The first time I set foot in a gym – voluntarily anyway – was in June of 2000. I was 23 years old, and had never done any regular fitness activities or sports in my life. I felt awkward and out of place, spent loads of energy worrying about how I looked and how everyone else looked, and enjoyed my gym time approximately not at all.
After several years, a lot of figure fluctuations, and the launch of this blog, I began to relax a bit. I was less worried and more contemplative. I did a lot of thinking about body image and fitness, self-scrutiny and confidence as I observed my fellow gym-goers. But I still did a lot of comparison. More than I’d like to admit, in fact. And a fair amount of judging, too, especially about how workout clothing fit and who was wearing full makeup and how much abdomen was showing. I had calmed some of my self-criticism, but seemingly amped up the cattiness.
And now? Well, I still loathe the gym. I vastly prefer to be walking or biking or doing virtually anything exercise-y besides holing up in a moist, crowded building with a hundred of my neighbors. (And I swap in those activities as often as I can.) But MAN have my gym-based thought processes changed. I’ll admit to the occasional huff when I catch myself in the mirror, but everyone else? I literally look at them and think, “Yep, you’re awesome. You too. And you.”
Know why? Because very few people love the gym. Loads of people feel like they just don’t have time to work out. Ours is a rushed, anxious culture that seeks relaxation in sedentary activities. There are so many things that prevent most people from even getting to the gym, much less putting in a good workout, that I consider every single living being in my gym to be an absolute superstar. I’m elated that they’re there – the deeply tanned, the muscle-bound, the skinny, the fully-made-up, the fat, the old, the wee, the loud talkers, the equipment hogs, every last one of them makes me proud. I have actually come quite close to approaching perfect strangers to tell them how amazing they are. Luckily, I’ve stopped myself short with the realization that I’d come off as a total loon.
And I realize this sounds mighty rah-rah-goody-two-shoes, but it’s the honest truth. I have pledged to go to the gym four times per week, and EVERY TIME I waffle about going. It is a time suck, I am massively busy, and I hate it. OK, I don’t hate it, but I do not enjoy it and can easily think of a dozen activities I’d rather engage. I know that most humans feel the same way. (Emphasis on “most.”) And the ones who put all of that aside and haul ass to the gym anyway? Superstars. Every last one of them.
Of course, the gym won’t work for many people. In fact, exercise isn’t an option for some. Illness, injury, recovery, and countless other barriers can make strength training and cardio virtually impossible. And, naturally, caring for yourself in the best way possible takes precedence over forcing yourself to hit the gym.
But for those who are able yet reluctant, my hat’s off to you. If you are exercising, you are fabulous. If you are making time to lift weights, do cardio, stretch, run, sweat, you are brilliant. No matter how much you weigh now, or how much you wish you weighed, or how strong you are, or how strong you wish you were, if you are carving out time in your jam-packed life for fitness – be it inside a gym or outside – you rock. Because it is so easy to push aside the importance of movement, and it is so hard to stay motivated in the face of exhaustion and frustration and life. And if you’re moving, exercising, lifting, or grooving, you’re showing your body some truly fantastic love.
Image courtesy hotelcasavelas2. I only WISH that photo showed my actual gym.