By Zuly Ramirez, LCPC
We all know how important it is to implement a fitness routine into your schedule: It’s good for your health, body, and mind to be active. One huge benefit is that it can reduce anxiety, but in my own journey to fitness, I found that my own anxiety got in the way of even starting to make the change!
Personally, it was all so overwhelming and difficult to know where and how to start. I mean, there are exercise programs, sports teams/clubs, group classes, gyms, personal trainers, youtube videos, blogs, posts, and pictures of different types of fitness routines we can follow and engage in.
Alas, my fitness journey has been a struggle; I’ve tried gyms, sports teams, and classes; subscribed to video channels; gotten a personal trainer; and followed every type of fitness guru I could find on every social platform I have. The initial result? My anxiety hated every bit of it.
Gyms are so unstructured; I typically felt lost. My anxiety only increased as I struggled to figure out what I was doing and if I was even doing it right. I would get so overwhelmed that there were moments I wanted to cry out in anger, How on earth does everyone else know what they are doing here? What if my form is all wrong and I look stupid? Personal trainers created the structure I needed, but an entire hour dedicated to have a stranger’s attention on me and everything I could possibly be doing wrong made it difficult for me to think clearly and follow their instructions. Following fitness trainers online or videos only made very difficult things seem easy and didn’t provide feedback. It created thoughts such as “I just can’t do that.” Sports teams and group classes caused me to compare myself to others, and starting a new class or new studio created so much anxiety I would avoid starting the classes for weeks.
I know I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings, but at the time I started my fitness journey, I had no idea. It wasn’t until I started and stuck with group classes that I finally learned my anxiety was normal. I had to go through all those uncomfortable feelings to find what I actually enjoyed. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy and what fits you; everything else comes second.
Through my experience, I learned my anxiety is most manageable when I participate in classes. They have the structure and guidance of an instructor that I need, the space to work on my own, and others around me to take the attention off of me. I’m able connect with classmates through our mutual mistakes, struggles, and successes. I learned to not only accept but enjoy the process of my fitness journey, create awareness of the moments to enjoy, celebrate the small wins, and accept mistakes. And when my anxiety does show up—because it always does—I’ve learned to normalize it rather than hold onto it.