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Overcoming gym anxiety (in the moment)

I will admit, I have been spoiled when it comes to where I workout. Since 2011 I have worked as a Professional Personal Fitness Trainer in a small studio. When compared to public gyms, training studios offer a smaller a venue, less equipment and no crowds. Prior to becoming a personal trainer, I did work out regularly in a public environment, but I realized upon entering a public gym recently, I have become accustomed to my environment. 

“Oh. My. God. Everyone here is incredibly fit.” “There are people everywhere” “I don’t belong here” are the thoughts that streamed through my mind as I gazed across the gym floor.

Shane from the 7th grade came alive. A boy stricken with nerves, standing in the middle of gym class. I am now a 27-year old man, a personal trainer and someone who has gained a lot of experience in this setting. But upon stepping foot inside a foreign gym I felt some form of anxiety about to over take me.

The gym is an intimidating space. It’s a space where you’re there to improve personal goals in a close proximity to strangers.

How did I manage to compose myself, stick to the program and accomplish a great workout?

1. Acknowledging my past.

I realized in this instance that even though I haven’t seen that version of myself in quite some time, that boy who was picked last in gym class, is still a piece of me.

Whether it’s weighing heavy or a just gentle touch, I will always feel pressure when I step into a foreign gym. Guess what? It’s okay. I’m not alone. Everyone in that space feels like this at one point or another.

I have chatted with guys who have done bodybuilding shows who have felt some pressure. Some staff members who felt pressure when they worked out because they felt like they needed to uphold a certain “standard” of fitness to the gym patrons.

2. Embracing my journey.

I remembered how it felt standing there in the middle of gym class, feeling weak and unwanted. With a breath and a step forward, I told myself I was doing this for that 7th grade boy. Proudly, I reminded myself of how far I have come.

You can’t run from your past, but you can embrace your journey and use it to push yourself further.

3. Focusing on myself.

Remember this: you’re there to improve yourself, not to worry about how fast the guy beside you is running or the woman next to you is squatting. Comparison is going to happen. As human beings, naturally we look to one another and size each other up. So, become more aware of when you’re falling into the comparison trap.

It would be naïve to say that just because you are aware of the losing battle in the comparison trap, it won’t happen again, because it will. But, you have a choice on how you react. You can become more aware of when you’re slipping upon the trap and then take yourself out of it and bring the focus back to you. This workout is all about you.

““It's like running a race. The energy that it takes to look back and see where the other guys are takes energy away from you. Don't waste your time in the race looking back to see where the other guy is or what the other guy is doing. It's not about the other guy. It's about what can you do.”- Oprah Winfrey

For more information on “The Comparison Trap” click here. 

[I know personally it can also affect members of the LBGTQ+ Community and also other marginalized communities for their race and gender, differently. 

If you feel you’re being judged based on your sexual orientation, gender or race, my opinion is bringing this to management and then maybe look at finding another, more suitable gym.

I would also recommend asking the gym before signing up, what their policies are in regards to patron’s being discriminated against or if it is a safe space.]

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