How an avoidant joins a gym

Sort of mentioned in last post about getting back into gym routine for getting the knee built up after physical therapy ended.

Which, well, is sort of a accomplishment not so much from the getting into the pattern, but just for getting in the door.

Right now… with things still acting up on both the depression and the anxiety… not only is there the whole weight of the world seeming to make it hard to even get moving at all, but then you get the irrational fear responses going off once you get going.

Here’s what it’s like to start going to a new gym when things are flared up…. See what I mean?

Phase 1: Decide on a new gym.
Research ever possible option, pros and cons of each, make a decision on which one is going to be best before even seeing anything beyond pictures, because the firm decision is needed as motivation later. A weak decision will give too much wiggle room of "maybe I should have tried the other one…". Yes, even if you should have tried the other one, the time to decide that will be much later. For now, the decision is firm.

Phase 2: Research.
Read every review. See every pic you can find. Scan back through posts on their facebook page, for years back. Hunt for blog mentions of it. Find lists of the equipment and brands. Find the brand website and look at pics of their versions of the machines, familiarizing yourself with any likely differences between the versions you are used to and their likely versions.

Phase 3: Scouting.
Begin driving by the location. For no real reason, not because you are stopping there just yet… just anytime you are in that side of town, swing past it. Just to get used to the area and the habit.

Phase 4: Park.
Just sit there. Not for any particular reason. Just read in the parking lot while you are waiting for your kid to get out of youth group. Just sit there for a bit to check facebook on your phone. Just sit there… becoming used to being there and giving time to feel less like you are a completely out of place duck out of water. Just be there.

Phase 5: Sign up online.
It’s less pressure… fill out the paperwork, make the first payment. Make the decision official.

Phase 6: Visit.
Wait a week or so after signing up to build up confidence. Go in, tell them you signed up online. Be wearing an outfit at the time that isn’t workout friendly, so there’s an obvious excuse why you aren’t going straight into a workout. Get your key badge and free shirt, have your picture taken. Walk a quick lap of the building, just seeing where the areas are, where the locker room is. Look inside the locker room to see its layout. Promptly leave. Sit in your truck for the next 10 minutes or so, catching your breath and calming the anxiety. Remind yourself that even if you just looked like a dork, it’s going to be ok, nobody cares who is a dork at a gym, and you accomplished something, even if it’s not much.

Phase 7: Warm up
Go to the gym, almost a week after the last walk through, and making sure its at a different time of day so the staff you felt like a dork in front of are not working at the time. Be already in appropriate clothing, and leave everything else in the truck. Sit on a bike and ride for half an hour, going slow but being more focused on looking around and calming yourself. Feel like an out of shape doof, but remind yourself that you are a member, you paid to be there, you have just as much right to sit there pedaling so slow that you feel like you aren’t doing much good at all… just as much right as the super athletic guy lifting weights and the skinny chicks with the fancy gymwear on the ellipticals. Give in to urge to flee, and reward yourself with something that has about 5 times as many calories as you burned for sticking with it and making progress.

Phase 8: Trial
A few days later, return again. Bring bag to place in locker to get used to locker room, but be already dressed to avoid changing in there yet. Ride same bike for about 10 minutes. Go through the weight machine circuit that you already know is going to be your plan, but instead of 3 sets, just do 1, and do it on a weight that is really too low for you, just for the getting the feel of it and figure out what seat settings you need. Flee, but not quite as shaken this time. You know these machines from other places. You know what you are doing. It’s your gym too now even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet.

Phase 9: Full run
Pick an intentionally sparse time when almost nobody is at the gym and when you have nowhere else to be later. Change in the locker room. Ride the same bike for about 10 minutes. Do the workout machine circuit, finding your actual weights. Take more time than you usually will by quite a bit, but do the full 3 sets. Walk on a treadmill for about 5 minutes, just long enough to be familiar with it but feel like you won’t look too ridiculous for how short you were on it even as a cool down. Do the same with the arc trainer. Get on the elliptical for about 30 seconds, long enough to figure out that your knee just isn’t going to be its friend, then get off, rubbing and stretching the knee more than it probably really needed just in case someone was watching and wondering what your deal was on giving up on it so quick. Sit in locker room for a bit texting on your phone after getting dressed, just to be in there and see the flow of it.

Phase 10: Settle in
Begin normal routine, including showering when going before work. Keep head down and earbuds in, focusing on what you are doing, not how many people are around you. Begin to feel that you are ok, that this is familiar turf now, but still get thrown off a bit when machines are down, or when you discover that the weight machines in the general area have completely different weight setting than the same machine does in the circuit area (Wonder why in the world they would do that…)

And take lots and lots and lots of deep breaths!

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