Let me set the scene: I am in my bedroom packing my gym bag, checking it over and over again because my anxiety makes me do that sometimes. I make sure I have the most important thing: my headphones! Finally, I get into my car and whack on some music that will distract me from how I am feeling (usually something I can sing to).
Those feelings are a mixture of: fear, nervousness, panic, no control and stress. What happens when I get there? Who will be there? Will someone judge me for what I am wearing? Am I being watched and judged because I am a fitness coach? Do I have to put on this front?
Do I even look like a fitness coach? She looks better than me!
I have been going to gyms for 17 years, I have taken part in the London marathon, I am a former world champion and black belt in Shotokan Karate, I have been on stage in a teeny-weeny bikini and heels for a bodybuilding show, yet I still suffer with anxiety and will always have insecurities, which is more than ok!
I have learnt to use fitness as a way to manage my anxiety. Through school I did karate, my sister and I were part of a local club travelling across the country and Europe taking part in competitions. At that time I was also playing for a number of sports teams at school and I loved it, then at university I struggled with being homesick. I needed something that would give me a sense of belonging – the similar feeling to being with family. I joined the university women’s hockey team and I got exactly what I was looking for: my sense of belonging. When I completed the London marathon, it was one of my dearest best friends that I trained with; when I competed in a bodybuilding show, I was part of a small community of competitors and we helped each other through it.
My point here is that each of these moments that include fitness are significant in my life: having a focus, a sense of belonging and feeling the benefits when exercising, all contribute to me managing my anxiety. Stepping through those gym doors has become more manageable over time because I know how amazing I feel when I have exercised.
Small steps are better than giant leaps! I am not going to tell to you exactly what to do. I am going to ask you, could you think about what gives you a sense of belonging? Are you able to find that in your local area?
Even the most experienced gym users get anxiety! Always remember that!
Try this on your way to the gym!