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Irrational thinking and gym anxiety

Irrational thoughts

Albert Ellis (1957, 1962) proposes that each of us holds a unique set of assumptions about ourselves and our world, that serves to guide us through life and determine our reactions to the various situations we encounter.

Unfortunately, some people’s assumptions are largely irrational, guiding them to act and react in ways that are inappropriate and that prejudice their chances of happiness and success. Albert Ellis calls these basic irrational assumptions. Some people irrationally assume that they are failures if they are not loved by everyone they know - they constantly seek approval and repeatedly feel rejected.

According to Ellis, these are other common irrational assumptions:

• The idea that one should be thoroughly competent at everything

• The idea that is it catastrophic when things are not the way you want them to be

• The idea that people have no control over their happiness

• The idea that you need someone stronger than yourself to be dependent on

• The idea that your past history greatly influences your present life

• The idea that there is a perfect solution to human problems, and it’s a disaster if you don’t find it


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.

You're not alone. Gym anxiety is universally experienced by many exercisers. It does not discriminate between gender, size, strength, or how fit you are. If I asked you to deadlift a barbell that weighs 300kg, what is your immediate thought process? I could never do that? Fat chance mate! I’m not strong enough!

Ok, now we are in the gym and I’ve asked you to at least attempt this deadlift, you approach the bar to lift it, what is likely to happen? Do you feel anxious or embarrassed? Negative thoughts about your abilities? How about a physical response? Heart rate increases? You get clammy? The fact you care about your performance, unfortunately feeds negative thinking.

Ex-England football manager Sven-Goran Erikson talks about the psychology of penalty taking, “it’s not easy to take a penalty taking when you have the nation relying on you. It is life or death” he says if players approach penalties with this extreme attitude, it is little wonder that of the major nations, England have the worst penalty shoot out record in the world (17%)

Ok, 300kg was excessive but you get the idea. Here’s some advice that may help you push through those mental barriers.


How can you conquer gym anxiety?

Have a cheerleader!

When gym anxiety gets the best of you, invite someone you know and trust to work out with you. When you’re with a friend, you feel more relaxed and are able to have fun. Even if a spell of gym anxiety arises, don’t be afraid to face your insecurity, share a laugh about it with a friend, and support each other.

Have confidence

Believe in yourself! You are your only competition; comparing yourself to others isn’t going to get you anywhere. Even if people are looking at you, convince yourself that it’s because they admire your motivation and dedication toward reaching your goals. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has started out in your shoes at some point or another, so don’t give in to those feelings of insecurity! Keep your goals in mind, and stick with your fitness plans.

Don’t compare to others

Always remember you are only competing against yourself. Just because you see someone on Instagram doing some crazy ass exercise, doesn’t mean you should be able to do it. You do you! Even if your only competition is your old self, still don’t be hard on yourself if you do not progress.

Think to yourself, what is the consequence of me not achieving this goal? I guarantee it’s not going to end the world.


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