Take Off Your Mask at the Gym

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January 8, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness

So here we are kids, another year is upon us. We are now one week into the new year, which is enough time to reflect upon how we are doing with our “resolutions,” or goals that we set for ourselves. I noticed something interesting this year—and maybe this was unique to my area of the world—but I noticed that the usual boom of people in the gym didn’t happen on January 2nd like it normally does. The significant increase of people happened yesterday. There are many times when I go to the gym and I am the ONLY person in there, but not yesterday. It was actually, dare I say, busy! I wasn’t at all annoyed though. I saw a lot of new faces, many of them women, which made me really happy. I also took notice of what they did in the gym while they were there…this did not make me happy, and gave me cause for a lot of thought.

I can spot a gym “newbie” from a mile away. Not because I’m a jerk who likes to sit and judge people, but only because I’m a trainer who has spent hundreds of hours in the gym—just like a butcher recognizes a tenderloin, I recognize a “newbie.” Ok, weird analogy, I know. Whatever. The newbies typically walk in, head straight for a cardio machine, push some buttons, and put in a half hour of low-intensity cardio. Then they hop off the machine and proceed to wander about the gym, careful not to make eye-contact with anyone. I know exactly what they’re doing because I used to do the exact same thing. They are milling about, taking stock of the equipment, and hoping to find a quiet spot where they can do a few crunches and push-ups before they leave. Around the first of the year, a quiet spot in any gym is nearly impossible to find. It seems that we all just want to disappear in the gym. I hardly ever see people helping one another out. I see people fiddling with equipment, and rather than helping one another out, we just avoid eye contact. Why? To save ourselves from embarrassment? Trust me, we all would probably feel better if someone threw us a bone and helped us out.

I wonder why there exists such a prevalent feeling of inadequacy at the gym. In some ways, I get it. Gyms used to be a place where perfectly tanned and buff men threw heavy weights around and strolled through the cardio room in hopes of picking up a hot chick. The women wore those awesome leotards and spandex shorts and spent an inordinate amount of time on the stairstepper. Well, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that these “hard bodies” have disappeared from MOST parts of the country (this, of course, excludes places like L.A., Miami, and New York). Gym culture is pretty easy to get a read on. Before you make a long-term commitment to a gym, make sure you spend some time there and get a feel for what the gym clientele is like. Some gyms are “meat-markets,” but you’ll find that most are not. Take a good look around the next time you’re in the gym—we’re all in the same boat, my friends. Unless you are a member of some exclusive pilates studio, the women are probably not sporting Lululemon on their perfectly toned bodies. The people I see are mostly wearing old t-shirts and Old Navy stretch pants. We’re all there for the same reason: we’re just trying to get it done so we don’t feel so bad about ourselves anymore.

I always tell my clients, “DON’T WORRY ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE LOOKING AT YOU OR THINKING THAT YOU LOOK STUPID.” Because here’s a little secret: everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves and what others think of them to take note of what you’re doing wrong. The people that you see who are confidently throwing weights around, doing pull-ups and push-ups, and jumping up on tall things once started in the exact same place that you are starting. They were once the ones that milled about the gym aimlessly, hoping that one day they will walk in and have the gym to themselves. What separates these people from the herd is that they made a choice to be vulnerable. They took a risk that someone would (gasp!) tell them that they were “doing it wrong.”

I know from experience that it doesn’t take long to move from this “vulnerable” category of gym-goer to the “experienced” category. When I first started lifting weights, I only sort of knew what I was doing. One evening, I decided to do some lat pulldowns for the first time. I had seen others do it, and it didn’t look very complicated. I marched on over and fumbled around with the attachments, chose the one that I thought was right, and hooked it on the cable. I sat down on the bench and pulled the pin out of the weight stack (mistake) to choose my weight. Well, on this particular cable machine, the attachment weighed too much to have no weight on the stack, so the bar came CRASHING down right on my head. I wanted to run out of there. Instead, I just sat up, looked around, chuckled to myself and put the pin in the damn weight stack. No one said a thing to me. I guess they figured that I didn’t pass out, so I must be okay!

My point here is this: it will take time and you will make mistakes, but you will get there if you keep on trying. I love that phrase, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” Make it your goal this month to be scared in the gym. Put yourself out there. Get off the machines and grab some free weights. If you are looking for pointers on form I suggest seeking the help of a trainer—many gyms offer 1 free session with a trainer when you join. If you’re not interested in purchasing personal training, you can tell the trainer that you just want form pointers on basic moves that you can do by yourself. If you are super nervous and unsure, then you may want to invest in a few sessions. Be specific with the trainer about what you want to get from your sessions together. If the idea of speaking with a trainer terrifies you, then get on You Tube. There are millions of videos that can point you in the right direction.

Get out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! As I said before, we’re all in the same boat. We’re just trying to do the best we can. I started to love the gym when I saw it as a place where I could take off the mask that I wear for the rest of the world—no matter what I’m feeling, I can go to the gym and let it all out in sweat on the floor. Ladies, take off your make-up, and tie up your hair so you can go and do what you came there to do—WORK!

One of my friends made a terrific comment the other day. She said, “Perhaps if we all let ourselves be more vulnerable to each other, we could help ourselves and each other even more.” Exactly my sentiments…

One thought on “Take Off Your Mask at the Gym

  1. Big Momma says:

    Amen sister! I’ve been feeling all those feelings. I vow to continue. I know soon I will not be the newbie. Thanks for putting it into perspective & your inspiration!

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