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To some, the gym can be an intimidating place.

It is full of people sculpting the type of physique that many of us dream of but all you are looking at are gym-goers who are little further down the track than you. Nonetheless, seeing your fellow fitness enthusiasts doing heavier reps or putting in more time on the treadmill can make the endeavour seem like a thankless task.

These types of feelings must be swiftly ignored — but they are entirely natural. A recent study has shown that one in four people in the United Kingdom are so anxious about going to the gym that the fear of doing so outweighs more traditional fears like spiders, receiving injections or for millennials, being without their phone for an extended period of time.

The most commonly cited reasons for gym phobia are:

  • Fear of appearing inexperienced in front of others
  • Self-conscious issues
  • Fear of people judging your body type
  • Inexperience on the weight machines
  • Lack of physical strength

Stephen Rowe, a fitness expert with PureGym explains further:

“Our research revealed two principal causes of fear for people new to the world of gyms. The first is a general fear of the unknown and secondly, people worry that others may judge them as they don’t know what they’re doing which can lead to social anxiety,” he said.

“Going to the gym is a social experience, meaning it carries all the potential gains that come with socialising, but also all of the fears and anxieties too,” Dr. Margee Kerr of the University of Pittsburgh elaborates.

“We, as humans, are constantly comparing ourselves to our peers, analysing how we’re similar, better, or worse. We also compare ourselves to our own expectations of what we think we should be capable of, our internal representation of our ‘best’ self”. Where we might be able to hide some of our vulnerabilities in the workplace or school, our weaknesses feel on full display in the gym, inciting intense feelings of vulnerability, of self-doubt, of fear.”

So, how best to kick the anxiety?

Remind yourself why you are working out in the first place. What are your goals? And how do you aim to achieve them? Focus on this as best you can and other anxieties should melt away in time. Also, you should harness any fear you may have as a motivational tactic. Strategic thinking such as this will help you isolate your goals and when your objectives are clearly visible, they become much easier to achieve.