Let’s face it, everyone looks a bit of a twat in the gym. I mean that in the nicest possible sense, but they do- even if you know what you’re doing, you look a bit pretentious. So why are so many of us worried about what we look like and whether we’re doing things wrong?
When I first joined my uni fitness centre, never in my wildest dreams (nightmares?!) did I imagine that I’d ever step foot in the actual gym. The gym, with it’s scary looking machines, burly rugby players, judgemental girls. When my housemate suggested we go for half an hour before a fitness class, I was shitting myself: I definitely didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to let my best mate down either. Now, nearly three years on, I’m happy going by myself- and it’s because I’m not bothered about what people think of me.
I might look an arse when I’m doing my HIIT sprints on the treadmill, I might look stupid when my face muscles go mad while finishing the last few reps of the set (does that happen to anyone else, by the way? I literally cannot control what my face is doing, it’s so embarrassing), but I do not care because I know that a) everyone else looks a bit silly too, and b) nobody else is even paying attention to little old me.
I can honestly say that I have only done a double-take at someone TWICE since joining the gym as a fresher: once was at a girl in full makeup, including eyeshadow and false lashes, which I thought was a bit unnecessary (although if this is how she feels most confident, then that’s fair enough); and the other was at a bloke that me and my friends have affectionately nicknamed ‘Penis Man’. A man who comes to the gym in skin-tight shorts, oiled up, with a semi on for the duration of his workout. I wish I was joking, but I’m not (I don’t know how he gets away with it, anyone else would surely be done for indecent exposure or something). My point is that, in the hundreds of times I’ve been to this particular gym, these two people are the only ones (aside from friends, obviously) that I have noticed. They are the ones that I watch working out, simply because it’s so difficult to avert my eyes from them.
I know a lot of women (and some men!) that are afraid to go into the free weights area because of the stacked blokes around them, but this shouldn’t be the case. If you do happen to watch them, they are just concerned with checking their form (i.e. checking themselves) out in the mirror, and probably won’t notice you’re there. And if they do happen to notice, I sure as hell bet that they’re admiring you for not only having the balls to step into ‘their’ area and use ‘their’ weights, but also being able to use the equipment correctly as well. They’ll be impressed, and I promise that you’ll feel like an absolute boss for putting your fears aside, taking a deep breath, and just getting on with it.
My advice is that if you want to stand out at the gym, then just do it, each to their own and fair play to you; but, alternatively, if you want to blend in then it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Just show up, plug your headphones in, crack out your workout, and get out again. If you’re a newbie, then going with a friend (like I did) is very comforting, especially if that friend already happens to be a gym bunny; but if you’re both new to the whole fitness thing then it’s easy enough to work out how to do stuff together. If you’re unsure how to use a piece of equipment, just ask a member of staff and they’ll be more than happy to help you- it’s their job, after all, and it saves them getting bored by sitting at the front desk all day! On the other hand, websites such as bodybuilding.com have some great videos that you can view here in order to see how an exercise should be carried out properly and without injuring yourself.
So just remember, when you’re cringing in the changing rooms because you don’t want to enter the gym, nobody cares what you look like except you. Not the blonde girl happily using the crosstrainer, or the built guy by the squat rack- they’re just concerned with improving their fitness and strength, which is what you should be focusing on as well. The more times you work out, the more your confidence will grow, and the more you will flourish into a wonderful gym goer that the staff can smile and say ‘hello’ to.
Although please, for the love of God and if you’re a guy, stay away from the baby-oil and the Lycra shorts, I’m begging you.