I have written about my relationship with the gym before (which you can read about here). I feel like I can now write a more up to date article about getting through my anxiety troubles at the gym.
So basically, before I very first went to Australia I had been managing to keep up with my workouts and healthy eating (healthy-ish. I was on these shakes morning and afternoon which did their job, but they were too restrictive for me. It’s a long story that I may get into another time…). Then when I had been in Australia for a few months, work got busier and the weather got hotter and I kinda lost all motivation/energy. I then returned home for a couple of months back in March/April which is when I joined an all ladies gym local to me. However my mindset wasn’t in the right place. I still struggled with my anxiety at the gym but I was only really going to the gym for something to do and to please others rather than going for myself. I knew that I had gained weight, which is not a bad thing, I was happy with my body, but it’s hard to accept when you know that almost every other person (including friends/family) will notice and there’s the potential that it will be discussed behind your back (because we have all been there, whether it’s having others gossip about someones weight to you or we have made the comments ourselves). I had reached a point where I genuinely did not care what people said about me, it was the paranoia of them discussing me behind my back (I absolutely hate, hate this) and that’s what fuelled yet another health kick which ultimately did not last long.
So I went back to Australia and the only exercise I did was for work and my healthy diet was kinda out the window but then I returned home to the UK around the start of August and I came back with a determined and focused mindset because I wasn’t 100% happy with myself. Before I flew home I had had a couple of weeks doing hardly any exercise and eating pretty poorly and it brought me down a bit. My energy levels were low and I felt so sluggish. I decided that when I landed in Manchester I was going to look after my body better, inside and out. Starting with the gym.
I signed back up at the all ladies gym near my home for a 1 month membership. It’s a fairly small gym but it has a nice homely feel. It’s the only gym I can somewhat comfortably go to (mostly because it is the only gym I have been to).
My first few sessions were mostly cardio. I enjoy cardio, especially running. As a child I ran for my primary and high school (I then grew boobs and my joints aged by about 40 years and running became a bit more painful). I didn’t just stick to cardio because I enjoyed it though. I wanted to try out new exercises and equipment but the fear (which is what anxiety feeds off) was stopping me. I know my anxiety is all in my head but the voice of reasoning is also in my head and when they debate it can cause my body confusion. So I could finish on the treadmill with the intension of moving onto a weight machine (this is when my voice of reasoning is speaking), walk towards it and then divert away (and this is when my anxious voice kicks in…). I remember one day I went to the gym with the intention of trying out more weight related exercises and just doing a cardio warm up. I walked in and instantly began to overanalyse the room. I was counting how many people were there and trying to figure out what level of ‘gym experience’ they might have. I was watching everyone to see whether they were watching me. They weren’t but it definitely felt like they were. By this point I had already begun to sweat and my heart was racing. I went to the treadmill and began my ‘warm up’. Another thing with anxiety is it makes you rush. You rush conversations, you rush around shopping centres, and you rush whatever you can to get it over with so you can escape or just try and drain yourself of all anxious energy. I began to panic on the treadmill so I wacked up the incline and the speed. After 15 minutes I was absolutely shattered. I just wanted a shower and to be in the comfort of my home. I began my walk home mentally drained, sweaty, panicky and pissed off at myself. I was absolutely fed up of this happening. But yet another bonus to having anxiety is that it prevents you from asking for help. Asking for help can make you feel vulnerable and can open you up to ridicule or criticism (which relates to social anxiety). So simply asking for someone to show me how to use a machine was out of the question as that involved too many fears…speaking to people, asking for help and being a complete beginner in front of them whilst they’re eyes are stuck on me. Big massive no (I’m not at the point of comfortably asking for help just yet).
The lady who owns the gym is also a personal trainer. I had watched her work and explored her Instagram/Facebook account and I thought about joining on for some personal training. I had tried group PT sessions back where I used to work in Australia but it 100% was not for me. It was summer so I was dripping within the first 2 minutes (I was basically a walking waterfall), I was beetroot red in front of all my work colleagues and it was a group…hell no. I think I went to 1 session and decided it defo was not for me. So I was pretty apprehensive to sign up for PT sessions again but I knew that if I was going to gain confidence in the gym then I needed help and this was the best way of asking for help without actually asking.
I was booked in for 8 sessions but as I was unsure of when I would be heading back to Australia we did 2 sessions a week for 4 weeks (instead of 1 session a week for 8 weeks which is what she usually does for clients). As I had seen her work before I had an idea of what would be asked of me and how it would be asked. My first session was legs on a Monday and upper bod on a Tuesday. On Wednesday I felt paralysed. Every single muscle was sore. Muscles I didn’t even think existed but by Friday I felt so much stronger.
The sessions were challenging but I actually enjoy pushing myself (most of the time…). My trainer, R, treated me just like anyone else. I didn’t have to worry about my sweat, my face or my performance. She offered support, encouragement and motivation which led to me gaining more confidence whilst doing my own sessions. I began to actually do cardio warm ups and then move on to weights which is exactly what I wanted. Getting on with exercise became a lot easier as the worry about what I was doing, how I looked and what not had faded (the worry came back every now and again but it became easier to just crack on with what I actually wanted to do). My workouts went from 45mins to an hour to an hour and a half (my last session there was 2 hours which is a major goal for me).
I don’t work during my time at home. My home time is like a holiday. A chance for me to relax in the comfort of familiarity, organise my next trip, catch up with friends and family and focus on self-improvement. Going to the gym became part of my daily routine. It was what I did every morning/afternoon (this is when the gym was the quietest). It gave me something to do, made my days have a purpose and I always felt better after I had been for a workout. There is only so much of doing nothing I can take before I get frustrated (I think this is why I struggle with office type jobs, I like to be physically working).
I’m now back in Australia and started work again a couple of days ago. My house does have a basic gym which I have been using after work. I’m still getting used to the new gym in a new setting but I’m getting there. My workout sessions have been roughly 30-45mins so far and I’ve timed it so I’m the only one in the gym. But the real challenge is staying on track. I definitely have the motivation to do so but I know there is a chance this motivation could slip away when work gets busier (yearling prep will be starting at the end of the month) and when the summer heat kicks in. This is something that I really do want to stay on track with. Exercise is something that allows me to get rid of any excess energy (excess energy can usually lead to debates in my head…), to feel good and to be proud of myself.
Hopefully this is a new chapter of my journey that will lead to greater things.
I will keep you all up to date!
Sending my love to you all,