How To Get Over A Fear Of The Gym
That thing about exercise releasing endorphins? True. Very true.
Having said that, I don't know what it is that makes the prospect of exercise so dread-inducing and anxiety-provoking, but whatever it is, it's real AF.
Part of this, for me, is because I used to use exercise as a tool to mold my body into some warped interpretation of "beautiful" that I had in mind.
My relationship with exercise was rigid, and felt like more of a burden than a path to well-being.
My goals have really changed in that regard, and I can see that what I am ain't so bad, and the mere abilities of my physiology are pretty freaking remarkable.
I've tried to shift my perspective about exercise to think of it as something that adds to my life, in part because I remembered, at some point, it simply makes me feel good to move.
Nevertheless, that still doesn't mean I can always get myself moving. Old dread crops up. I feel resistance, and yes, serious anxiety.
The ironic thing, of course, is, that exercise can help with anxiety, and it's often recommended as one of the many possible treatments for it. There's even evidence that exercising over long periods of time can actually "remodel" structures in your brain, so you ultimately feel less anxious.
But that fear still crops up, especially if I'm not feeling "in love" with the goddess-given vessel that is my body.
Those fitness mirrors and Spandex-y pantaloons can trigger harmful, unkind standards for myself, and can make it difficult, dare I say painful, to get into a healthy state of mind and pursue my fitness goals.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these mental hurdles.
Elite Daily spoke with Audra DeNicola MA, LMHC, a therapist who works out of a private practice in Brooklyn, who says dealing with this type of anxiety is very common.
One way people try to cope with a fear of failure is avoidance, hence the avoidance of gyms or all exercise in general. So a key to changing that behavior is to embrace a more flexible, personal definition of success. Imagine saying to yourself instead, 'All I have to do is put myself in that space. If I get to the gym, and all my body feels ready for is light stretching, then that's an accomplishment. If it feels up for [some] cardio, then that's great too.'
DeNicola adds that letting go of rigid fitness goals can be helpful, as well as simply being kind to yourself along the way:
Changing your self-talk in this way may sound like the path to lowered performance and accepting defeat, but in reality, we often achieve much more when we lift the weight of obligation from our shoulders. In other words, goals are great, but how we talk to ourselves about pursuing such goals will either increase or decrease our anxiety.
However, DeNicola says it's just as important to remember that, while exercise can help people who struggle with anxiety, it's still not an adequate remedy for more persistent anxiety disorders.
Just remember, you are not alone in feeling like going for a bike ride, or taking a Kukawa class, or even walking around the block might actually kill you -- at least mentally.
But I promise, you'll get there. Where there's a will... there's a weight at the gym. (Sorry.)