It's World Autism Awareness Week! As someone who has a diagnosis of ASD, this week is really important to me. I want to not only raise awareness and money, but also help out the neurodivergent community as much as I can.
In 2014 my life was completely transformed when I got into working out. Yes, I can sit here all day and talk about how it's given me goals of wanting to compete as a natural bodybuilder and a career as a coach and personal trainer, but on a deeper level, it helped to combat my anxiety and depression. One of the biggest causes of my troubles was the social anxiety brought on by my ASD.
When I first started going to the gym, I was too scared to go by myself and, even when I did go, I was so self-conscious. Over time I was able to teach myself how to go to the gym by myself, and also enjoy myself whilst I'm there. It takes time, but here's some tips for those of you only just starting to venture into gyms.
Hang Out With Whoever You Want
When I first started going to the gym I went with my dad. At first I was a bit embarrassed, as all the other teenagers were with people of their own age, but none of my friends were interested in going into the weights room. However, if you're happy with the people you're surrounded by, who cares what any one else thinks!
Everything In Steps
When I was first trying to combat my social anxiety, I was taught to break down my goals. So, let's say your end goal is to go to the gym by yourself. Doing this straight away is a big ask, so break it down like so:
Step One: Sign up to a gym online or go in-person (whichever you feel most comfortable with)
Step Two: Go to the gym to look around (either book a tour or just turn up in your gym gear and show yourself around) with a friend or family member
Step Three: Go to the gym and use a treadmill for 10 minutes with a friend or family member
Step Four: Go to the gym, use a treadmill for 10 minutes and then spend 10 minutes in the weights room with a friend or family member
Step Five: Go to the gym by yourself and use the treadmill for 10 minutes
Step Six: Go to the gym by yourself, use the treadmill for 10 minutes and then spend 10 minutes in the weights room
Instead of going from 0 to 100, you've broken your goal down into bitesize chunks, which will make it a lot less daunting and way more achievable in the long run.
Make A Plan
Even now, the thought of going into the gym without a plan makes me nervous. I need to know what I'm doing so I have some direction. Write down your workout plan but, if you're particularly anxious or going when you know it will be busy, write down some alternative exercises to do, in case the equipment isn't available.
Avoid The Busy Times
All gyms will be different in regards to busy times, however I can almost guarantee your gym will be packed post 5PM. If you're able to, avoid this time and go late morning / early afternoon.
The music in a gym can be pretty loud. If this is an issue, don't forget to take some noise cancelling headphones.
So, there are some tips to help you get started in the gym! Remember, everyone is nervous when they first enter a gym. However, after time, you'll learn to become comfortable in your environment, and begin to enjoy your time there!