“I just hate the gym,” my hairstylist sighs as she fills in my roots. “It causes me anxiety.”
This is not the first time I have heard this statement, nor will it be the last. Although the intention of the gym is to promote self confidence and a healthier body image, it has now, for many, become a place that creates insecurity and fear.
“I just feel like everyone is judging me. I’m not as fit as everybody else, and I get embarrassed,” my hairstylist continues. “It wasn’t until I lost weight and I felt better about myself that I started going to the gym. But I don’t really go.”
Forget the fact that most people look at fitness machines as though they’ll be catapulted into space if they press that red button. Forget the fact that gyms are as common as Starbucks, and it is very likely that as you order your mocha frappe with whip you can see out of the corner of your eye a gym sign guilting you into submission. Only $10 a month? Really? That is only two Frappucinos.
For my hairstylist, and many others, workout anxiety and hatred is due to the fact that gyms now have the same stigma as nightclubs. Are you tone enough to pass through the doors of this fitness club? Are you hot enough to wait in line for the privilege of experiencing pulsing music, low technicolor lights, oxygen açai berry-infused water and way too revealing see-through spandex?
Personally, as someone who goes to the gym in large sweatpants and, more often than I would like to admit, small traces of zit cream on my face, I relate to my hairstylist. Before I became a fitness expert, I used to go to the gym extra early and find the machine far off in the corner. Then I would pray that no one would see me. You see, I’m not exactly the prettiest exerciser. When I push myself hard, I pant and sweat and make strange faces that make me look as though I’m being tortured. I don’t want to be watched, I don’t want to be spoken to, and I definitely don’t want to get hit on.
But many gyms are now the “who’s hot and who’s not” meat market circus. Instead of being a place of refuge and serenity, it’s more of a social club where everyone knows everyone, gossip ensues, and everyone’s all done up in the hottest gear. Not to mention that men are looking you up and down and women are equally critical.
I continue to listen to my hairstylist list her dislikes about the gym as I watch her delicately foil my hair. When she is done, I look at her and ask, “So if you don’t go to the gym, where do you work out?”
She looks at me, smiles, shrugs her shoulders and says, “You have 10 minutes left for your hair. You want some magazines to read?”
I have come to learn that those who judge, judge themselves. Never assume that people are thinking ill thoughts about you or your body. If they are, it is only because they hold insecurity about themselves. Actually, it could be likely that they are admiring something about you and using it as inspiration for their own body. Whatever it may be, try not to let the looks consume you and use it as fuel to work harder at the gym.
Classes are a great way to burn tons of calories and get in and out of the gym fast. Group classes create a great atmosphere for peer motivation as well. Your peers are probably too consumed with how hard the class is to notice what you are doing. If you feel the class is too hard, take a break and join back in. Know you will get stronger over time. In the long run, you may never see any of these people again, so who cares if you’re the person that took that minute break.
If you don’t know how to use a machine, please ask one of the trainers at the gym for help. Take this opportunity to become your own expert so that you can prevent injury and work the muscles effectively.
Honestly, other than street clothes and heels, wear whatever you want. Form fitting black stretch material is the most flattering and if you are working with a trainer, it is easier for the trainer to see your form if you’re not swimming in your clothes. But wear what makes you feel comfortable. Your focus should be on the workout and how the workout makes you feel, not on how you look.
Promise yourself to go to the gym twice a week no matter what. After your second or third week, you won’t care what anybody thinks. You will start to see the results, feel better, and learn to love the gym that helped you reach your goal.
Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness