You might wonder how you’ll possibly get through your exercise regimen with other people around–people who, you might imagine, are looking at you and judging you. You might feel terribly out of place when other gym members seem to be in so much better shape or are more adept at exercising and using the equipment than you are. And, with all of those thoughts swirling around in your head, socializing at the gym can seem completely out of the question.
You might break out into a sweat before you even break a sweat!
Don’t worry; social anxiety at the gym is not unique to you. Although it can seem like a nightmare, you can work out with confidence and maybe even make a few friends if you keep a few simple things in mind.
Social Anxiety at the Gym, Tip #1 – Your primary reason for going should be to improve your health.
First and foremost, when you decide to go to the gym regularly, you’re doing your body and mind a huge favor. A regular exercise regimen will help you lose excess weight and improve your muscle tone, both of which make you physically healthier and more attractive. In addition, exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety levels over time, and the fact that you’re doing it in a social situation–exposing yourself to other people–makes it an awesome one-two punch against your inhibitions.
If it’s hard for you to even walk into the doors of the gym, give yourself a little push by reminding yourself why you’re going. You’re going there to improve your own health and life. You’re enhancing your physical and mental health, as well as becoming a stronger person by doing it all in a potentially frightening social environment. You’re not going for the benefit of others, and you’re certainly not going there to be judged and evaluated by others. Chances are, everyone else there will be focused on their own fitness goals. It isn’t a competition–it’s about taking your health and mental well-being into your own hands. Remember that whenever you’re feeling self-conscious!
Social Anxiety at the Gym, Tip #2 – To communicate with others, test the waters with politeness and relevant remarks.
If it seems hard to be friendly with other people at the gym, you’re not entirely off base. Some people aren’t really in a social mood when they’re at the gym–they’re all about the business of working out and getting into better shape. Sometimes they’re blowing off steam from a stressful day.
Nevertheless, the gym can be a nice place to make friends, and there’s no reason for anyone to be mean or rude if you make a friendly gesture. After you’ve gone consistently for several weeks, start to attack your social anxiety at the gym by making small, manageable, friendly gestures. You might offer to spot someone (if you know what you’re doing) or ask people what they think of the exercise bikes, elliptical trainers, or the gym as a whole. These are some simple ways to test and see if people are in a social mood. If they give you short answers and don’t make any real effort to keep talking, you know to move on; however, if they start to really share their opinions and ask yours, you can know you’re on the right track.
Social Anxiety at the Gym, Tip #3 – Keep going in order to forge connections with the regulars and make strides against anxiety.
By all means, keep exercising at the gym. At some point, a potential friend or even an attractive stranger might begin to take an interest in getting to know you.
Psychological research has proven that people begin to feel comfortable around and like each other based on something called the mere exposure effect: the more you see a person around, the easier it is for you to like him or her. Use this to your advantage and expose yourself regularly to potential friends at the gym. The first few times might be the hardest for you, but over time, you’ll find your anxiety lessening until going to the gym ultimately becomes no big deal.
If you have social anxiety at the gym, now is your chance to do something about it. Push yourself to make the first steps, strike up conversations, and keep attending regularly, and before you know it you will have made long-lasting, positive changes in your physical and mental health.