When people think about anxiety and the gym we normally think about how anxiety can make it hard for people to get started, go to the gym or a class for the first time or start something new. That’s a valid topic to discuss because the unknown and uncertainty can be anxiety inducing to many of us at the best of times.
Another impact anxiety can have on your training that maybe gets overlooked though is how it affects your concentration. Now it can be argued that people with anxiety are incredibly good at concentrating, it’s just it tends to be on whatever is causing anxiety which isn’t a great thing to be hyper concentrated on.
This has two effects, firstly, it reduces the ability to concentrate on what you actually want to concentrate on at that moment. For instance in the gym, whilst some people might find working out a good distraction from whatever is causing anxiety, others might find that they are too affected by the anxiety to fully focus on their workout.
This might often be the case when the second effect of anxiety comes in play, the physical effects; a racing heart, increase in body temperature, headaches for instance. These symptoms can make it very difficult to focus on what you should be focused on or to settle down into your training.
I often find that if I’m doing something such as teaching a class, exercise can reduce my anxiety, probably because I’m having to think about what I’m doing. If I’m just training in the gym for me though, and I’m anxious about something, particularly if it’s just happened or is ongoing, I often find it much harder to fully get into a workout and my intensity reduces. Of course there’s an argument that just getting into the gym and doing something, even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, is still a positive and probably still has many benefits. If you find yourself thinking this sounds familiar to you though, maybe consider having little strategies to work around this up your sleeve, attending a class, training with a friend, a play list that always calms you down perhaps.
Ultimately, we are never going to be able to avoid having bad days, so understanding how your own mind and emotions work and how you can best work with them rather than against them is the best way of managing your training when these things hit.