3 Ways to Get Over Gym Anxiety, Because Promise: No One Is Looking at You

In the age of “if you didn’t Instagram your workout, did it really count?” fitness can feel like an all-or-nothing proposition—but it shouldn’t. Together with Michelob ULTRA—the next-level light beer that wants to take the stress out of staying fit—we’re exploring ways to be active that you’ll actually enjoy. Because being healthy doesn’t require fitness to be your whole life, just one (fun) part of it. 

Stop us if any of these thoughts sound familiar: I swear that mammoth at the squat rack is staring at me again. These leggings are definitely see-through. I’m sure my workout looks so stupid to the trainers here. Please, please, please, nobody talk to me.

If your inner monologue on the gym floor is more “help me” than “hell yes,” you’re not alone. Among its endless other benefits, working out is supposed to be empowering—and yet research (and most likely personal experience) shows that the stress of exercising in an uncomfortable environment can cancel out any of the goodness that your gym sesh has to offer.

Luckily for those who would rather take an Uber with their ex than lift weights in public, there are plenty of ways to sweeten your relationship with the gym. To help, we teamed up with with Michelob ULTRA to get pro-level tips on reducing gym anxiety from Joanna Castro, certified personal trainer and coach at Body Space Fitness—because working out is supposed to make you feel good, not completely stress you out.

Keep reading for 3 tips on overcoming gym anxiety, so you can add a dose of confidence to your workouts.

gym anxiety

Lighten the mood

If you’re having company over, you pop on a great playlist to set the mood, right? Since we often lean on music to manipulate a situation's atmosphere, Castro says we should do the same for our time at the gym.

“Create a playlist that’ll set the tone for your workout,” she says. “When we listen to things we enjoy, we’re naturally in a better mood. I personally like to start my playlist with a mellow song that picks up. I’m currently enjoying ‘These Eyes’ by Tora.”

Get your roll on

Before you jump right into your workout, take a second to tune into your own body and clear your head (AKA tell any self-doubting thoughts to get lost). The easiest way to do that? Castro suggests foam rolling.

“Grab a foam roller and begin to roll out your muscles,” she says. “Breathe into the tender spots by inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. This helps with the discomfort of foam rolling and also [...] allows more oxygen to your brain, which, in turn, promotes calmness.”

Sweat loves company

Everything is more enjoyable when you have a friend by your side, and that includes going to the gym. “We’re social creatures by nature,” Castro says. “So having the support of a gym buddy will definitely help you start your workout in higher spirits.”

The other benefit of working out with a friend? They double as an "accountabilibuddy"—you know, the person whose job it is to make sure you don't skip your evening spin class (and to grab a beer with you afterward to celebrate a sweat well done).

“Having an accountability partner helps a ton,” Castro says. “Whether they’re physically present or not, the agreement you made to that person will double your chances of sticking to your commitment.”

Big picture: You know your body best

If after all that going to the gym still feels more anxiety-inducing than a root canal on your birthday, don’t force yourself to pay a membership fee to your own personal hell. Besides, studies show that extroverts and introverts respond differently to stimuli, so if going to a gym or group workout is truly not for you, there are plenty of other ways to move that won’t stress you out, like quick, at-home workouts or outdoor run-walks.

Above all, remember: Working out is for you. You don’t owe it to anyone else to look or perform a certain way in the gym, so take the opportunity to be selfish with your time and focus on improving number one. At the end of the day, you’ll be stronger for it.

Sponsored by Michelob ULTRA

Photos: Michelob ULTRA

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