Overcoming Exercise-Class Anxiety

Group exercising is a daunting prospect. It’s hard enough getting on a treadmill with someone next to you, so an exercise class can feel like you're entering an arena filled with people poised to witness your humiliation.

Research from the British Heart Foundation backs up these anxieties: a third of women feel intimidated by competitive peers at the gym. We’re suffering from collective class-phobia, born from a fear of being called out, not being good enough and not keeping up.

But avoiding exercise classes also means missing out on the unique benefits they offer:

For starters, being told what to do means you’re forced to be as productive as possible whilst working out. No half-hearted workouts, no skiving off, no trying to navigate space-age gym equipment.

Secondly, learning from an expert ensures you’re moving your body in the right way, which diminishes the chance of waking up with a sore back after a big workout. All you have to do is turn up, no prior knowledge necessary.

Finally, there’s the fact that you’re often required to pay upfront for classes, which is one more reason to get your butt out of bed when you’re desperately conjuring up excuses to skip the gym. 

Its a crying shame if these benefits are being outweighed by pre-emptive embarrassment. So,to get your exercise goals refocused from a preoccupation with not looking like an idiot to actually getting fit and healthy, we’ve come up with some advice to lure you back to the class timetable.

Ready to reason? Let’s go…

 1. Take it slow

No need to jump in at the deep end, there are a few ways to test the waters before taking the full leap into that intermediate Ashtanga Yoga class:

First thing's first, if you’re thinking of trying a new class, take note of when it’s on and get a sneak peek from the window. If it looks like your cup of tea, sign up for next week on your way out.

If there’s an option for shorter, lunchtime versions of the class you’re interested in, try those first. It will give you an idea of whether you can hack the full-length version.

2. Go Off-Peak

If busy classes are too daunting a prospect, opt for classes in the middle of the day if possible. With fewer people you’re likely to feel more at ease and get into the swing of things before graduating into the peak time classes. Plus, if you happen to trip over and collapse into a pile of dumbbells during a 3pm class, you can easily avoid those people in the future.

3. Diversify

Try out a few different classes, and keep trying until you find the one. If you struggled to keep up in your first spinning class and can’t face going back, try another discipline. Chances are you won’t be good at everything, but there will be something out there that fits your jam.

4. Laugh it Off

It’s totally fine not to be good at something the first time you try it. If you get tangled in the TRX suspension ropes, or lose your footing in a spinning class, or crush yourself under a kettlebell, that’s quite ok – we’ve all been there. Laugh it off and move on. If you can’t move past a certain incident, just try another class.

Most importantly, remember that apprehension is more than understandable – but it’s not insurmountable.