’t know where to go, what to do, and I picture this happening to me:

I’ve been to the gym before and had a solid routine. I used to go roughly 2-3 times during the week and then once on the weekend, but let’s be honest. It’s been a while.

So after I received my keycard, there were multiple days where I would bring my gym bag to work, only to bring it right back home with me, unopened and unused. I was too nervous to go! So I decided to take things slow. 

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite mentalities:

Breaking down your baby-steps into tiny steps.

It’s a mentality I use any time I want to try something new or something that gives me that anxious feeling –  and the concept is simple:

break down your first step into even tinier steps.

This model helps to keep me from getting too stressed or too overwhelmed when starting something new. It makes my new goals seem more attainableand therefore more likely that I’ll follow through!

Goal example: I want to become confident in the gym.

If I were to break this down into your typical “baby steps”, it would probably look something like this:

  • Day One: Use the treadmill for 15 minutes
  • Day Two: Use treadmill for 15 minutes and free weights for 15 minutes
  • Day Three: Break
  • Day Four: Use treadmill for 15 minutes, weights for 15 and machines for 20
  • Day Five: Confidence! Boom! Full workout!

Unfortunately, sometimes these lofty “baby steps” are still too big when I am trying something new. Read: I get overwhelmed.

So I build up to them.

My first “baby step” for the gym reads “run on the treadmill for 15 minutes”, so I broke that step down into tinier steps.

And this method is exactly how I conquered my gym anxiety in five days.

Day One: Walking Into The Gym

Honestly, this was the toughest day for me, and I know that it was 100% mental. I was fully aware of the fact that my anxieties were all in my head, but anyone who has experienced anxiety before knows that anxiety doesn’t care. It loves that you know it’s just in your head, which makes it worse.

Anyways, my biggest challenge going to the gym at work was actually taking the leap and walking into the gym. So I picked a day, left my gym bag in the office, and went downstairs on my lunch break to check out the gym.

Why didn’t you bring your gym bag?! You may be wondering. Tbh, I purposely left my gym bag in the office to ensure I wouldn’t feel anxious about having to actually work out.

I slid my key card into the reader and went inside.

And you know what? It was empty.

Hallelujah!!!

I wandered around the gym, took note of the things I could do in there – free weights, some machines, treadmills and other typical gym equipment. I walked into the locker room, saw there were lockers and showers, and then headed out.

Even if it wasn’t empty, I would have done the same thing, and the nice part is that it only took me about 3 minutes.

3 minutes!

Anxiety levels went from 100 down to 85.

Nice.

Day Two: Changing and Stretching

This was another stressful day because I knew that it was the day I would actually be using the gym! Ahh! The one shining beacon of light was that I was able to semi-confidently slide my keycard and walk into the locker room – I knew exactly where I was going.

This confidence boost made things a bit easier as I changed into gym clothes, locked them in a locker and walked into the gym.

I knew that I wouldn’t be using any equipment(again, to not get stressed about working out), so I headed over to a private corner to sit down and stretch. It was a simple way to be a part of the gym atmosphere, without actually being part of the gym atmosphere. I placed my key on the floor next to me, put in my headphones and didn’t press play. Silence was key to observe everything that was going on in the gym!

I was able to see that there was one person on a treadmill, two people lifting weights, a few people on machines, and you know what? It wasn’t that scary. This made me feel a little better – normal people doing normal workout-y things at the gym. What a surprise!

And then I headed out.

Changing and stretching only took me about 15 minutes.

15 minutes!

Anxiety levels went from 85 to 75.

Woo!

Day Three: Speed Walking on the Treadmill

The third day I was feeling a little more confident, so I decided it was time to test out the treadmill. I’ve used a treadmill before in my life, and the nice thing is that you can just press the GO/START button, and change the speeds pretty easily. Treadmill buttons are generally universal.

I chose to start with the treadmill exactly for that reason – I knew I could figure it out pretty much immediately. If I had been more confident in knowing which weights I used for free weights, then I would have chosen to do that! But alas, I have no clue how much I can lift.

Again, I walked semi-confidently into the gym, changed, stretched, and headed to an open treadmill.

I pressed the green GO/START button and started walking.

After a few seconds, I added a bit of speed to the machine and ended up “speed” walking (3.5mph) for about 15 minutes.

Tiny steps, people, tiny steps.

I stopped my machine because I wasn’t at the gym to exercise my body, I was there to exercise my mind(woah). I went back to the locker room to change.

Then I went back to the office.

Changing, stretching and walking took about 25-30 minutes.

25-30 minutes!

Anxiety levels went from 75 to 60.

It was getting a little easier, and I was excited.

Day Four:  Break time!

I figured I’d take a break from breaking down my baby steps into tiny steps and go for a walk outside. It gave me time to reflect on how much progress I had made in getting more confident at the gym. I felt like I knew where most things were, what the environment felt like, and even what time of day I’d most enjoy going.

At the end of my walk, I knew what I had to do: Run on the treadmill. Tomorrow.

Anxiety levels still at 60, but hey! Nobody’s perfect!

Day Five: Running and A Surprise Boost of Adrenaline

The next day I felt really ready to go. It was a veryyyy different feeling from Day One. I felt like I was almost a ‘regular’ at the gym! Some faces started to look familiar, and I walked through the gym with ease. I changed, stretched, and speed walked for about 10 minutes.

I slowly added speed to my machine until I was jogging.

Then I added a bit more speed, and it felt awesome.

10 minutes later my adrenaline inspired me to head over to the free weights. WUT already?! Yeah, I didn’t get it either.

I lifted up two 3lb weights, and guess what? They were too light! Woo!

So I picked up the 5lb weights. And you know what? They were also too light! But tbh I was too nervous to put them back and try even heavier ones. #anxiety

I did a few reps, stretched out my arms, and went back to the locker room to change.

I was so proud of myself that I left work early to celebrate.

I deserved it!

 

Food for thought: Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try, but even baby steps seem too intimidating?!

 

If you’re curious about the Breaking down baby steps model, I will be writing more examples of how I use it in my daily life!

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