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I have heard that one guy told the other guy in the gym that he thinks a lot about gym and longs for it when he is outside gym in his everyday activities. He is thinking about what he will do and how nice it would be when he will be again in the gym. (actually - I have the similar attitude to my intellectual work - I enjoy it, I long for it and I am trying to free more time for it).

It is completely differently for me. I have no longing for gym. I am afraid of it and I am nervous on the days on whose evening I have scheduled the training. My performance in job (programming) is decreased in these days because of nervousness. I have velo-workouts on the days on which I have no gym sessions and I am nervous before those workouts too. It is very hard to plan my evening activities. I am missing so much time being afraid and procrastinating before gym and velo-workout sessions. This is real problem for me.

Is this some kind of illness? Or are such emotions normal (where is pleasure in workouts?) only most people manage to cope with such emotions. E.g. they ties they hardship with expected reward - e.g. - expectations to receive recognition from their partner?

My workouts are fine but I always have moments (for some minutes now as my muscles have grown and adjusted and longer time before it, i.e. I have not decreased my load but my hardship decreased because muscle growth and adaptation) when my load is not enjoyable. From the one hand - maybe the training schedule is bad, such hardships should not be experienced. From the other side - how can you grow your muscles if some stress is not put on them? And the last (the most important thing) - I had and I have to decrease my fat and weight. I managed to decrease it from 145 kg (it was unbearable and my personal life was disaster) down to 92 kg and my guess is that it is only because I was ready to sweat and be patient. I have seen so many other guys who have trainers and they are not doing such loads and my guess is - if I had trainer and I had listened to its moderate requests the I had not achieved this.

Well. This is really problem form my - my training causes this. I don't know the solutions - maybe psychology, maybe scheduling, maybe some medicals (my testosterone it at the lowest border of the norm). I just wanted to now how it is with other people and in what direction to seek the help?

Is it some kind of illness not to long for training and be even nervous and afraid of the prospect of training?

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  • I got wiley.com/en-us/… and I see many exciting chapter titles here. I will read. But anyway - any experience and suggestion is appreciated.
    – TomR
    Dec 28, 2021 at 23:51
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    Why are you nervous/anxious about your workouts? What about them causes anxiety? Dec 29, 2021 at 13:54
  • Re Dave Newton: as I said at the reply fitness.stackexchange.com/a/44706/33216 - I have this experience of fatigue in those 2-3 minutes (as part of my 15 minutes bike riding) when I am putting 300-350-370 W load and keep it constant for those 2-3 minutes. This creates sweat and panting which I deem to be beneficial for my heart, it burns calories at the extra rate and it increases my ability to withstand the load and also grows muscles. The remaining is quite bearable and even enjoyable, but I am afraid of the experience of those sensations.
    – TomR
    Dec 29, 2021 at 21:33
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    @TomR just a note... I feel the same, although I used to love the gym. I think it's normal, I've been working out (or avoiding it in nervousness) for something like 12 years now - there are ups and downs. In recent years I've mostly dreaded the gym, but there are still days I can't wait to get on the squat rack, grab some dumbbells, or hit the treadmill. Personally I think the important thing is always going, even when it's the last thing you want to do (not that I'm good about this myself, but I think it's the best choice)
    – TCooper
    Dec 29, 2021 at 22:17
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    Don't forget that gyms are just one way of keeping fit, there's a ton of sports activities that do not involve a gym nor weight pumping culture.
    – matanster
    Dec 30, 2021 at 20:32

5 Answers 5

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First of all, well done losing so much weight, that takes a lot of hard work and dedication!

It is completely normal to be nervous and have anxiety about training. It is one of the main reasons the new years crowd in the gym only lasts a month or so. Going to the gym is hard, often leaves you sore, and it is easy to feel judged. All of us at one point were newbies, and should applaud every new gym member. I've noticed it gets better as you make more progress, and even enjoyable when you get to a certain level of fitness or when you make a couple friends with the regulars at the gym.

I'm not sure much of this question applies to you, but the answer provides some good gym etiquette : How do I beat gym anxiety?

Something I would add to that answer, perhaps try going to the gym in off hours. I went at the least busy hours for years until I felt more comfortable in the gym. Maybe bring a friend with you to the gym, it will help you stay consistent and will likely remove some of the dread.

My workouts are fine but I always have moments (for some minutes now as my muscles have grown and adjusted and longer time before it, i.e. I have not decreased my load but my hardship decreased because muscle growth and adaptation) when my load is not enjoyable. From the one hand - maybe the training schedule is bad, such hardships should not be experienced. From the other side - how can you grow your muscles if some stress is not put on them?

Mechanical tension is believed to be the leading cause of muscle growth. Our bodies are very good at adapting, when you put stress on them, they will adapt to the challenge and make it easier over time provided you are giving it the right materials (food) and time (recovery) to do so. You should always be looking to improve a little bit, even if it is difficult to do so.

As far as the testosterone part: Testosterone levels generally improve with your activity level, sleep quality, and diet. If you are really concerned about it though, you should seek advice from qualified medical professionals. Make sure you get more than one doctors opinion before you hop on anything though.

As with everything fitness, it takes time and consistency. I'm betting with some more patience, the anxiety will decrease.

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It will sound very trivial but bear with me. I think your fear might be something very simple. I personally often have the fear of even starting exercising. This happens because I want to perform PERFECTLY - I want to give it my best (which takes time) and I'm afraid I won't. Let's be honest, doing something perfectly is a very high bar to set for yourself. If this is what you're experiencing, try setting a small goal. For example, exercising for 20 minutes and giving your 200% during this time doesn't seem like a hard thing to do, right? Make your workout a challenge you are able to complete right away. Try setting an easily achievable goal for yourself. That should make it seem a lot easier so you won't be so afraid of failing.

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  • My training plan is defined to the level of single exercise. When I am during training session, I sometimes go into flow and enjoy the training, I don't increase the load on legs and arms, but I can increase load on bike with enthusiasm and it can create bad memories afterwards - that I should achieve this new level again and again. Yes, that can be a problem.
    – TomR
    Dec 29, 2021 at 12:54
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Not wanting to go because of lack of motivation or because you have more interesting things to do is one thing, but if your whole day is affected and your concentration is lost because you're stressing over your trip to the gym then something is wrong.

First you should determine if it's the physical activity that you're worried about or being in the gym itself. You said you need to lose weight so perhaps you're self-conscious about being around people in good shape. On the other hand, being in the gym can be very boring and monotonous. Maybe a different form of exercise would suit your mind better. Crossfit, rockclimbing, athletics, olympic lifting etc.

Remember that people of all fitness levels participate in these sports - you won't be out of place at any of them. And losing 50kg already makes you a hero!

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  • Some minutes during bike riding, when I am riding at the load 300-350-370 W (40-42 km/h, rotation speed 90-92 rounds per minute) puts me to experience fatigue in the legs (above knee) and exactly because of those minutes I am really afraid of my training generally. The rest of my training plan is quite bearable (my bike cardio usually is 15 minutes at variable load and the remaining also nothing special). I need this load/fatigue, becuase it puts me to sweat and pant and it is good for heart. Cardio is not much worth without achieving the level of sweat and panting.
    – TomR
    Dec 29, 2021 at 12:49
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    @TomR: So are you afraid of the pain and discomfort of hard exercise? 15 minutes of all-out cardio is pretty much the worst pain and discomfort you can be in. It’s really only “required” to improve your lactate threshold and VO2Max. That being said, even threshold runs in serious running training are usually not completely all-out. Of course 15 minutes of all-out exercise are great for burning a lot of calories in a very short time, but you might as well reduce the intensity significantly and do it for 25 minutes instead.
    – Michael
    Dec 29, 2021 at 20:56
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    This is an excellent point. The gym isn't for everyone. Often when my own friends ask how they can lose weight, I try to find activities that they enjoy, which also happen to get them on their feet. It is hard to continue something long term that you hate even if it is highly beneficial for you. Dec 29, 2021 at 21:20
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I keep trying to write this answer and get in everything I want to say without it turning into a thesis length essay, so here goes with the short version.

I used to get really bad pre-training anxiety, PT was worse because I knew how hard I'd be pushed, group training wasn't so bad as I could let myself slack a little. It's only recently I've run back through old training logs and really looked at my training over the past 20 years and figured out what causes it.

There's two reasons, one easily solvable, and another unfortunately not quite as easy to work around.

The first reason is uncertainty. I'm also a programmer, so I love structure and organisation, so going into a training session where I don't know what to mentally prepare for, where I'm at the whim of someone else, was very anxiety inducing for me. I managed to cope with it for a long time, then when the first lockdown happened last year (I'm in the UK), I started a very simple kettlebell training program where I did the same thing every day, and thrived on it (Simple and Sinister).

The second reason, which took me a while to figure out; my father died nearly 8 years ago of a progressive lung disease, which took him from tirelessly walking miles, to getting out of breath standing up out of his chair, and since then, I've always trained strength over conditioning because of a fear of getting out of breath and gasping for air (the irony is, the more I avoided conditioning, the more easily I'd get out of breath).

The first issue was solved by adhering to a routine where I knew in advance what I'd be doing.

For the second, I started training in a specific way that helped me progress towards my goals without feeling like I wanted to throw up in the shower afterwards (that is NOT the sign of a good session by the way). I started training using the StrongFirst principles, looking at training as a daily skill practice rather than an attempt to destroy myself each session, and I started doing more slow cardio (rowing machine and walking) using Phil Maffetone's MAF method.

I don't enjoy, or particularly agree with, constant balls to the wall training; I think it's detremental over time for the majority of the population. I've seen the accumulated stress on the body of months of intense training cause a lot of issues, both physical (injuries) and more general (hormonal issues, particularly in women; sleep issues; constant fatigue; etc).

I've personally responded much better to more frequent, less intense sessions. If you're finding you're dreading hardcore sessions, then try and change it up. Look up anti-glycolytic training, Dan John's Easy Strength, Maffetone's MAF method, strength ladders, there are a lot of different training philosophies that don't rely on you having to leave yourself in a pool of sweat afterwards.

Is it good to occasionally push yourself? Definitely! Do you need to do it on a daily basis to see results? Absolutely not.

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Is it weird to be exercise-reluctant rather than exercise-eager?

No! From a biological perspective all creatures are evolutionarily adapted to try to spend as little energy as possible to keep surviving. The "as little as possible" bit will often tend to involve short bursts of major activity when hunting (or fleeing) but "running for fun" (or other strenuous activity) is generally counterproductive when you're trying to build fat stores to overcome the challenge posed by potential future lean months.

As such, it is perfectly natural that we humans are predisposed to not generally want to exercise for the sake of exercising. That being said, our modern environment where calories have become cheaper while strenuous work (hunting, fleeing, etc.) has become rarer basically sets us up for a major caloric imbalance compared to what our ancestors would have faced. This means that although our software (brains, knowledge, etc.) know that we need exercise to overcome our current caloric abundance, our hardware (bodies, genetics, etc.) is still lagging behind as if it were the stone-age with hard times just around the corner, and so most of us require some amount of "mind over matter" to get into the gym with any regularity. (And adding "pain/discomfort avoidance" on top of that only makes things harder.)

However, that isn't the only quirk of our biology at play because our bodies also release endorphins when we exercise. You can think of it as a built-in consolation prize meant to cheer us up even if a hunt is unsuccesful or to make a successful fleeing feel like more of an accomplishment. This is the mechanism by which people get that "runners' high" that is often talked about.

So, TLDR, don't worry about feeling exercise-reluctant rather than exercise-eager. It is likely the case that you are simply at a stage in your fitness progression where you still need a lot of "mind over matter" to overcome your hardware's pain/work avoidance, whereas the gym-bros you overheard are at a stage where their hardware is giving them enough runner's high to (greatly) outweigh it.

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