Have you started on the fat loss journey but you’re too afraid to go to the gym? Do you want to exercise but you’re afraid of getting judged? Are you feeling gym anxiety? If so look no further because I’m going to help you. Being afraid of going to the gym can stem from many things. You could have had bad experiences with gyms in the past. You could have low self-confidence or you could be high in anxiety and negative thoughts and so on. I’m going to tackle confidence and anxiety by helping you build up your self-efficacy and improving your mindfulness. But before we do that what is self efficacy and mindfulness?
The Solutions to Gym Anxiety
Self-Efficacy is people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of actions required to meet designated types of performance. In other words, your belief that you can do a specific thing like going to the gym without being afraid. Studies have shown that low levels of self efficacy are correlated with higher levels of fear. Self efficacy has also been correlated with approach behavior. An example of an approach behavior is going to the gym and facing your fears.There are 5 factors that influence self-efficacy. The factors are
- previous experiences,
- vicarious experiences,
- verbal persuasion,
- perception of physical and emotional states.
If you don’t know what those are don’t worry, I’m going to explain them, starting with previous experiences.
The Different Factors: What They Mean and How to Boost Them
- Previous experiences are, as you may have guessed, the experiences you’ve had in the past. Your experiences influence your self-efficacy. If you’ve had good experiences going to the gym before, think about those ones. Try to remember how it felt. Was it fun, did you feel strong? Hopefully you weren’t afraid, or at least less afraid then you are now. If not, don’t worry. If you don’t have any positive previous experiences we’ll make them. You could start out by working out with a friend and doing something fun afterward. This can make you associate the gym with something positive. If you’re too afraid of going to the gym, there are less scary activities that you can start with. You could start by going to a group exercise session or yoga and so on. By doing so you’ve created a positive previous experience and something that’s like going to the gym. This can trickle over in your self-efficacy about going to the gym.
- Vicarious experiences might sound complicated, but it’s basically seeing someone do what you’re attempting to do. The more similar the person is to yourself the better. Seeing Usain Bolt run 100m will not make you more confident in your ability to run 100m. Seeing someone your age, weight, shape, can. If you haven’t seen anybody that’s like you, doing what you want to do, google it. There are tons of people of different demographics that exercise. Finding someone like you is rarely that hard.
- Imagery is often known as visualization and can be described as imagining different scenarios and seeing them as a movie in your head. Seeing yourself going to the gym and being successful, can increase your self-efficacy. Try to envision yourself going to the gym. See yourself doing your exercises whilst, feeling good and having fun. Imagery can be hard and can take a bit of practice before you get proficient. Since it is a factor that increases self-efficacy. Try it out and see how you like it.
- Verbal persuasion, also known as self-talk, is words and phrases used to achieve desired psychological states. Different words and phrases work for different people. Do you already have some phrases or words that you’ve used before? Great! Use them the next time you’re going to the gym. If not, try different ones until you find the ones that fit you the best. It can be everything from ‘’you can do this’’ and ‘’I’m brave’’ to words like ‘’confidence’’ and ‘’relax’’.
- Perception of physical and emotional states is your perception of your feelings and thoughts. If you perceive them positive it will increase your self-efficacy. Physical states can be anything from being tense to your breathing. Emotional states can be anything from feeling nervous to feeling energized and excited. The state isn’t what matters, what matters is how you choose to frame the state. Let’s say you’re feeling shaky, you can frame that as ‘’I’m excited’. If you’re feeling afraid, frame it ‘’If I’m afraid it means that there’s something valuable on the other side’’ or ‘’I’m afraid, that’s an opportunity for me to get braver’’. You could also choose to frame it as ‘’I’m afraid so there must be something dangerous there’’. How you frame things makes all the difference. Framing something as an opportunity or something positive will help your self-efficacy. Framing it as danger won’t.
Mindfulness can be defined as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally and as open-heartedly as possible. In other words, being in the moment, not getting caught up in, or judging your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Have you ever seen a bike without a lock or an open car with a key inside? Have you then gone on to think or imagine yourself taking the car or the bike? Did you do it? Hopefully, you didn’t, which proves that you don’t have to act on the thoughts that pop into your head.
By looking at your thoughts as thoughts, you create a distance between you and your thoughts. That distance can make them easier to handle. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, and rumination. This might be a little vague and hard to understand so let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re at the gym and you start thinking that everybody’s looking at you. You start thinking there must be something wrong with you. Then you start thinking about the different things that could be wrong.
What you’ve done is you’ve judged your thoughts as valid or true and then continued down a path of rumination. What you could have done is when the thought ‘’everybody’s looking at me’’ popped in your head, you could have seen it as just a thought. As something that doesn’t have to be true and as you playing mind games with yourself. Being aware that they’re just thoughts you can handle the train of thoughts before it even begins. Even if they continue they’re just thoughts.
Mindfulness is easier to grasp for some and harder for others. If you haven’t tried being mindful before. Try taking a moment every day where you focus on your breath. While doing so be aware of the different thoughts that pop into your head and envision them like cars on the road. Don’t try to control them or change them. Instead, take notice of them and let them pass-through and return to focusing on your breath.
Take Home Message
As you might have already realized the different solutions are polar opposites. One’s telling you to reframe your thoughts and one is telling you to not control them and let them pass through. There are different ways of dealing with the same problem. I’ve given you two different ways. You can improve your self-efficacy by manipulating the factors. Or you can create a distance between you and your thoughts. Where you don’t judge them whilst being in the moment. Both strategies have been shown to be effective. It’s up to you to decide which one suits you the most. So try them out and see which one you like.
Article written by Joar Svensson, part of Team EBT.