Gym/exercise phobia - how to treat it!

Being nervious, anxious, put off or scared of the gym is an all too often occurance in my experience. People often tell me how they do not enjoy the gym experience they have when they go. This can be for a number of reasons ranging from the facilities, staff or even other members. In this short blog I shall go through what I think you can do to help combat the gym fears you may have so you can begin to enjoy a healthier and fitter you!

Not knowing what to do.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people do not enjoy the gym is because they are unsure of what to do. There is so much conflicting information on the internet that knowing what exercises to do, how to do them, what order to do them and when to do them can be very overwhelming. This can also be an issue in regards to nutrition. There are also coaches (me included) that can make training and programming very complicated and preach how programmes need to be adapted for continual progression.

First things first - if you are unsure of what to do, ask someone. Ask friends, family or gym staff - remember, doing something is absolutely better than doing nothing. Of course the best thing to do is to do research on local trainers and hire a reputable coach. This does come at a price, however many coaches (myself included) offer online/remote coaching services which is cheaper than personal training but still allows you to receive effective programming. For absolute beginners, personal training is extremely beneficial as the coach will be able to not only programme effectively for you - but also ensure you are doing everything correctly and keep you accounatable.

If you are put off from the gym because you do not know what you are doing then here is a summary of what you can do to combat this.

1) Hire a coach either for online coaching or personal training. Training to get optimal results can get complicated. Hiring someone who understands programming will save you the headache of not knowing what to do.

2) Ask gym staff or look up workouts online (although not optimal, still better than nothing).

3) Keep things simple - do not worry about periodisation and optimal exercises, just get moving until you are ready for the next step.

4) Do things that you know you will enjoy.

Don't have time

Oh how I hear this all the time, you do not have time to train. For some reason many people believe that if you do not workout for 2 hours you may as well not bother, this of course is absolutely wrong.

For some people, those with specific sporting needs/goals, training for up to 2 hours may be necessary. Myself included, a full Weightlifting styled programme (Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squats and accessory work) may easily take up to 2 hours. But just because I take 2 hours doesn't mean you need to. If you are someone who is easily put off from the gym, embarking on a long programme may not be the best idea. Have a realistic goal to perform a 20 minute to 30 minute workout, a short and sweet workout has many health and fitness benefits.

Another good idea is to pre-book your gym workouts into your weekly routine. Whether you complete a workout during your lunch break, before work or even after work scheduling your workout may make it part of your routine. One thing I would suggest is if you do schedule your workout for after work DO NOT GO HOME FIRST. Once you sit on your sofa the likelihood of getting off it is not high!

You can always make time for a workout. Yes somethings, like social events, may have to be sacrificed every so often (or simply pushed back) but if you want to live a healthy life then fitting in a 30 minute workout shouldn't be a hassle.

I do not like gyms!

For a lot of people the gym simply isn't their thing. They do not like the music, the machines, the vibe or sharing equipment with sweaty strangers - I totally get all this. Of course sometimes the gym can be very useful and even crucial. People with goals such as increasing strength, power and improving sports performance may need various bits of kit to allow the appropiate progression. Also, gyms provide a working atmosphere. Everyone is in there for the same reason - they want to improve some aspect of themselvs. I find gyms very motivating - I could not workout full time at home. I need the vibe and work atmosphere to get me through.

However, if you are someone who doesn't have a sporting goal then gyms are not totally needed. Of course you can take up a hobby like running or cycling that does not need a gym at all. If your goals are muscle hypertrophy, strength and power based and you do require bits of kit you can always buy things to have at home (if you have space). There is nothing wrong with a garage gym!

Here are a few pointers to help with this fear!

1) Look around many gyms in your area. No gym is the same (even chain gyms), so take a look at a few and see if you like any of them. Make sure you check out the changing and shower facilities too to make sure they are up to a standard you like.

2) If gyms are not your thing, buy in some equipment so you can do workouts at home. I programme for many people who train in their garages or gardens.

3) If you are someone who wants to be fitter/healthier but doesn't like gyms AND doesn't know what to do, try taking up a different hobby. Rock climbing, running clubs, martial arts clubs and cycling clubs are all available.

"There are annoying members who hassle me"

You may love the gym but unfortunately there may be other members who simply do not have boundary awareness. Very often people who talk to you, offer advice (whether you asked for it or not) or criticise you are just trying to be helpful. Very often a phrase like "thank you but I do not need help" may be sufficient and get them to back off. However, if someone is constantly hassling you then you need to talk to the gym staff/centre staff. The gym staff will more than likely have experience with dealing with these situations and will handle the issue without putting you in the firing line. Your health and fitness should not be negatively effected by someone so make sure you nip it in the bud before you get put off going to the gym.

"I just do not have motivation to train"

This is perhaps the number one reason people do not enjoy or go to the gym, they are not motivated to exercise. It could be that they suffer with some of or even all of the points previously discussed or they may love gyms but cannot bring themselves to be motivated to train.

It is important to note that motivation comes and goes with everyone! Even if you are a keen exerciser or even an athlete your motivation to train can (and will most probably) slip. This is totally normal, and it is crucial not to give yourself a hard time if it does happen. However, eventually the work does have to be done if you are to succeed in achieving your goals.

Here are a few pointers to help you with your motivation. Some of the points will refer back to things I have already discussed.

1) Find a workout enviroment that you enjoy. Whether you enjoy working out in a gym, at home or in the park - make sure your workout enviroment isn't putting you off your exercise.

2) Make sure that you are completing effective workouts. Knowing that your workouts will do something will definitely help with your motivation. Hiring a coach to programme for you is a relatively cheap way to ensure you are doing the correct things in your training.

3) Hire a coach. Whether you hire a coach for personal training or programming - a coach will help you stay accountable and keep you on track regarding your training and nutrition.

4) Enjoy your workouts. There is no reason why you shouldn't enjoy your workouts. Find a training methodology that works for you! If you have specific needs then sometimes you may need to do things you don't enjoy as much. For example, if you want to be a successful Olympic Weightlifter then you probably should do a Squat variation to improve leg flexion/extension performance (whether you like it or not).

5) Train with a friend. A friend will help to keep you accountable and give you motivation during your training.

6) Make training a part of your daily routine.

7) Perform regular valid testing. If you know you are improving then your motivation levels will go up!

So there you have it, a few examples of why you may not enjoy the gym/exercise and a few pointers on how to combat it!

If you have any questions regarding this subject or anything else then please get in touch!

Stay Strong,


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