Using the Gym: Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Sufferers

One of the purposes of my blog was to try and log some of my progress in trying to lose some body fat, get fit and gain some muscle (I’m 5ft 5 with a pretty small frame and, once I’ve got my body fat down to where I want it, I don’t want to be as skinny as I once was).

Once of the hardest things, though, is using the gym. We’re pretty broke at the moment, so earlier in the year we bought a home gym to same some money over a couple of year’s worth of gym memberships. I can manage cycling ok, but I’m an anxiety sufferer and when I try to use the gym (or run, for that matter) my anxiety kicks in and I experience a pretty heavy amount of voice trouble and other physical symptoms.

All the voices are aimed at myself and being sworn at and criticised by supposedly dismbodied entities is not a good thing when you’re trying to do something to improve your health. It just feeds right back into itself and makes it all worse. Being unhappy with my body image, suffering from anxiety and voice trouble is a nasty cycle but one which I’m trying to break.

I’ve heard from reputable sources that the percent of people who suffer some form of voice trouble at some point in their lives could be as high as 30%… that’s a lot of people. Hence me blogging this. If it helps just one other person out then that’s a great thing to happen.

Back to exercising, then.

The reason my progress has been slower than I want is that on most occasions I’ve had to stop my workouts halfway through, or if I’m running I’ve had to prematurely cut the running segment of my interval training short. If my partner’s not around to just come sit with me, I just couldn’t progress and I’ve had to stop. Cue feedback loop and nasty, externalised self-criticism.

I’ve had a lot of good advice, over the past few years in particular. It’s still surprising, though, when someone (usually my partner) says something that’s really great, and I always come away thinking that’s so obvious, why didn’t I try that!

His idea is really simple and it works: just a simple breathing exercise.

Start with your warm up and then, before you go any further, close your eyes, relax and take ten relaxing, deep breaths. Don’t rush them, it’s just like doing reps – steady and focused. Then start your routine, but pause after each set, close your eyes and repeat the ten-deep-breaths.

It’s been really useful: keeping my anxiety levels at a manageable level and, important too, it’s allowed me to keep a much better focus on my form during each set of exercises. I can do each exercise more slowly and in a more controlled and aware manner… and I don’t have to call Paul through to sit with me. He doesn’t get dragged away from what he’s doing, and I get to me more confident, independant and focused on something that’s become very important to me: managing my own health.


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