Health & Wellness

New Year, No Fear: Five Ways to Overcome Gym Anxiety at Aggie Rec Center

(Photo from the USU Statesman Online)

The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.

New Year, No Fear: Five Ways to Overcome Gym Anxiety at Aggie Rec Center    

By Melanie Fenstermaker in The Utah Statesman January 12, 2016

It’s a new year and there’s a new on-campus gym, which could be the motivation for any Aggie’s resolution to get in shape. But not everyone views dropping into the gym as a simple task.

Many students want to exercise, but have gym anxiety, meaning they fear being judged by others in the gym for their body stature and lack of know-how and experience. Conquering gym anxiety may be a challenge, but it’s worth it, said Laura Poppie, a USU student who overcame her anxiety and now frequents the Aggie Recreation Center.

Here are five tips Poppie and other student gym-goers and employees shared for conquering gym anxiety at the ARC.

Focus on the workout, not the people

Some students are nervous about going to the gym because they don’t like being watched, but most gym regulars don’t compare themselves to others, said Joshua Crane, an ARC gym supervisor and personal trainer. He said most students are focused on their individual workouts.

“The people that are here the most are the ones who are looking in the mirror the most as well, so they don’t even notice when people come in,” Crane said.

Part of overcoming gym anxiety, he said, is realizing the gym isn’t a competitive place.

“We’re all here for the same reason, which is to get in shape,” said Rachel Clark, a junior who has worked in on-campus gyms for a year. “Just focus on your own workout and don’t worry what other people are thinking.”

Avoid peak hours

The ARC is often busy from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Clark said, and avoiding those hours could give someone with anxiety time to use the equipment while avoiding the crowd.

The slowest times are often in the mornings from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., then later in the morning around 10:00 a.m., Clark said.

Learn to use the equipment

Poppie, a senior studying exercise science, was intimidated by the gym at first because she wasn’t sure how to use the equipment. Over time, she learned how the exercise machines worked and became more comfortable at the gym. She said learning about the equipment can help others overcome gym anxiety as well.

“It’s something that I got over, I guess, the more I learned and got comfortable being there,” she said. “Educate yourself. Go to bodybuilding.com. Plan your workout ahead of time.”

There are instructions on every machine, Crane said, and personal trainers will be at the ARC daily during peak hours to teach students weightlifting and other athletic skills starting Jan. 14.

Find a secluded place to work out

The ARC has workout equipment in nearly every corner of its multiple floors, and it’s possible to find privacy in the more secluded corners.

“The third floor usually isn’t very crowded,” said Brooke Maughan, a junior who’s worked in on-campus gyms for almost two years. “There’s a little area for people who want to be alone. They have a little indent – I don’t know what you call it – but there’s weights up there, dumbbells, so people who do have anxiety can be by themselves.”

Just do it

Clark said simply going to the gym can help lessen a student’s anxieties.

“Anxiety is mostly about the thought of what’s going to happen,” he said. ““The best way to overcome those anxieties is to actually get out there.”

That’s how Chris Gibbs, a mechanical engineering student, overcame his anxiety.

“I just did it – like Nike, yeah,” he said. “There’s no way around it. Everyone started somewhere, so I realized I needed to start somewhere, too. Start where you are now and just go for it.”

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