Anxiety in the gym

If you have received your Fitpro summer magazine, you will have seen the feature on anxiety on pages 44-46. We spoke to the CEO of Anxiety UK and Professor Adrian Wells, who shared insight into panic attacks and how they are linked to exercising in the gym. To read the full article as a FitPro member, head to www.fitpro.com/magazine

In relation to this feature, we spoke to Paul Milton, a disabilities adviser, who has dyslexia and epilepsy. Paul told FitPro there are “a lot of pressures on the average male, let alone a male with mild disabilities.” Here, Paul details further insight into his own body image: http://www.byc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/BYC019-Paul-Milton.pdf

Paul continues, “When it comes to sharing emotions, feelings, we seem to be going back instead of going forward, with ‘snow flake’ being the favourite catchphrase around for someone who shows vulnerability.  I have been through a lot in my life; I was severely bullied within secondary education.” (Read more about Paul’s experience here: https://www.midsussextimes.co.uk/news/opinion/column-paul-milton-1-7063549)

“My anxiety heightened greatly as a result of the Westminster attack back in March 2017. I was in Parliament for a meeting on that day. Since the Westminster attack, I haven’t been quite the same person; I don’t like people walking towards me or too close – even touch – unless I’m comfortable and I trust the person or it’s on my terms. It’s very difficult. Also, [when it comes to] smells and sounds, my senses are all very heightened.”

Paul turned to health and fitness to help with his anxiety and there are a few things he must consider before he heads to the gym.

“The new gym I’m at is just right for me,” says Paul. “It’s little things, such as the music I like being played and I like the signage on the wall saying ‘be kind to one another’, which really makes a difference. I’ve found the key to dealing with my anxiety …. I love quiet times in the gym when there are hardly any people. If you suffer from anxiety, you can probably sympathise that having a quiet environment really helps.” 

The routine of the gym lifestyle helps Paul with his anxiety. He says, “Getting my gear and equipment ready for the gym and after-workout shakes also make a difference. Also, how you get to the gym – whether it’s walking or running, or getting a lift, I think planning your visit and trip takes unwanted stress and anxiety out of fitness.”

Paul tells FitPro that his fitness journey is still very much ongoing; he’s still tweaking his diet and working out what works and what doesn’t.

With regards to his mental health, Paul has the following thoughts from his experience: “In terms of my mental health, the bravest thing is admitting to yourself that you’re not alright and you need a little help. I only considered counselling after a friend suggested it. I would say, for me, it is a bit of getting male acceptance from others – in my opinion, it’s a male pride thing to actually begin to speak to someone about your emotions.”

How you can help

CEO of Anxiety UK, Nicky Lidbetter provides some advice into how you can help your clients and what to be aware of:

  • Clients may feel more at ease if they have a clear picture of what to expect during their first session
  • You can encourage them to write up a plan of what they want to accomplish during their first workout
  • Your client may wish to take some time out or wish to speak to you in a quieter, controlled environment
  • Consider the layout of your workout space and whether certain areas would be more effective to practise from
  • If your client has a panic disorder, consider having a ‘safe word’ that your client can say aloud when they feel the need to stop and take a break

Here, Anxiety UK has provided some resources for further exploration:

Understanding Anxiety: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/products/anxiety-condition/new-understanding-anxiety-booklet/

This guide aims to provide you with a greater understanding of anxiety. Written by Anxiety UK’s CEO Nicky Lidbetter, the guide has developed alongside input from a wide range of Anxiety UK members, volunteers and clinical advisers. Understanding Anxiety is packed full of useful information, including tips from others affected by anxiety, treatment options and much more.

Overcoming Worry: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/products/anxiety-condition/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overcoming-worry-by-mark-freeston-and-kevin-meares/

Written by two of the UK’s leading experts on generalised anxiety, Overcoming Worry uses cognitive behavioural therapy methods to help change the self-defeating ways we think, in order to feel better. This positive, pragmatic approach is popular with therapists and patients alike.

If you experience anxiety in the gym environment and if you use certain techniques to help you overcome your feelings of anxiety, get in touch with FitPro. We would welcome your comment on the article in Fitpro magazine. Not a member and you would like to read exclusive and researched articles on a variety of topics in the health and fitness industry? Sign up today:  https://www.fitpro.com/membership/ 

 

 


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