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Overcoming Gymbarrassment

by on April 23, 2013

“But everybody is looking at me.”  “People will laugh.”  “I don’t know how to use the equipment.”  “Everybody’s already in good shape, and I’m not.”  “I’m too fat for a bike.”  “What kind of ‘boost’ do I want in my gut-busting ‘health smoothie?'”

If you’re out of shape and obtuse like me, you’ve probably uttered something similar when it comes time to get out and exercise, be it at a gym or just a quick jaunt around the neighborhood.  And while they may seem like mere excuses to those who are in great shape, I am quite aware that those concerns are very real to those of us of advanced girth. So a decision must be made:  we either must overcome our gymbarrassment, or we must buy a cardio machine and confine ourselves to a life of fitness solitude.

If you made the former choice, this post is for you!  I bet you’re looking for the secret to getting over  your proclivity towards feeling ashamed at the gym.  You’ve come to the right place.  Here are the the secrets to gaining confidence at your local fitness facility:

1.  Nobody is paying attention to you:  That’s right.  Those guys flexing in the free weights area?  They haven’t paid attention to anyone but themselves in years.  The 40-something divorcee who still looks like a supermodel on the elliptical?  She’s too busy reading 50 Shades of Grey for the 4th time and cursing her ex-husband under her breath for giving her love handles.  The fat guy on panting on the rowing machine? That’s me, and I’m intently staring at the meters-rowed counter praying to reach my goal before I pass out or throw up.  The gym is filled with narcissists, and the sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be. Seriously, people treat the gym like the bathroom–it’s a place to go to accomplish a task, and nothing more.  That’s how you should treat it too. The one thing all gym-goers have in common is contempt for those who aren’t at the gym.  And with just a month or two of regular attendance, you’ll be just as contemptuous as the rest.

Screenshot 2013-04-22 at 10.47.45 PM

How not to get ripped

2.  Nobody else knows how to use the equipment:  As someone who has been extensively trained on the proper use of cardio and weight equipment you might find in a gym, let me tell you that gym rats are often the biggest culprits when it comes to using gym equipment improperly.  With that said, you should be able to figure out cardio equipment no sweat (pun intended).  If you’re intimidated by the treadmill, start with an elliptical, rowing machine, or stationary bike.  No matter how many bells and whistles they have, you can just hop on them and start.  They’ll beep and blink, sure, but you can just ignore that and go about your exercise if you don’t want to deal with the technology.  Intimidated by the weight machines?  Whether you work out at a rec center gym or a some other branded fitness center, there is almost certainly someone on staff who is champing at the bit to help you figure out the Ab Blaster Core Shredder 3000.  The gym rats certainly never ask.

3.  There’s a payoff at the end:  If you’re like me, you know that the absolute best part of every workout is when it’s over.  When you’re done with that run, bike, lift, walk, or row you will have accomplished something.  If you’ve done it right you’ll be tired, sore, and down a few hundred calories.  Keeping my goals in mind is something that has helped me continue in the face of innumerable fitness adversities, gymbarrassment not least among them.

4.  Focus on your workout:  When your heart rate is up at 170 and you’re sweating buckets, I promise that the last thing on your mind will be everyone around you.  During most workouts, I’m too busy trying to survive for the duration of the exercise to even give a thought to what everyone else thinks of what I’m doing.  If you concentrate on your breathing and on executing whatever workout you’re doing properly, you should have no problem keeping your mind off of what you might look like to other people.  In fact, you can probably use your own gymbarrassment as a gauge for how effectively you’re exercising.  If your mind is free enough to wander into the no self-esteem zone, perhaps its time to re-engage with your workout and intensify it in some way.

5.  If it doesn’t look embarrassing, you’re probably not doing right:  The bottom line is that exercising pushes your physical boundaries, makes you short of breath, makes your face contort in weird ways, and even requires you to take up weird body positions normally only used for sexual relations or bathroom activities.  squat4Every single one of the muscle-bound freaks in your gym can certainly be seen squating with a heavy weight while making the all too familiar face of someone making a number 2.  Heck, you may even chuckle in your mind when you see it.  But that’s how everyone looks during strenuous physical activity.  On any given day in any given gym you can see 100 people making that same face.  It comes with the territory.  So do your best to swallow your pride, make like a bear in the woods, and put on your best number 2 face!

These 5 insider secrets have helped me immensely in getting over my self-image issues at the gym.  If you’re inclined to take the home treadmill option, that’s fine too.  There’s no single right way to get in shape!

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