As long as this blog has existed I have always encouraged my readers to exercise because whether it’s running, biking, swimming, or whatever it’s a well known fact that exercise can relieve stress and anxiety. I’ve worked out myself off and on for some time but always in my home. I’ve always been too self conscious to run down the street or worst yet join a gym.
It’s not like I’ve never been a gym member, just not for a long time. Recently I rejoined a local gym and the adjustment has been steep. This is because for anxiety sufferers exercise poses lots of problems. One of the primary problems is related to the fact that exercise makes us sweat, makes our heart pound, and causes us to lose our breath. Sounds like a panic attack huh?
That’s exactly what makes moderate to intense exercise so difficult for me and countless others who have anxiety issues. When we get all warmed up and busy many times we start thinking we’re having a heart attack, or panic attack, all kinds of attacks. It is very hard to keep your mind on exercise when this happens and many times just makes you want to quit altogether.
In addition to all the phyiscal symptoms there is the added problem of being in a crowded place, with music blaring, and machines cranking away. It’s almost like a night club with very casual attire.
Just a week ago I started working out again at the gym. Since signing up I’ve gone 3 times and each time it has been a struggle. I can’t say that I’ve had any panic attacks, but certainly I’ve felt out of shape, nervous, and on more than a couple of occasions ready to bolt from the place. Even the whole locker room thing was making me nervous.
Now granted this was all low level anxiety, but when the blood starts pumping and I feel light headed or winded I get very nervous and just want to stop. Here is what I think is going on to me and lots of people like me when they go to the gym and have an anxiety disorder.
1. Most people go the gym because they are out of shape. Therefore you will get winded easily, feel lightheaded if your lifting weights, and have very little stamina.
2. Most of your exercises at a gym are naturally more intense because the machines make it much easier to work up a sweat and as a result freaking out also becomes easier.
3. There are lots of people at the gym and this makes anyone with an anxiety problem somewhat uncomfortable.
4. You probably already have a bunch of preconceived ideas of what might happen to you in the gym before you even step in the door. In other words, before you even get on the treadmill you figure that you might die of a heart attack, stroke, asthma, or whatever.
These are just the things that bother me but I have to think that many people with anxiety have similar thoughts and feelings about going to the gym.
But the bottom line is that a gym is a great way to get in shape. There are tons of expensive machines that make working out a snap, other people working out which can provide motivation, and it’s a lot cheaper than trying to setup a home gym which can cause thousands of dollars.
Plus, exercise does make you feel good, it makes you breath deeply, and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. I really think it just takes time to get over the irrational fear that you will die at the gym or that you will simply freak out in front of everybody. Once your body gets accustomed to all this busy work much of the related apprehension will subside.
Hell I get scared out of my mind when I’m at the gym but I’m focused on getting serious about this excercise business. Starting at home is a great idea for people starting out, but at some point you have to get out there to see results. And I’m not talking about big muscles, but training your body to endure and recover from excessive stress more effectively. Exercise also helps to train your mind to deal with strange sensations and weird feelings. It’s a win, win. And if I ever do finally get back in shape I’ll let you know exactly how I did it.