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Exercise Anxiety

Posted Nov 18 2009 10:02pm

j0178881 Have you been overly anxious before? All of us, at some time or another, experience various levels of anxiety - but some of us experience extreme, over the top, Anxiety. An anxious state so extreme that the body begins to act physically to it. Symptoms may include a racing pulse, shallow breathing, chest pains, irregular heart beats and sweating to name a few. An individual may experience one or two of these symptoms but for the lucky few they will all kick in at once, taking the sufferer on a hell ride.

Now imagine that experience every time you went to the gym. As an avid gym rat for the last 30 years I feel comfortable in any gym that I walk into, I feel at home. The words, Anxiety and Gym, to me, are so far apart that I find it hard to understand that any one would feel uncomfortable. Yet they do.

Many years ago while working in a big chain gym I remember waiting for a new client to arrive for her first training session. (We had already met a few days before and completed some pre-exercise assessments and goal setting, she seemed very excited to get started.) She was 10 minutes late and not answering her cell. Five minutes later - she is now fifteen minutes late - she walked in the door apologizing, looking very distraught with red swollen eyes.

I asked her if she had been crying. She admitted that she had and went on to explain that that is why she was late. She had been sitting in the parking lot of the gym for the last half hour - trying to summon up the courage to walk in the door. She was petrified, frozen in her car. The fear that had come over her was overwhelming.

Another client of mine was fine inside of the gym, no fear of walking through the door. Always on time and a hard worker, always giving her best at each workout. Discussions were always about how to improve her nutrition, extra workouts that I could give her - trying to learn everything that she could in the few hours that we worked together each week.

I learned early on that any type of overhead press would cause her an extreme amount of discomfort. When it first happened I asked her if she was in pain - she said no - so we tried another set. She became flushed, started sweating and became very shaky and feeling nauseous. She tried to put into words what she was experiencing, found it hard to explain, and said that she was not doing that exercise any more.

Each client had experienced "Exercise Anxiety". Each to a different degree and probably for different reasons but experienced none the less. A fear that could, if they let it, end their exercise and healthy lifestyle career. In both cases we were able to work around these "fears" and found alternatives so that this was one less roadblock in their desire for a healthier lifestyle.

What about you? What about your friends? Do you have a fear of exercise or going to the gym? Do you fear the exercise itself or the large facility and all the people? Can you pin point why you are feeling this way?

Being afraid of the unknown is normal - letting it deter you from what you know is going to make you feel better is not. Dig deep and determine what is causing your apprehension and find ways around it so that you can get on with what you know you want - what you need.

The irony: exercise has been shown to be a better prescription for treating depression and anxiety than the drugs designed to treat these disorders.
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