How I Overcame My Gym Anxiety

I used to be one of those people who were resentful of “skinny” people who complained about being “fat.” My brain automatically told me they were not entitled to feel bad about the way their bodies looked, they were not entitled to be insecure, they were not entitled to want to be better because I, as a bigger person, had sole ownership of those feelings.

But this sort of thinking only lead to a paradox: reflexive self-loathing. If those people were not good enough, where did all that put me?

I learned to hide behind the insecurities of another person while simultaneously centering the negative narrative squarely on me. What a mind f*%#, right? I was the Debbie Downer of the world, and something really needed to change. But was I ready, willing, and able to take that first step?

GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

That step, in my mind, was the gym.

Full disclosure, the gym used to be a place of intense anxiety for me mostly because I was so focused on what everyone else was doing over just focusing on my own huffy-puffy, sweaty body. It was hard for me to even think of the gym as a place to work on myself because I had contextualized it as a place where I would be on display. It was bad enough to work out in front of a mirror and watch myself, but the thought of others actively watching me made me want to duck and cover.

Because I felt that anxiety, it kept me from stepping through the front door for so long. I thought that it was a space that only those skinny/fat people had access to, and let’s not even discuss the overlying body anxiety of being queer (just kidding, we’ll talk about that doozy in another blog post).

You may be sitting there, reading this, and thinking to yourself: “Angelo, that’s me! I’ve felt all of those things and more!” I see you and I hear you. Those feelings are real and tough as hell to wrestle with.

You might also be wondering how I got over this mental block and went from gym-dreader to gym-goer to gym-coach? While there is no one huge A-HA answer that I can lay out in front of you, there are a few things I can impart that helped me immensely.

1) FIND PLACES THAT FOSTER YOUR UNIQUE SELF.

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A one size fits all approach to fitness doesn’t work. Your fitness needs are not going to be the same as the person standing next to you. So, it’s important to find a place that treats you like an individual and not just another face in the crowd.

These are going to be the places that welcome you with smiles, high-fives, and open arms. They cultivate inclusivity and body diversity/positivity and are committed to meeting you where you are in your own journey. As hokey as it may sound, a #fitnessfam will make you want to go to the gym. THESE. PLACES. ARE. GOLD.


To learn more about our inclusive fitness community, schedule a time to come visit.


2) FOCUS INWARD ON YOURSELF.

Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story, right? This is one of those rare moments in life that you can make things all about yourself, so enjoy that bit of selfishness.

This is a great time to ask yourself: What is important to me? To improve the quality of my movement? Fat Loss? Confidence? Being able to play with your kids for the long term?

Never mind what the other people around you are doing, focus on you. I’m gonna blow your mind with this next statement (because it sure as hell blew mine): being at the gym isn’t a fitness competition with anyone other than yourself. First and foremost, do you.

Once you cultivate focus on yourself, step into the shoes of those skinny/fat people. Chances are they felt the exact same way you did before, during, and after they stepped into the gym.

3) ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET.

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We, as humans, are creatures of change and that is SO important to remember. The danger of a limited mindset is that it makes us see obstacles as a foregone conclusion. We will fail.

We are meant to develop day by day. Be open to learning and before you know it, you’ll be Kool-Aid Man-ing through any obstacle in your way.

Dump that all or nothing mentality. There is wisdom in the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It didn’t work for Rome and it won’t work for your gains. Find victories where you can and celebrate the hell out of them.  

4) REALIZE YOU ARE ENOUGH!

It’s scary to look in the mirror and think, “I am not enough.” And, truth is, most of us probably do that at least once a day. I know I do. It’s the type of fear that cock blocks us from living our truth. Especially when it comes to situations where we are putting our bodies and competence on the line.

But, guess what?! Wherever you are on your journey, you are enough. I want you to get up, go over to the mirror, and shout that at yourself. Embrace where you are right now. Know that the needle will shift little by little as you progress, but one thing will stay constant: you are enough!

In the wise words of Glinda, “you’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

AT THE END OF THE DAY…

We are all strange and slightly insecure people and we are all working on getting better. We are constantly bombarded on all sides by people, places, and things telling us how we should be. That stuff can be overwhelming to the best of us. Take a moment to connect with the person on the mat next to yours and continue to build the community that you’d want to see in the gym.

Your unique. You matter. You are enough. I see you.

-Angelo


To learn more about our inclusive fitness community at AMP, schedule a time to come visit us.


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Angelo discovered AMP Fitness in 2014 and has never looked back. He’s our Membership Happiness Director, strength coach, and full time badass. His background is outside of the fitness realm and from his past lives in arts and academia, Angelo brings a love of human connections, sharing stories, diversity, and inclusion that he hopes to bring to the fitness industry in a positive way. As someone who has only recently hopped over the fence to join the circus, he brings a great understanding of the journey to both new and veteran Members. Follow Angelo’s adventures on instagram @queernpresentdanger