Anxiety is common when you start working out somewhere new. Maybe you are a long-term traveler or you work in different locations or you just moved to a new city. Regardless of the reason, for some people fear of going to a new gym can be so severe that it interferes with just getting through their day. Imagine the thought of attending a CrossFit drop-in session that leaves you so distraught that your stomach is in knots, your neck is tight or you experience a panic attack. It may sound extreme to some, but it does happen.
Some of the triggers of this drop-in anxiety might include feeling intimidated by people who you are not familiar with and are in better shape than you, being self-conscious about your weight or physical condition and comparing yourself with other ladies in the box, or by worrying about making a mistake while amongst a new group of people. This kind of anxiety is related to fear of judgement. But don’t worry, you are not the only one having these feelings. There are thousands of women who feel the same way. Sport England did an extensive study of women for the popular fitness campaign ‘This Girl Can’. Their findings revealed a huge difference in the number of men and women playing sports or trying a new one. And it wasn’t because ladies didn’t want to get active, millions of women and girls were afraid to exercise due to this fear of judgement.
There was a time when attending to a drop-in class at a new CrossFit gym meant two things for me: anxiety about excessive sweating (I sweat a lot!) and worrying about making small talk with new people. I felt so nervous about being in a new gym that my hands and armpits were perspiring before the workout started. I even switched to my husband’s deodorant to see if that helped! The worst part was that, usually when I’m in this state, I tend to smile more than normal and some people at the new gym took this as an invitation to approach and get to know me since I was the new girl at the box. The result of these interactions made me feel even more anxious. My heart started racing way before I hit the weights! But what was I afraid of? And why was I so worried? I wasn’t new to CrossFit, and as a traveler, I’d dropped in many places. I now realize that my “reasons” were just a front that concealed my own fear of being out of my comfort zone and being judged for it.
But there is a bright side to anxiety. Sports psychologists assure that a certain level of “psychological arousal” (feelings of vigor, energy, and tension similar to what you experience when you get anxious) is needed for athletes to perform better, but an excess could inhibit this capacity.
CROSSFIT DROP IN GUIDE
Here are some tips to overcome drop-in anxiety:
The Know Before You Drop-in Strategy
Implementing the know before you drop-in strategy can reduce your levels of anticipatory anxiety in a huge amount. Do some research about potential CrossFit gyms with the objective of finding the one that best suits your needs and knowing what to expect before attending class.
The first and easiest step is to ask to your existing network. A simple post in your social media channel can save you a lot of time and effort. This is one of the reasons we have the Barbell Beauties Facebook! Not a member yet? Join here!
This is a great first option while looking for the best CrossFit gym around you because we have nearly 30,000 women who are actively sharing experiences and lessons related to CrossFit and life as a female CrossFit athlete. And we are all over the world! So give it a try, join Barbell Beauties Facebook group and ask for some advice.
Google, particularly Maps, is super useful as well. Type “CrossFit near Atlanta, GA”or your city. You will find all the CrossFit affiliates that are close to you pinned on the map. Using Maps, you can also access information like opening hours, photos and, more importantly, the reviews and comments given by other CrossFitters. You could also double check in the CrossFit website to make sure the gym you are targeting is an official affiliate.
For the next couple of months I’m living in Jacksonville, Florida and did research using Google Maps before choosing a new gym. There were 20 CrossFit gyms (see below) around me! Many had great reviews, so I focused on the comments and pictures uploaded by regular people/drop-ins to have first-hand information about the community, the gear, and the facility. Then I chose a few that interested me the most. These reviews were important to me which is why I would strongly encourage you to leave a review about your gym on Google maps or the gym’s social media channels. It’s valuable information that can help others to alleviate anxiety about what is, to us CrossFitters, an important decision.
Finally, visit the websites and social media accounts of your selected gyms to give you a more concrete idea of what the workouts regularly look like, the schedule, and info about their staff.
After all of this research, the feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness will hopefully be overshadowed by security and confidence. Want to feel even more confident? As soon as you get signed with with a coach or front desk staff, immediately go introduce yourself to a couple people. Not your strong suit? Just find something you like about someone, maybe their hair or a piece of clothing and go complement them. I can almost guarantee that they’ll appreciate it and spark up a conversation. CrossFit communities are very supportive and welcoming. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has been the new person at the gym at some point or another, so don’t give in to feelings of insecurity! Keep your goals in mind and remember that everyone in that gym has a common goal. I’ve never regretted dropping into a gym, even ones that weren’t so great. You got this!
DROP IN ETIQUETTE
As a drop-in, you represent your home gym, so do them proud. Follow gym rules, mind your manners, and always be kind.
Here is a list of what we consider to be good Drop-In Etiquette in CrossFit:
- Contact the gym first!
Most gyms have a drop-in policy on their website with the cost and reservation process. Even if they don’t, it’s still polite to contact that AT LEAST 24 hours in advance. You can often do this through the website or social media, if not, just send an email. Keep it short and sweet, gym owners are busy people. Take mine as reference:
I’ll be in town for (work/vacation) on (date) and was wondering if I could drop-in for the (time) class. I’ve been doing CrossFit for the last (months or years). Could you please let me know about the fees and if the date/time of my drop-in works for you?
- Arrive early and introduce yourself
Arrive 15 minutes early and introduce yourself to the coach and get familiar with the gym. Arriving early will also give you the time to sign the waiver and pay the drop-in fee (if there is one).
- During the class, be attentive.
Engaging with the members is great, but refrain from being too loud or talking while the coach is talking. This should be basic common sense. Remember, you are a guest in someone’s ‘home’. Be a Chatty Cathy with your new friends before or after the class, not during.
- Clean and wrap things up
Make sure you put all your weight and equipment away, and wipe it down (just as you would do at your own box). If you had a good experience and appreciated the level of coaching you received, tell the coach and let them know you’ll return in the future.
- Consider buying a t-shirt or getting a group photo.
At the end of the class, and if time allows, ask the coach if you can take a “class picture”. Other CrossFitters are normally happy to do so and pose with smiling, sweating faces. A shirt can be a great gift or souvenir of your experience in a new/foreign box, but also your contribution to a local business—and by extension, the greater CrossFit community.
- Leave a review.
Take some time and share your experience as a drop-in on the gym’s Facebook or Google, and don’t forget to tell us about your experience on the Barbell Beauties Facebook group.
HERE’S SOME ADVICE FROM OUR MEMBERS ON HOW TO OVERCOME DROP IN ANXIETY
Do you remember I told you that the Barbell Beauties group is an awesome resource? Just take a look at these inspiring drop-in advice from our members:
“Just take a step back and think about whether you would want a visitor to miss working out because they were scared to drop in at your box. I have only had great experiences with super friendly and supportive people”. Suzanne Rowe
“I found that emailing beforehand to check on their drop-in policy helped me connect with people that I saw once I was in the box, and that helped a little”. Michelle Tipsword
Melissa Smith Rapp comments “I drop in all over the world and have never had an issue. Honestly, I interact with the coach, smile a lot, pay attention and follow along. Just like at home people are there to workout and more focused on that than any visitor. Don’t be disruptive, be polite, work hard and it will be awesome!”
Realize that drop-in anxiety is just part of attending a new CrossFit gym. Remembering that, despite our worries, the community is always supportive, can be incredibly helpful at normalizing and de-escalating anxiety. It’s why, when my heart starts racing before going to a new place, it helps to know I’ve done my research, this gym was my best choice and then I look around at the smiling, happy, healthy people and tell myself to “go have fun!” And then I do!
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