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Mental Health: Exercise Class Anxiety

You’ve been thinking about it for weeks. Maybe months. Maybe even years. You’ve read about the benefits of group fitness in every magazine and on every website you can find. You’ve researched local gyms, read all the reviews, and figured out which one you want to try out. You’re so close to hitting the submit button to connect with a coach – but you stop. You’re anxious and nervous about what you’re experience is going to be and if you’re going to just embarrass yourself at class. You’re not alone – exercise class anxiety is a real thing. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re letting your fear get the better of making the change you need in your life.

Anxiety affects everyone, so you’re just like everyone else.

The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy approximately $1 trillion each year. You are certainly not the only person dealing with anxiety in some way. This means that when you walk into the gym for the first time, all the other people there felt just like you did on their first day.

We’ve all been beginners before. Just think back to the first time you attended a new school, or your first day on your job. You felt a little unsure of where to go, how to act, and who to hang out with. After being consistently around, however, you found your crew, developed your routine, and are now comfortable in your role. You may have exercise class anxiety right now, but in a few classes that will all go away.

Being a beginner is a good thing.

You’re just starting out, and that feels like a big obstacle to overcome, right? Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Outside of physical benefits of being a beginner, you actually are working your brain in extremely healthy ways, as well. Think about it like this: when you started taking a foreign language in school, you were introduced to a new puzzle of language. The gym is the same way. Instead of letting your exercise class anxiety tell you to be scared of being a beginner, be excited to learn and master a new puzzle all over again.

Also, when you’re a beginner, you have some legitimate physical advantages:

  1. Beginner Gains: these are real, people. Your body is the most incredible machine ever designed, and it adapts exceptionally quickly. When you’re new, every time you workout your body reaches a new level. You don’t even know the meaning of the word plateau. It’s just setting records and seeing improvements right away. It’s exciting and fun.
  2. Higher Calorie Burn: because you don’t know how to do everything efficiently yet, you use extra energy just trying to learn the movements and do them inside of class. Sure, this may feel a little frustrating – but rest easy in the fact you’re just burning a little more fuel than the veteran working out next to you.
  3. Learning correctly the first time: you are going to be taught the correct way to move right from the beginning, and not have to relearn it ever again. Imagine if you could get rid of all your bad driving habits and start over from square one – you’d be a better driver, right? Same goes with exercise. You’re new, so just follow your coach and you’ll progress quicker than you ever expected.

Everyone is excited for you.

We take a moment at the start of any class with a new person and introduce everyone in that class. You may not realize it once you’ve been in our gym for a long time, but when you are starting out, simply having an idea of who is who is a really nice way to begin. It’s a chance to put some names to faces, and start to get a feel for what will hopefully be a great community for you.

One thing that really sets group fitness apart from other options is that you are walking into a room full of people who are rooting for you. At Summit, you are meant to succeed and to leave feeling accomplished. Your coach is rooting for you, and so are the other people in class. In fact, one of the best moments comes when you are working out, it’s almost the end of the workout, and those who finished before you are cheering you on. It’s a great feeling, and one that happens regularly. Remind your exercise anxiety of this fact when you’re about to say “not today,” for the fifth time this month. Take the plunge, you’ll be glad you did.

Your secret weapon: a mantra

Exercise class anxiety feeds on disbelief. Disbelief that you’re enough. Fear of embarrassment. Lack of confidence. These things are anxiety’s best friends. But you know what? Developing a mantra can be your weapon against all of them.

Don’t worry about making it perfect or that it is probably going to sound cheesy. Make up a quick phrase you can remind yourself of when exercise class anxiety shows up to make you skip the gym again this January. It can be as simple as, “Make this year your year.” Or, you can steal Nike’s slogan and use “Just do it.” Who cares? Make it something that is important to you. That’s all that matters.

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