Fitness column: The cure for gym anxiety
If I weren’t so lazy, I would pay a few doctors to declare “gym anxiety” as an actual medical condition. I would come up with a supplement that helped with gym anxiety and hire a fitness celebrity (whatever that is) to endorse it. I would also find an exotic food that, if eaten in high doses, could cure gym anxiety. Then I would declare January as “Gym Anxiety Month” and design appropriate greeting cards for the holiday. Naturally I would follow up with “I Beat Gym Anxiety” T-shirts and bumper stickers, because the real money is all in the merchandising.
Or I could just tell you actual ways to beat gym anxiety.
Fear of failure is a great reason not to do anything. Past failures make trying again even more disconcerting. Most folks feel like they should somehow instinctively know how to work out, especially us guys. Once we realize that we have no idea how to work out, we drop out. This failure keeps us out of the gym, and we make even more excuses not to come back.
Here are my tips that may help you keep gym anxiety at bay.
It’s not only about the work out: Use the gym to restore your body from damage you do to it. For example, stretching, yoga and other similar methods of restoring mobility are a different workout concept for some who may think that we have to beat ourselves up to get benefits. As our bodies change, we must change the way we condition them. Some people need “extreme push-up class,” while others just need to swim a little. Either way, most gyms offer methods to condition younger and older bodies.
Cover the basics: Your body needs some cardiovascular exercise, some strength training and some stretching. Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the ridiculous choices. Stick to 2 to 3 short bouts of each component of fitness throughout the week. We learn and develop new habits by repetition over time. Slowly progress yourself from brief 15-minute workouts to more frequent workouts. Doing a little each day is better than blowing off workouts for the whole week only to go too hard on the weekends.
Don’t get caught in patterns: Repetitive stress symptoms can come from too much of a good thing. I have seen people cause their own chronic injuries simply by doing the same things over and over again. Get out of your comfy workout-routine-bubble and give your body a break with workouts and activities that antagonize each other. This concept is where the highly marketed “cross-training” phenomenon stemmed from.
Put effort into learning what the heck you are doing: There are many resources for achieving this. If you expect to get results just by buying the membership or hiring the trainer, think again. You must develop new skills to maintain your machine because you will always have your body but not necessarily gym or trainers to help you.
Use the gym to enhance cool stuff that you like to do: You may not be aware of this, but not everyone loves to work out. As difficult as this is for me to contemplate, my therapist and I are truly making headway in getting me to understand this. In the meantime, realize that if you want to race the car, you have to do the maintenance. I promise that techniques that you can learn in the gym will greatly enhance your fun when doing things you like. Everyone wants to be buff, but what if you’re OK with being fat and happy? You can really improve all functions of your life with a little training.
Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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