5 Simple Tricks to help you Reduce Pre-Workout Anxiety
Have you ever felt a sense of overwhelm at the thought of exercising, despite having the motivation to do so? Have you ever experienced sudden dizziness, racing pulse or shortness of breath just before going to the gym or before attending that fun workout class you’ve been looking forward to? Or upon entering the gym, a sense of panic that made you want to leave?
If the answer is YES, there is a chance that you’re experiencing pre-workout anxiety. This is extremely common and nothing to feel bad about. You don’t need to let it stop you from embarking on your fitness journey. This article is here to help you move through it so you can come out more empowered and excited to move forward in your physical fitness than ever before.
Understand the root of your anxiety
Anxiety is your body’s natural way of signalling a threat. This is a good thing. Your body is just trying to keep you safe! Thank you body. AND, sometimes our body thinks there’s a threat when there is none. It isn’t always obvious why our body feels threatened so it is important to take a moment to drop in and find out.
Knowing what is triggering your anxious feelings is the first step towards releasing them. Is it the environment? Maybe it’s the loud music and bright lights. Lot’s of gyms lack natural light and this isn’t good for our brains at all. Is it the people? Are you afraid of people judging you? Whatever the reason is, allow yourself to feel that sticky emotional discomfort. Your feelings just want to be felt. That’s why they’re there. They are messages and they won’t go away until you listen. And listening in this sense means feeling. So feel, and breathe deeply. Don’t try to understand the feelings yet. Trust that if you don’t try to understand at all and simply surrender to the physical sensations the reason for them, or the deeply embedded unconscious thought that’s triggering them, will show itself/themselves to you.
By the time you’ve really felt what you’re feeling and become aware of what you’re afraid of, you’re likely already feeling much better. Next, you can see if there’s anything you can do to help the situation to feel even better. For example, say you’re anxious about people looking at you and judging you. Maybe you’re afraid they’ll think you’re ‘doing it wrong’ or don’t know what you’re doing. In this case, remind yourself people aren’t watching you, they’re concerned with their own workout. And furthermore, anybody who is standing around judging strangers in the gym isn’t someone whose opinion you care about anyway. Or, maybe you’re worried you’ll do an exercise incorrectly and end up hurting yourself! In this case you have a number of options. You could look up each exercise before you do it to check the correct form. This is something I still do when trying new exercises. Even as a professional personal trainer, there’s always more to learn. There’s no shame in it. You’ll only have to do this for so long because soon you’ll know how to do the exercises you want to do. And then, it’ll just be new exercises you want to try that you need to check.
You could also hire a personal trainer to help you perfect your form and learn about training your body before you head into a training programme solo. Having someone there to watch you is so valuable because they’ll spot things you can’t see. You definitely want to try doing your exercises in front of a mirror anyway so you can see your form yourself. Sometimes it feels okay and it’s not until you see yourself that you notice little errors, such as overarching the back and hunching the shoulders forward. Sometimes, your personal trainer might even film you doing exercises so you can watch back over them after. This helps you learn how the correct form looks and feels quickly.
Mindfulness exercises for anxiety
Anxiety is your body’s natural way of signalling a threat. Knowing what triggers your brain to associate exercise with danger is the first step towards gaining control over your body. Is it the environment, the people or maybe the fear of performance? Whatever the reason is, allow yourself to feel the emotions and breathe deeply. When we process uncomfortable feelings, that emerge from our subconscious thought patterns, we can actually break the cycle of those thought patterns, and therefore stop living out from those wounds. You know when you don’t feel you’re going to be good at something you most likely won’t be. So when we can release the feelings that make us feel bad we can actually perform better, without any effort at all. Studies show that when you fully allow yourself to process/feel an emotion in the body, it doesn’t take more than 90 seconds for it to dissipate. Meditation is an effective tool to create the space you need to safely feel and release your emotions so that you can lovingly move forward. We have a wonderful post all about meditation and it even includes a meditation you can try today!
Exercising with a Personal Trainer
So how does engaging with exercise help with anxiety? In simple terms, exercise releases multiple neurotransmitters including; endorphins (which work to reduce pain signals and increase pleasure reception), endocannabinoids (which give you a natural high) and dopamine (which is a reward hormone and causes you to feel pleasure when you achieve something. It also works the other way, by motivating you when you feel pleasure.)
If you’re still feeling afraid of working out in public you have the option of working out at home. You might always workout at home. Or, working out at home will eventually give you the confidence to do it outside. Some people don’t want to workout in public at all, including in a park! And that’s okay. At MotivatePT we can help you pick the right personal trainer, who will help you to achieve your fitness goals in whatever environment you feel most comfortable in. We also provide online personal training if you’d like to workout across Zoom!
Anxious thoughts can often be the result of feeling overwhelmed by the goals we set for ourselves. This is why starting small can be super helpful. With these baby steps, you’ll show your brain you’re safe and you’ve got this. Why not start with the intention to just do three exercises? For example, a Romanian deadlift, curtsy lunges, and a shoulder press? If working out at home or following an online video, why not pick a video that’s just 20 minutes or so to begin with? There’s no need to jump in at the deep end if the pressure to do so is what’s holding you back. Be kind to yourself.
Avoid caffeine before a workout
If you suffer from anxiety or panic disorder, make sure to avoid caffeine, especially before any intense physical activities. Caffeine is known to increase the heart rate and the release of adrenaline in your body. Water with some fresh lemon can give you the extra boost of energy you need, without the unwanted shivers!
Pick a physical activity you enjoy
Choosing a physical activity that will excite you is the easiest way to tackle moments of fear and self-doubt. Does dancing in your room sound good? How about a relaxing session of yoga? Or Zumba? The options are endless, so pick the one which sounds most appealing. “Fit” doesn’t have to look any one way. And despite social media fitness trends, there’s no one ideal way to get fit. There is advice you can keep in mind depending on various factors though. For example, there are considerations you’ll want to make depending on your age.
Written By Bea: Female fitness expert at MotivatePT – Reps Level 3 Qualified / Pre & Post Natal