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Workout anxiety

Community Member
I had a personal trainer quite a while ago. I saw him two times a week because of a beauty paegent. When the paegent finished, I still kept training with him for my health. Although he was a nice guy, he made some comments that made me feel uncomfortable or topics of conversation. Even as far as poking me which I do not feel comfortable about. With that reason in mind as well as the fact that it was expensive and I had gotten the hang of it, I quit the personal trainer. The problem is I have severe anxiety attending the gym while he is there. I’m fine when I’m on my own but since it is a small gym, I feel very awkward because I quit him. I’m a people pleaser and I get extreme anxiety thinking he’s judging my routine and I get very conscious about what I’m doing. I can’t handle the awkwardness that I quit him but it’s the only nearby gym and the other gym is either too expensive or it has other people I know in my personal life attending there. It gives me anxiety because I worry people are laughing at me either because I don’t know what I’m doing or that my body isn’t good enough to be going to the gym. I don’t know how to overcome this fear.
4 Replies 4

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Diane100

Welcome to the forums!

Thank you for your post. I'm sorry that you had that experience with the personal trainer - while reading it I cringed; it's no wonder that you felt uncomfortable and even that it brings you anxiety to this day.

You mentioned in your post that you kept training with your personal trainer because of your health; I'm wondering if you can use this to your advantage. Telling yourself "I'm going to the gym because I feel better in my body", "These exercises make me feel strong", "I love the way I feel afterwards" - These sorts of statements/affirmations bring the focus back to you and how you feel, not how you might appear/look/seem to anyone else.

While I completely get the feeling of feeling like your body isn't good enough to go to the gym, I think it's important to remind yourself that there isn't a 'body requirement' to enter - people of all sizes can go to the gym - and honestly the majority of the people in the gym are really only focused on themselves. Even if someone was judging you or thinking about you (most likely not though!), I think that really is their own problem; not yours.


Community Member

Hello Dianne100,

I agree with Romantic_thi3f, it’s really unfortunate that he treated you in such an unprofessional way and I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that. It’s totally understandable that you’ve been feeling uncomfortable since that happened.

But I want you to know that you probably don’t need to feel anxious about not engaging him anymore. Personal trainers have clients come and go all the time. It’s super common for clients to just keep them long enough to learn the right techniques and what will work for them, and then move on to do it themselves. Personal trainers are expensive and unaffordable to many, they know that. I can understand your feeling strange about still seeing him around, but remember there are also likely a dozen plus ex-clients that he sees regularly at the gym.

It can be hard to just shut out our negative/anxious thoughts, so maybe working on distancing yourself from them would help. There’s a skill called Thought Defusion (which is part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) that has skills to help you take a step back from your thoughts. Rather than trying to block them out you accept the thoughts and say to yourself “I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that... he thinks my technique is bad”. It lets you put a small space between you and the thought, which can help quieten the uncomfortable feelings. Another technique is thinking of your anxious thoughts as a squawking parrot in the background. If you do a search online for Thought Defusion, you’ll find other techniques too.

I hope this helps. I think it’s totally understandable how you’re feeling and I wish you luck in moving forward. Take care.


Community Member

Hi Diane100,

It sounds like a really unpleasant situation all round!

I had a similar experience with a personal trainer about two years ago when I was preparing to grade for my black belt in karate. I sought the assistance of a personal trainer to help me reach my anaerobic goals, and this required a real pushing of the limits when it came to HIIT workouts and heavy weight sessions. I remember the strange places she chose to stand, such as straddling the bench press bench whilst I was pressing as opposed to standing behind my head, and when pinning my feet for situps, she would do this so every time I sat up, I had a view of her backside as opposed to just her face.

Every time I was on the rower, this lady would perch on the head unit of the machine, which meant I got uncomfortably close to her every stroke.

Not to make a point of this, but as a male, it was really difficult to share my discomfort with anyone. The one person I tried to speak to pretty much told me that their were "bigger problems in the world than a fit, sexy trainer taking an interest in you."

I ended up saying to her that if my wife happened to come to the gym and saw some of the dynamics present within the sessions, she would not be happy. This lead to the dissolution of our arrangement, and I promptly began working with another trainer to reach my goals.

The gym experience however was tainted, and I felt very uncomfortable training there for quite a while.

I am only thankful that I was not in the grip of anxiety at this point in my life. I can only imagine what it would be like to have this as a factor also. May I ask if you are receiving the benefit of your workouts on a holistic level? It would be really horrible if you're putting all that work in at the gym and not even feeling good about your output an hour after you've finished your workout! 🙂 Are their times you can go to the gym when it's not as crowded, or before the PT's start for the day (I know my gym is 24 hours, and the PT's don't start until 8:00am, or even 10:00am on some days)? Can you control some aspects of what you're exposed to when he is around, such as just focusing on cardio, where any judgement is short lived as it's about endurance and not technique?

I hope you're finding value in your exercise. It's such a vital part of our wellbeing.

My friend is constantly involved in sports and leads a healthy lifestyle.