If you're feeling anxious about returning to the gym, you're not alone. Here are 8 ways to help you overcome your workout worries

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April 12 sees the reopening of gyms and while we're sure there are many fitness fans up and down the country raring to step back onto the gym floor, it's only natural to feel anxious about returning to the studio after months away. A 2019 survey from not-for-profit health and wellbeing organisation, Nuffield Health  showed that a third of 18 to 35-year-olds feel too self-conscious to join a gym and after months working out from home due to Covid, these feelings are likely to be more prevalent than ever.

If you're feeling fretful about a loss in stamina ahead of returning to the gym, know that you're not alone. Personal trainer Tally Rye took to Instagram to share how her fitness levels have changed post-pandemic. "I’m the least fit I’ve been in a decade," she wrote. "⁣Life happens. Pandemics happen. And priorities change. I’m in this fitness thing for life and I know it will always be there despite the ebbs and flows of life. This past year has been an opportunity for me to slow down and rest in ways I didn’t know I needed. ⁣But now I’m looking forward to gyms opening on Monday and slowly starting to work on building up my fitness again."

Despite knowing that even fitness pros have seen a dip in their fitness since the pandemic, it's only natural to feel fear around returning to the gym. “We want women to know all these thoughts and worries are completely normal and that everyone has had them at one point or another,” says Kate Dale, Strategic Lead at Sport England and campaginer for This Girl Can, which aims to empower women in sport. “What This Girl Can wants to do is help women manage this fear and give them the confidence not to care.”

Want to beat your fitness fears? Here’s how...

1. Do it your way

When it comes to a workout plan, a one-size-fits-all approach can go out the window. Doing it your way will ensure it feels more in line with your objectives, goals and lifestyle. Do whatever movement makes you feel good rather the pressuring yourself to pound the treadmill.

“Realise that almost all women worry. But that there is no need to conform - do what makes you feel comfortable," says Kate.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

Some people might have hit their fitness stride during lockdown and immersed themselves in at home fitness and thus be returning to the gym their fittest ever. Good for them! This needn't alter how you feel about your fitness levels.

Self-consciousness can serve as the most paralysing of fitness blocks, especially if work and life have made stamina levels tumble. The best advice? Be kinder to yourself - everyone’s been a beginner and will continue to be so in a number of different things. “More or less everyone, at some stage, is self-conscious or concerned about their looks and performance at the gym,” says psychologist and  GTG Expert Elaine Slater . “Most of the time people are concentrating on their own workouts, which means far fewer gym goers are paying attention to you than you actually think. Many gym regulars are far too busy focusing on their own training, rather than wasting valuable energy judging others."

She adds, "Don’t care what other people think of you, everyone has been a beginner at some point. As you start to feel comfortable, gently step out of your comfort zone and try new things to boost confidence.”

Also remember that thoughts can often be out of step with reality. As Christina Howells , MSc, BSc, Personal Trainer and co-founder of  www.thatgirllondon.com  and  www.thatmethodology.com  highlights, “When you compare yourself to others, you are comparing yourself to inaccurate information - you see what you choose to see but you don’t know that person’s reality.

“Instead of trying to be as good as or better than what you perceive others to be, focus your energy on being the very best version of yourself. New thoughts, new feelings, new actions.”

3. Don't compare to your past self either!

After a lengthy time-out from the gym, the journey back to full fitness can seem like a constant uphill battle. "Going in and out of lockdown has severely disturbed all our fitness routines," says Becky Bowman, personal trainer with corporate wellbeing platform Gympass . "Try not to compare your 1000m rowing time or bench press PB with what you could do a year ago. Within a few weeks you’ll be right back to where you were before, but going too hard too early could result in pain or injury and set you back even further."

4. Lose your ego

If you've been pretty fit before, don't let your ego of how good you used to be stop you from starting out a bit smaller.

“When starting back, look at where you are now, rather than where you were before,” recommends Christina Howells. “You don’t need to leap back in where you stopped or keep up with everyone around you. Be humble and work at a level your body is capable of right now. It will be hard the first time back, but that is not a reason to tell yourself you can’t do it. Instead, look forward to making progress. I often tell my clients ‘Regress to progress’ - take a step back from where you left off and take time with each stage to reach your goals. Improvements come in small steps.”

“When returning to the gym, it is essential that you dial it back and take a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. Whatever your training method of choice, whether it is Pilates, HIIT or
bodybuilding and everything in-between, it is important to take it slowly and gradually increase the intensity or weight after a few sessions. Do not just jump back into your old routine or you will likely
get injured.” agress Jayden Arnold, head of physio at exercise studio group Ten .

Exercise isn’t just about the results but rather enjoying the process

5. Be prepared

“Preparing your workout plan can make you feel more confident,” recommends Christina. “Once classes start again mid-May you could choose to book a class best for the level you are at right now or use an online workout programme.

"It can also be very beneficial to work with a trainer to help you through your first few gym sessions back. Rather than just rocking up, give yourself a plan; this will make you feel more confident.”

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6. Get fit with friends

“Find a friend to exercise with,” recommends Kate Dale. Merging social life with gym life definitely provides an extra incentive in our experience and something we can definitely vouch for (laughing until your stomach hurts has got to be good for your core right?).

7. Love the process

“Exercising simply to get results may not always be your best strategy,” says Christina. “It is good to have goals and these help drive your behaviour, but it’s also really important not to be obsessed with them. Exercise isn’t just about the results but rather enjoying the process. If you learn to love the process and stop keeping score, you’ll exceed all of your expectations and gain more satisfaction than any amount of goal achieving.”

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8. Find instructors that motivate rather than intimidate

In our experience, a good instructor can make all the difference in either boosting or obliterating confidence. If you find being shouted at works for you, hey, we’re not gonna judge, all power to you, but if you’ve signed up to a class with the expectation of motivation and found that the reality was a red mist of yelling, swearing and intimidation, don’t be afraid to make a complaint as soon as possible. After all, you haven't spent all that money to be humiliated and we’ve found companies only too happy to help remedy the situation when we’ve been left red-faced (not in a good way).

MORE GLOSS: 10 ways to have a better relationship with yourself 

Fitness fears and the future…

A change in mindset takes time. “One thing we’ve found is that fear of judgement is not something that disappears forever or is ever ‘vanquished,' says Kate Dale. "Life changes – positive or negative – can all impact confidence and women who have been active all of their lives can find themselves losing their rhythm when it comes to exercise. We want women to know it’s ok to take a break and pick something back up – it’s a natural part of life.” We completely agree.

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