Gah, that’s tough, right?
There are the “muscle studs” and the girls with perfect beach bodies. You know the ones-the ones that intimidated the shit out of you in high school. Maybe they still do. There’s the guy who looks like he could crush a bowling ball in his bare hands. Great. 😨 Awesome. 😰
There are the trainers, all of whom look like they just walked out of a fitness magazine. They’re standing over the beefcakes screaming “Strong, Strong, Strong,” while the beefcake benchpresses more weight than your comfortable counting.
And there you are in your cut off sweat pants, old tennis shoes and, tee shirt thinking:
“What in the hell am I doing here? This isn’t my scene. This is for these people, not for me.”
And maybe that’s when you walk out.
Maybe you’ve walked in there and walked out 15 times before. Why should this time be any different? After all, the gym isn’t the place for you, right?
But this time is different and you take another step in the door and then another.
One of the trainers sees you come in and walks up to you. You’re expecting the worst because…well, look at you.
But she’s warm and smiles real big and welcomes you in and takes you back to do some intake paperwork.
On your way back you pass by one of your friends from church or a neighbor or whoever and now your nerves are calming a bit – no more flight mode because there’s that guy you know from the grocery store.
You sit down and go over the paperwork. Your trainer is still all smiles and you discuss your goals. You’re self deprecating now to beat them to the punch because you know it’s coming:
And they give you such a look… one filled with compassion and a hint of sadness because they know what it’s like to be in that mindspace. They know how painful that place can be.
Now your head is kinda blown because this isn’t going AT ALL like you thought it was gonna go.
And you’re feeling a little better about being there. You get up and the trainer takes you to one of the machines or the dumbbell station and you go through some movements.
Your settling in now and there’s the sweat.
What count am I on?
If I wanted to count so much I would have gone into accounting.
My arm is getting tired.
What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.
Finish the set.
Gotta finish this set.
Across the way you see another person like you and you think:
Ok, if they can do this, maybe I can too. I bet if we did this stuff together it would easier.
Then you go through another set of movements and then another and before you realize it you’ve been in there for a whole hour.
And never not one time did anyone in there scoff at you for being there. Not one insult was hurled at you. Some people watched you though and that was weird. Actually, everyone that spoke was nice and the ones who didn’t speak just didn’t… but it was fine. How could I have been so wrong?
There’s a sad but common narrative in pop culture that says that gyms are just for the “beautiful.” Every TV show, reality or otherwise, or movie that even thinks about filming a scene in a gym makes certain to include ONLY the most beautiful, fittest, most healthy looking models because the gym is all about getting healthy, fit and beautiful.
Well, that last part is true.
On the rarest occasion you might see the buffoon type character in the gym stumbling around like a bull in a china shop if only to point out how out of place, how unwelcome he is.
And for most of us, that’s our only experience of a Gym…well, that and whatever fresh hell Gym Class held for us in High School.
The fact is that if they showed what real gyms look like though with real people in them they wouldn’t use the footage. That’s a sad fact of Hollywood. And we buy into that shit because we’re told that’s what gyms are all about. It’s sad. It’s what I believed before I walked in one and stayed longer than 5 minutes.
But here’s the thing: being fit & healthy BRINGS beauty. Beauty doesn’t bring fitness and health. And to get anywhere you have to start somewhere.
Let me tell you about those “screaming” trainers. They worked for YEARS to get their bodies in peak physical condition. Each of them have their own reasons but almost all of them do it because:
1. They were just as self conscious and self deprecating as you are at one point in their lives.
2. They realized they didn’t want to feel that way any longer.
So they decided to do something about it.
They scream because it’s an ultra powerful motivational tool to push their clients to dig down for the strength they know is there but for some clients they take different approaches. We all respond to different cues.
That beefcake that looks like he could crush a bowling ball between his barehands…he used to be bullied everyday and decided he’d make sure it never happened again.
Now he works with teens to show them a different way, a better way of being.
That girl with perfect beach body…maybe she’s overcoming her own issues too: an eating disorder, or depression, or anxiety.
And nearly every soul in that gym will stop what they’re doing to help you. Crazy thought, huh?
Some are going to watch you. They’re not watching you because they’re critiquing you. They’re watching to make sure your technique is right so that you don’t hurt yourself.
Some of them will have their earbuds in and blinders on solely focused on their own workout. That’s them. It’s cool. They’ve got their own stuff too.
Bottom line: those people you’re intimidated by, they’re just like you. Some of them have had it better, some of them have had it worse but they’re there working on what they can work on because they realize changing their lives is a body/mind/soul gig.
We all have issues and you certainly won’t be the only person in that gym working on and through yours. Better to do it as part of a community, right?
All too often in life it’s us that stand in our own way. It isn’t the people in the gym or our bosses or family. It’s us. And we have to take responsibility for the choices we’ve made. It’s tough to look in the mirror. God knows I know it.
But the thing is, we don’t get fat or rail-thin because we love ourselves or the bodies we’re in. Sure, we love our families-are devoted to them and we let ourselves go. We stopped loving ourselves a little bit (or a lot a bit) so we could give it to other people…
But that’s not how it really works, is it?
The moment you start loving yourself as you should and the body you’re in as you should is the moment you can start doing the work to take care of both.
All you have to do to start is remind yourself that you’re worthy.
It’s a paradox, I know. So much about the gym is paradoxical though. But you’ve got to walk in and stay for a minute before you can start having fun with all those paradoxes.
You are worthy of the gym costs. You are worthy of the friends you’ll make there. You are worthy of the changes you’ll make. You are worthy of the new life you’ll have. Do it for your family. Do it for your friends but most importantly, do it for yourself!
Before you know it you’ll have been working out consistently for a year or more and your body will have changed. You’re more secure now and more confident…happier now too and in the door you’ll watch you from a few years ago walk in, all fish out of water and unsure, and you’ll smile, walk up them and welcome them in.
P.S. if for some reason the gym you walk into is full of mean, nasty people…walk into another gym. Don’t quit on yourself.