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Fitness Anxiety……The Toughest Test to Date!

I remember the day I noticed I had lost my strength…it was carrying a bale of briquettes from the boot of the car and I struggled. I was 45 and should be still strong?

Down I went to himself…Lord of the Gym… Stephen Harold… and I am still there…against my will.

As a Psychotherapist, I sit with people day in day out, and help them manage their anxiety. I have managed many of my own anxieties in the past, and feel I have them under control. Then into the equation came the queen of anxieties for me….. FITNESS ANXIETY….

I didn’t realise it was a thing until last October. So how did it present….butterflies before a training session….frequently using the toilet an hour before the session, and thinking of every bloody excuse there was to tell Stephen why I was unable to attend.

Google Fitness anxiety and there is very little…great, I must be unique, however I very much doubt it! One site I came across did define Gym anxiety:- ‘gym anxiety: that self-conscious, confidence-vanishing feeling one experiences when faced with an intimidating, embarrassing, or potentially awkward situation at the gym. It often involves feelings of fear of being judged based on one’s fitness level and/or uncertainty involving equipment or classes’. Nope that was not me….I am 45 and give very little fu8ks about what anyone thinks about me these days. So I had to become my own detective (something I urge most of my clients to do), and figure out what the hell was going!

I have never been athletic. I was asked to leave the ladies GAA club as a teen as I was utterly useless. I was an awful hockey player and was thrown only into goals. Tennis was a disaster, and the one time I played basketball, ended in a head injury. I have mainly only walked throughout the years and kind of enjoyed it and I have always been overweight. In 2014, I pushed myself once out of my comfort zone, and took part in the Dingle adventure….WORST EXPERIENCE EVER…the stress of it.

Ahhhh I was getting closer to why this gym lark was igniting anxiety!

So what is it? I found out that it is the physical uncomfortableness of it. Pushing your body to feel stress that it would normally not experience. I didn’t, and still don’t like this feeling. It is not about failing for me either, it’s the physical uncomfortableness. So why, 10 months later, do I still keep going?? I am being threatened by the owner…no stop I’m not. I haven’t lost weight, in fact I don’t really look that different, I probably would if I wired my jaw!

However , I feel totally different. I am so strong now, and my mental health, through challenging my physical being, is at its strongest. Also someone did make a comment recently that I no longer had the flat old lady arse that I used to have……

I have a Masters in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing…Stephen has a PH bloody D in Motivation (there is no such course, however he has the PHD). I am so wise to this and name it all the time when he starts…yet it works….sometimes I try and check out when he is doing his comparisons in that Nordy accent……. ‘Last time you did this distance in blah blah blah’….and all I hear are the parents in Charlie Brown……. .

He knows what he’s at, does Stephen. He is a genuinely good kind guy. He has empathy when required. He has no time for excuses, LIKE ZERO. I even had to attend sessions in a boot, due to a fracture, and was told in the Nordy accent…. ‘There’s always some part of your body you can use’. We have had such great interesting conversations over the last 10 months, and we have pulled this fitness anxiety apart many times, but he gets it, he experiences it himself on occasion, and that for me, is key.

Speaking of injury, I now take my hat off to injured elite athletes…I have had a few injuries and really struggle with managing this…more uncomfortableness….I am blessed though, if I get injured, his lovely wife Laura steps in… shes a physiotherapist….what a gym eh?

I feel the uncomfortableness that I experience with this ongoing fitness anxiety has helped me in my work as a therapist. It has also reinforced the importance of exercise in everyone’s daily life. This is the longest I have ever engaged in exercise in my 45 years, and fingers crossed it continues. That however, is all in my control. It really needs to continue, bone density will be decreasing and menopause are on the horizon. Fun Times!

If I do pack it in, I am sure the Lord of the Gym will track me down…..sadly, he knows where I live!


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