Whether you’re a novice who feels dread at the mere thought of entering a fitness club, or a vet who still feels the occasional twinge of fight-or-flight, you’re normal and OK. Gyms are places with lots of noise and stimuli, lots of clanking, lots of grunting. It kind of feels like a fight could break out at any minute, but also like everyone is about to take a selfie? There are mirrors everywhere! Gyms can be weird.
But if these stimuli create a fear that’s excessive (or makes you want to not come back), you’re probably experiencing a form of social anxiety, says Noah Clyman, a cognitive behavioral therapist in Manhattan and the founder of NYC Cognitive Therapy.
“Social anxiety is a condition where people are excessively afraid of negative evaluation by other people,” says Clyman. “It's also linked to negative beliefs that the individual has about himself or herself. These beliefs can be things like, ‘I'm awkward, I'm defective, I'm weird’ and so on.”
People with social anxiety tend to have anxiety about anxiety, says Clyman. In other words, they tend to try and suppress it or avoid at all costs. If the gym is giving them anxiety, they’ll avoid the gym. But there are better ways to deal with the issue than avoidance.