Originally Posted April 29, 2015
I’ve been going to the gym fairly regularly for about 6 weeks (hooray me!) and it’s become routine enough that I’ve stopped thinking about it– on the whole.
Yesterday, I was set back to day-one-level gym anxiety for a while, so I thought we should discourse.
I KNOW I am not alone on this. Gyms can be so incredibly intimidating. I’ve done fairly well at not projecting what my inner 13 year-old would say onto strangers passing by, buuuuut… I mean it happens. “WHY DOES THAT PERSON KEEP GLANCING AT ME??? Is my machine squeaking? Am I doing it wrong? Do I smell? They’re thinking about how gross I look, I KNOW IT!” Etc. Ok, so, maybe you default to “Why is that person so OBVIOUSLY checking me out?? I know I’m hot, but c’mon!” — so good for you and your self esteem. Live it, go on with yo bad self! I, however, default to the former.
And there are plenty of things to make a person self-conscious at a gym.
You have to wear clothes that allow you to move, which generally means more fitted, spandex in composition, and void of carefully purchased accessories that flatter and disguise problem areas (I love the drapey scarf trend).
You will get all sweaty (if you’re doing it right), and maybe omit… odors. I’m still very concerned about the possibility of asparagus sweat being a thing. Plus coffee, garlic, onions, all kinds of things can scent your natural body odor– plus sweating it out? Gah. But wearing perfume to the gym is equally offensive. You will not win. Fresh sweat isn’t that bad, usually, if you bathe regularly. And if you’re gymming, you should probably also be bathing regularly.
There are mysterious machines with vague instructions printed on them. Ok, so the first time I ever climbed on an elliptical machine (maybe ten+ years ago?) I was MYSTIFIED. Luckily, it was at an apartment gym and I was alone, so I could work it out. “You have to move your arms and your legs at the same time and not fall off?” The weight area is still terrifying to me. I know how to use a few machines (I think) and I stick to those for now until I get a trainer sorted out. And I know there are youtube videos and tons of books and websites with step-by-step instructions, but I’m a kinetic learner– I need to do it. I cannot bring myself to pull out my smart phone and stream a 2 minute video while I try to position my body on the machine, because WHAT WILL STRANGERS THINK? See? I know how stupid that sounds, but it is what it is. Also, the other day I was using the seated row machine and a trainer stopped by to give me some pointers on using it– this was great, and I’m grateful he did, and I have used that new knowledge to my advantage. It was also embarrassing. I felt humiliated– I didn’t need to, he was kind and helpful and nobody, like, pointed at me and called me four-eyes or anything, but I still felt humiliated.
There are some really pretty people at the gym. This is it’s own kind of inspiring defeat. There are some really really fit people at the gym. There are also average looking people, doughy looking people, and fat-like-me looking people. All of those people, and all of those eyes, and all of those thoughts that you cannot control while you are doing something outside your comfort zone can be TERRIFYING.
This all comes back to “Don’t care what other people think!” — yeah yeah, but let’s be real. We do care. If we did not care we would all be stealing, murdering, public-crapping, nose-picking, what-have-youing all over the place. But we don’t, because there are rules and we are civilized, and there’s good and bad to that. And even when you don’t care-care what you look like, you still care what you look like. It doesn’t have to own you and cover every aspect of your self or anything, but you care. And so do I.
This is pretty ramble-y, so thanks for sticking with me.
When I am at the gym and someone gets on a cardio machine RIGHT next to mine when there are other machines open, I think several things.
1.) “OMG, I hope I don’t smell. What is that smell? Is that smell me? THAT IS ME. I feel so bad for you, Gym Member.”
2.) “Why did they pick that machine? There are SO MANY other machines! Buffer machine! Don’t they know gym etiquette?” (then I answer myslef) “Maybe they like that machine best. Maybe they are watching the TV. Maybe they’re checking out the lady’s butt in front of them. Maybe they hate another Gym Member nearby.”
3.) “IT’S BECAUSE I’M FAT, ISN’T IT???”
-“Did they glance at my machine readout? Are they comparing themselves to me to feel good? Are they next to me so they look thinner? Are they judging me? THEY ARE JUDGING ME!”
-“I’m going to do this exercise UNTIL I DIE just to show them I can endure Cardio While Fat!”
-“Are they pacing me? Did they speed up because I sped up? STOP TRYING TO BE ME!”
-“HAHAHA! I did it longer than them! I hope they respect fat-exersize now!!”
* I yell at strangers a lot in my head. I’m very rude that way. It comes from working in retail for many years, probably.
I’m probably mostly wrong and crazy, and silly– but I am right sometimes. It’s generally not a part of my life once I’m done on the machine, but those thoughts are still something to overcome and they’re still a part of the gym, for most of us, I think.
Also, the fit people who sneer at un-fit people at the gym.
First, and obviously, they can go F themselves.
Second, they can go F themselves again for good measure.
Third, I am guilty of it too.
That’s right! I can complain about it and acknowledge that I do it too. I am guilty of thinking things like “That person is fatter than me. Thank god. I’ll NEVER get THAT fat.” or “Ugh, that person is TOO fit. S/He looks so gross and veiny. I bet they’re super vain and D-Baggy.” and also “That person is perfect and I wish I were perfect too.” I think all the things.
Also, I stare at the people doing pull-up sometimes. I try not to, because I’m not being a creeper, but I am honestly completely in awe of that ability. I’ve never done a pull-up in my whole entire life. It’s one of my top fitness goals. So I watch and think about how amazed I am that people can do that, and it looks so effortless.
I also look at the women in the free-weights section of the gym next to super buff men, just doing what they came to do. And I cheer them. And I hope to toughen my skin enough to be over there soon.
Long story, long, I’m bringing this up because for a little while now I’ve been fine at the gym. I haven’t had to talk myself into just getting through the front door and that kind of thing. And then, yesterday, out of nowhere, a near-stranger gave the disgusted face while I was working out. not once, BUT THREE TIMES. He gave me the gross-out face while I elliptical-ed, and didn’t see me see him. Then he did it again by the weights, whilst I was lat pull-downing. Then HE MADE EYE CONTACT and a full-body scan + gross-face while I was leaving with my daughter.
So that’s an abnormal amount of rude, and I did not imagine it.
Here’s the part that’s kinda neat, though. I went to highschool with that guy. I know his name, first and last. I also know, thanks to the weirdness that is social media social obligation (why do we add people we barely knew in highschool?), where he works, his girlfriend’s name, where he likes to eat dinner, every time he goes to the gym, his new car (complete with license plates), and his favorite bars. Not like I’m going to go find him and TP his house or anything, I’m just saying, folks oughta censor some stuff. I’d feel pretty bad about myself after all of that, normally. But, in this case, I had the ability to snoop on his page and read all of the terrible political ideas he supports, as well as a TON of really superficial body shaming kindsa comments he posts. And judge his general spelling and grammar failures. I don’t enjoy being the person who grosses out another person, just by BEING. I don’t, it’s not a good feeling. But I am totally fine with grossing THAT guy out. I kinda hope he sees me and my big butt in yoga pants when he closes his eyes. And that? Right there? Has renewed my gym commitment. Not for the sake of toning up so I’ll be attractive, but so, hopefully, I can gross him out all the time.