Students offer tips to conquering gym anxiety at Castleton.

Zack Durr (sitting) greets Michael Padilla (standing) with a smile while walking into the gym complex.

 Ogyen Anak dropped his weights after his shoulder press and started singing Adele’s “I can’t love you in the dark” loud enough for people to turn their heads and giggle. 

Anak evidently doesn’t have gym anxiety.  

He talks to everyone and even gives advice to those around him, showing them proper form, but with courtesy. 

He admits, however, that this confidence was developed.  

“When I first started, I had anxiety. I was a bigger guy,” he said. 

Anak was 280 pounds when he first started going to the gyn around a year ago. He went consistently about five days a week, but with the fear of being judged for his size.  

Anak knew this was the “first and hardest step,” so he kept going and the pre-workout helped too. Anak became goal oriented, and genuinely enjoyed working on himself.  

This development of confidence and discipline is a product of Anak’s triumph. 

 He now goes to the gym six days a week, for as long as he wants, typically until his Adele playlist ends.  

But comfortability in the gym comes at a different rate for everyone. Jameela Memoli is a freshman who started going to the gym around a year ago and has been going to the gym complex at VTSU Castleton since she started this fall.  

When Memoli first began going to the gym to stay proactive, she admits to having some anxiety at her local gym.  

“I wouldn’t go by myself. I didn’t know what to do or how my form looked,” she said.  

Memoli would go with friends, which is often recommended by veterans of the gym when just beginning.  

“I’ve gained more confidence now,” Memoli said, nodding with a smile.

Ogyen Anak hits his push day in the gym at Vermont State University at Castleton last week.

Memoli advises going with a friend, because without a friend she said she “feels like people are staring,” even if she’s aware they aren’t.  

Anak confirms and reassures that the overwhelming feeling of being looked at is a common misconception. 

“People don’t care. They’re always in their own world with their music, and if they see someone who could take advice, they’ll give it respectfully,” he said.  

Being in a new environment at Castleton brings a bit of anxiety to Memoli. Despite the change in setting, however, having a set routine and learning about good form created a foundation for Memoli to grow and enjoy going to the gym.  

And having a gym partner makes all her sets better, she said. Memoli is setting new standards and has been pushing for more consistency now than before.  

“Once you go, you genuinely start to love it,” she said with a giggle. 

If people struggle with anxiety about going to the gym or not knowing what to even do at the gym, the gym complex at Castleton has such an open-arm and considerate community. Zack Durr works out at the gym in his off-season from track, but he also is employed there.  

Durr works at the front desk signing students in, but he also gains perspective and gives guidance. He said he understands many different aspects of being anxious at the gym, and he feels it sometimes too.  

Between moving from your gym back at home to the gym complex here, there’s a different set of nerves to kick-in, or even walking in and completely losing train of thought it’s like “wait, huh?” he said.  

Not only does Durr understand the feeling, but as a junior who has been working at the gym complex since 2022, he can see it too.  

During the spring of 2022, Durr noticed a first-year student questioning what she was doing during her workout.  

“It’s hard to help someone when you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” he said.  

So Durr, who knew her first name, took a considerate approach.  

Initially Durr was aiding her posture, so that the muscles that were supposed to be targeted were, he said. He then “accidentally” created an entire workout circuit for the beginner. There was no criticism, no tension, simply just another Castleton student helping another, he said.  

Anak has daily experiences of lending a hand as well, helping others fix their posture, or even helping others take the weight off their barbell.  

“A lot of people here will support you and help with questions,” he said, adding that he has made friends at the gym from helping or talking about similar experiences.  

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