"While working out is a stress reliever, getting to the gym can cause some people a lot of anxiety.
The fear around working out often stems from not knowing how to use certain exercise equipment. Others feel judged or intimidated by gyms — especially if a space is focused on weight loss.
Why working out can cause anxiety
Sarah Taylor, a certified personal trainer and founder of Fitness by Sarah Taylor, says that most people just head for the treadmill or elliptical machines because that’s all they’re comfortable doing.
Taylor, who is also a plus-size model and body-positive advocate, says people who are new to exercise rarely understand how to target different muscle groups, which can add to their gym anxiety.
“When it comes to strength training, they don’t know how to do proper form,” she said. “They don’t even know how to build an exercise program, so they just kind of stick to a cardio machine — and that can be really boring.”
Find someone to help you
To help combat a lack of knowledge, Taylor says it’s important to find a reliable source to learn from.
If you’re able to afford it, Taylor says working with a personal trainer can be a great way to learn the basics. She says if an ongoing trainer is out of your budget, one or two sessions can still be helpful.
“I’ll go with [people] to their gym and show them how to use their equipment, and we’ll record the session so that they have an idea of how to actually do [the exercises] when I’m not with them,” Taylor said.
What’s important, both experts said, is to work with someone who understands your goals and is going to make you feel good about exercise — not bad.
Join a community
If you’re new to a certain workout or type of exercise, joining a beginner’s class or six-week training program is a good way to start. Taylor says that she always offers modifications to her clients, which is important since everybody moves differently.
Small group training classes are also a good way to learn strength training fundamentals, as coaches should teach form, and walk clients through proper technique.
“If somebody were to come [to classes] for six months, for example, they would get a really good understanding of how to do everything and they could continue on their own,” Taylor adds.
Taylor says that her clients not only encourage one another, but they’ve also developed friendships outside of working out.
“The great thing about group fitness is that there’s motivation in the community,” she said. “It’s not just about going to the gym by yourself.”
Focus on how you feel — not the scale
People’s relationships with exercise can become complicated when weight loss is the sole focus.
...when you actually learn proper exercises and enjoy working out, you become more motivated, Taylor says.
“It’s really learning to feel good and focusing on that,” Taylor said.
“It’s about having a holistic approach to fitness because, in most gyms, it’s about an aesthetic and looking a certain way — [but] our weight doesn’t dictate our value or our worth.”
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