How to Conquer Fitness Fear

Fear is a ferocious beast. If left unchecked, it can sabotage our best efforts towards greater health and prevent us from ever getting very far on the fitness journey. Feeling self-conscious, vulnerable, and anxious is common. Such feelings can also be a barrier when it comes to stepping into a weight room, getting our groove on in a Zumba class, or scaling a 6-foot wall in a mud-bedazzled obstacle course. We all worry about what other people think. No one likes to be judged. If you feel paralyzed (or even just slowed down) by fear when it comes to fitness, these tactics may help:

  1. Remind yourself that everyone else has the same fears you do. Every human on the planet feels self-conscious about something. All of us worry what everyone else will think. The appearance of confidence doesn’t mean that, deep down, someone isn’t harboring the same insecurities as everyone else.
  2. Fact check: No matter how you feel about your body, there will always be someone who wishes they had it.
  3. Research the activity before you jump in. Watch videos on Youtube, read reviews online, and call gyms, studios and other fitness activity organizers with any questions or concerns.
  4. Channel a person you greatly admire. Would Catherine the Great care if people could see her panty-lines while she deadlifted twice her bodyweight? The answer is no. Living or dead. Real or fictional. Think of someone whose courage, confidence and overall bad-assery inspire you. Channel their energy.
  5. Think back to a time when you persevered through hardship. Consider a moment in your life where you pushed past fear and did something that was truly difficult to do. Meditate on your own courage. Odds are, you’ve survived much worse than an awkward fitness experience.
  6. Go with a plan and stick to it. Lifting weights? Know exactly which movements you plan to do (e.g. squat, shoulder press, hamstring curls) and in what order. Fitness class? Review your logistics – know when you’re going to arrive, develop a solid outcome for yourself (e.g. “I want to sweat and get my heart rate up” or “I want to learn something new”), and have a plan for what you’ll do afterwards. Identify the details of your fitness adventure (including the desired outcome) and focus on those.
  7. Don’t forget your earbuds! Music, podcasts, audio books and news radio can provide compelling background to physical activity. Focusing your consciousness on something else can help get you through those final grueling moments of an intense sweat session. It can also provide a welcome barrier between you and the rest of the world. In any fitness setting, earbuds are a strong signal not to bother the person wearing them.
  8. Try a mantra. Focusing your attention on phrases you find grounding and empowering can help reduce momentary anxiety. Something like “I am strong and capable,” “I belong here,” or “I am the captain of my destiny” can push less affirming thoughts out of the way.
  9. Envision yourself 1 year from now. Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be? Understand that getting through this initial phase of awkwardness is an important step towards your goals.
  10. Enlist a friend. It’s never quite as scary when you have a friend by your side. Make your fitness excursion part of a bigger adventure – high-five each other for a job well done and grab a healthy meal afterwards.
  11. Enlist a professional. Hiring a reputable instructor or personal trainer with whom you feel comfortable can be a worthwhile investment in your health. She can teach you new skills, ensure you’re performing activities correctly (and not risking injury) and be a solid support system. Take your time to find the right person. Seek someone with a significant degree of knowledge and expertise, who takes their time and provides a supportive, affirming environment. Don’t settle for anything less.

 Fear may seem like an unbeatable adversary, but the reality is simply that it has no real power. Fear is an illusion. You are far stronger, far more capable and far more worthy of greatness than any of your fears would have you believe. Don’t listen. Commit to yourself, commit to your health and chase your own awesomeness. Onward!

Amanda Martin, CPTFitness Empowerment Coach

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