Anxiety · Gym · Physical Health · Self-Care · Social Anxiety

Braving the gym

I almost let my anxiety run me out of the gym without working out this afternoon. But first, a little backstory.

First, I HATE GYMS. I think they are awful. I’ve yet to meet a gym that I felt comfortable at. So many people I don’t know, so much spandex, I sweat profusely, so much…everything. Did I mention I once passed out in my college gym while on a treadmill and broke my nose? I absolutely hate gyms. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Over the summer I started jogging again both to lose some weight (the Freshman 15 is nothing compared to the Ph.D. 40) and to help with my stress level. I completed the Couch to 5K plan and kept up the jogging for 2-3X/week through the first couple weeks of the Fall semester.

Then, as usual when I’m stressed, my exercise (and self-care) inevitably trailed off until I wasn’t exercising at all. There was weight gain. I’m talking the kind of weight gain that keeps you from wearing 85% of your clothing (at this point, I’ve only got 4 outfits I can wear to work). I was eating sweets every day and using the drive thru with too much frequency. In addition to not looking great, I felt gross and uncomfortable in my clothes. I kept telling myself that when classes ended I would get back to jogging and yoga. Not surprisingly, when classes ended a few weeks ago, I did not start jogging (it’s cold!) or doing yoga at home.

I have a professional conference I’m presenting some of my research at in Washington, D.C. in mid-January. My first one so of course I’m anxious about the whole thing. It’s a requirement for school. Adding to that anxiety is concern (terror) about whether I’m going to have anything appropriate to wear. All my “professional” clothing is too tight. I don’t mean a little snug, I mean that it looks borderline obscene and rips if I try to sit down. I’m really strapped for cash, shelling out for this conference already added over $1000 to my credit card, so I really can’t afford to go out and buy a suit in a larger size.

That’s how I ended up with a gym membership. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make myself start jogging in the cold weather. So, I joined Planet Fitness because they are the least expensive gym in town (see above comment about lack of funds) and I’m desperate to lose weight so I can fit into my clothing. I broke down and did that on Friday (today is Monday). I’ve been each day since Friday (except Saturday – we helped a friend move which counted as my daily workout). The first couple of days weren’t too bad – I managed to find times that the gym was relatively empty. The physical set up is not great for me – I wish there was a set of stairs that didn’t require me to walk across an open floor to get to the second floor– the workout equipment on the second floor is less intimidating.

Today was very unpleasant. It was a bad day at work. I went to the gym as planned, changed into my workout clothes, and looked in the mirror (MISTAKE). I realized that, what was an appropriate workout shirt to wear outside in the August heat, showed more of my body than I was comfortable with now that I was inside of a building with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I wanted to put my regular clothes back on and run out of there. I almost did. It took me several minutes to convince myself to walk about of the locking room. The walk to the stairs was so uncomfortable – I felt that everyone was staring and judging me. Logically I know that most of the people in that gym didn’t give a flying **** about me or my clothing, but it felt as though they were all looking in my direction.

I managed to make it up the stairs and onto an elliptical machine in the corner. Which was fine until ten minutes later when two women started using other machines near me. I heard them and almost stopped my workout and ran back to the locker room. The idea of them being so close when I was feeling vulnerable because of my clothing and crappy day was a lot to handle. I didn’t fully do my cool down because I was so eager to get out of there. I called my sister before I left the locker room, so I didn’t have to make eye contact or interact with anyone on my way out.

So, obviously today was not a pleasant experience for me. However, I want to try to identify some positives in the situation to lessen the memory of my anxiety

1. Despite my mind and my body telling me to run away, I did not. Yay for
me!

2. I managed to walk across the open space to access the stairs to the
second floor…twice. Despite my fear and discomfort.

3. I was able to continue using the machine when surprised by other gym
patrons. My anxiety was present but did not prevent me from
accomplishing my goal.

Tomorrow, the real test comes. After such an unpleasant experience, will my anxiety convince me to skip tomorrow’s workout? It will be a battle between my desire for health and my desire to not be around people. Who will win?

As always, ending on happy doggie note. Check out the picture of the pup above. He’s so sweet when he sleeps.

Self-Care · Social Anxiety

Online Yoga

So I don’t have much time today. It was a beast of a day at work (more on that later) and the end of the semester is next week so I’m swamped with paper writing.

I wanted to share a resource with you that has really helped me in the past! I go through phases (wish I could keep them up consistently) where I take really good care of my body and mind. Part of that is doing regular yoga. Please don’t envision me twisting myself into a pretzel, I’m seriously not that flexible!

Through trial and error I have found that I don’t care for group yoga classes. Some people find them to be wonderful, supportive environments. That’s just not me. First, there’s the social anxiety aspect of exercising in front of others. Second, it turns out that I’m more competitive than I realized and group yoga makes me angry because I get competitive but I’m not very good at yoga so I get frustrated at most of the class being better than I am. Not exactly a recipe for relaxation. Third, it can be expensive! I’m a social worker (one of the lowest paid degrees) with massive student debt and no foreseeable way to pay it off. I’d hope for lottery winnings but can’t bring myself to spend the money on something so statistically unlikely. I can’t afford $10-13 dollars a week for a yoga class (or a private class that is much more expensive)!

Luckily for me, I discovered the world of online yoga classes and videos! Many of them are free on youtube. I like free. I like that I can do them at home with only my pets watching me. Just do a search for yoga classes. Everyone has their own personality so if you don’t like the first one you try, look at a couple of other instructors to see if they are a better fit.

My favorite youtube channel is Yoga with Adriene. The instructor is pretty down to earth and aims to make yoga less intimidating. She’s got some great videos focused on yoga to decrease anxiety (yay!). She has put together some really neat 30-day series of yoga practices. I completed one last summer and I really liked it. She’s also got a good variety in the duration of her videos – some under 20 minutes, others around an hour.

If you chose a more lucrative career than I did you can also check out her website http://yogawithadriene.com/ where she offers collections of classes in specific areas (ex – prenatal) for a fee. I think she also offers a monthly membership with access to more videos than are available on the youtube channel.

What is the most important thing is that you find what works for you. My sister hates yoga but finds relaxation in group boxing classes (which sounds awful to me but she loves them). If yoga’s not your thing then don’t force it. But if you haven’t given it a try or want to get back into it then hit up the world of online yoga.