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The Surprising Way Low Confidence Affects Your Workout Performance

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When there’s too much on your plate, your workout routine is normally the first thing you cut for the sake of time. But even if you make it to the gym (go you!), stress can still sabotage your sweat session. When we’re feeling under pressure, we’re much less confident and don’t make as smart of decisions in a competitive environment, reports a new study in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Swiss researchers found that people with high levels of the hormone cortisol, released as a result of stress and anxiety, had lower confidence levels and were less likely to make the kind of decisions that gave them a financial or social edge over others.

Low confidence can affect our behavior in a number of ways, though, including our resolve at the gym, says Sean Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., assistant professor of sport psychology at John F. Kennedy University. We’re not talking about low body confidence here (although that’s actually The No. 1 Reason Women Skip the Gym). The real issue is that low confidence often leads to avoidance, which leads people to stay in the safe zone to avoid feeling like a failure after an unsuccessful attempt.

“If you go to the gym and are intimidated by the weight room, the only way to gain more confidence with is to actually lift the weights,” says Fitzpatrick. “A lack of confidence keeps many people from taking that first step, from pushing themselves, from trying something new.”

As anyone who runs, bikes, swims, or lifts knows, the only way you can get stronger and better is if you try and try again. “Confidence isn't simply a belief that you'll be successful, it's also a willingness to push yourself and know that even if it doesn't work out, you'll be ok,” Fitzpatrick adds. Low confidence can hold you back from giving 100 percent and making every workout truly count. And if your low confidence levels are from feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, that means you’re also victim to these 5 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Workout.

So how do you get past your hesitations and push yourself harder? First, you have to deal with the root of the problem, so try these 15 Easy Ways to Beat Everyday Anxiety. Next, firm up your fortitude with these Confidence-Boosting Tips from Real Women Age 9 to 99. And make your workout routine do double duty—try these 10 Yoga Poses for Confidence and The Confidence-Boosting Workout.

If you can just squash stress and boost your confidence enough to get your butt out the door, the gym will take care of the rest—working out is, after all, our favorite stress reliever and confidence booster.

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