This month UK searches for ‘anxiety’ rose to the highest level for five years, according to Google search trend data, as many countries begin to emerge from social isolation, and people begin to socially interact with others on a regular basis for the first time in over a year.
This will also impact those returning to gym environments for the first time in many months. Often a potentially intimidating environment, research has shown that 50% of people suffer from ‘gymtimidation’ which can put them off going to the gym or even joining one.
30% of the UK took up exercising regularly for the first time over lockdown and search interest for gym memberships rose by 300% since the start of the year, so gyms across the UK will therefore begin to see many new users who may fall victim to ‘gymtimidation’, and need help and guidance to overcome it.
The charitable social enterprise Better reached out to fitness influencers, personal trainers and even those who have suffered from gymtimdation and social anxiety in the past and have now gotten over it, to create a list of their best tips for newcomers and help them retain motivation and purpose in their fitness journeys.
Don’t feel self-conscious: most people don’t have a clue either
Mark Ross is a fitness influencer and personal trainer who seeks to promote positivity among his followers and clients to ensure they retain their passion for fitness. His top tip is to forget about those around you looking at what you are doing or judging you. He said, “most people in gyms don’t have a clue what they are doing and if they don’t have a coach, they are mostly guessing like everyone else!” Focus on you and smash your goals without worrying about others.
Fellow fitness influencer and personal trainer Samantha McGowan agreed, saying that it’s important to remember ‘everyone is there for their own personal reasons, so don’t think too much about others, just concentrate on yourself.’
Stick to simple routines
Another tip from Mark Ross is to not overcomplicate your gym routines, with the simplest ones often proving the most effective, with machine workouts often a great way to ease yourself into the fitness environment. He says: ‘The simplest routines are the best. Even machine work can get you great progress, so don’t worry at the start of your fitness journey forcing yourself to do things that look complicated; You don’t need them.’
Find a coach or go with someone who can teach you the ropes
George Livingston, a man who had suffered from gymtimidation in the past and had given up as a result, only to overcome his trepidation to become a regular gym-goer, said that finding yourself a gym-buddy who you can learn from and motivate you is key. Mark Ross agreed, saying getting yourself a coach for even a short amount of time can set you up for life: ‘I have been a PT for ten years, I get all sorts of clients from brand newbie teenagers to older men. Three months with a knowledgeable coach can progress you three years.’
Create and stick to a plan and execute the game plan
David Ajibade, the CEO of Kinetic Fitness, a personal training brand in London believes a strong structure goes a long way to building confidence in the gym. If you go into the gym having an idea of what you want to achieve that day and stick to it, you will be more likely to succeed rather than making it up as you go along. He said: ‘A big part of the anxiety people feel comes from not being confident. It is hard to feel confident when everyone seems to be so purposeful and you’re scratching your head at what you are going to do next. This also means having alternatives for exercises that you won’t be able to do.’
McGowen agreed, saying: ‘If you don’t have a plan, it’s like going for a drive and not knowing where you’re going. You may start wondering around unsure of what you should do next and that will impact your confidence. Write your plan out on paper or on your phone, visualise it and get stuck in.’
Listen to music
A popular one for many gym goers to keep your focus and remain in the zone is to listen to music. Ajibade said: ‘Listening to some upbeat music or audio of your choice blocks out all the unwanted noise pollution and can also assist you in getting through a grueling workout.’
Break the ice with your fellow gym goers
As you’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym throughout your fitness journey, it is wise to make sure the environment feels a safe, friendly place you look forward to visiting. A good way to do this is to break the ice with those who you see regularly working towards their own personal goals. Ajibade thinks that: ‘Head nods and even saying hello to other gym goers makes for a much warmer environment where people help each other and are open to sharing equipment instead of the cold shoulder. Being able to call upon someone to spot you or having someone cheer you on before your set is invaluable.’
Ask questions if you’re unsure
Asking questions is crucial, especially if new to the gym environment. There will be machines you are unsure of how to use or weights you may not be able to lift, so asking for a professional opinion or even just asking for a hand will benefit your learning process. McGowen said: ‘Always ask questions! If you see a personal trainer walking around the gym and you’re not sure of something, just ask, that’s what they’re there for. Have the confidence to ask them how to do something, whether that’s setting up a machine or getting a heavy weight off the machine.’
Do what you enjoy
Finally, but probably most importantly, our gymtimidation-beating advice from Livingston is to do what you enjoy. ‘You’ll enjoy going to the gym more and in turn, that’ll keep you more motivated to keep it up,’ he adds.
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