With a new year comes new year’s resolutions. And with no membership I’d be directly paying for and no real reason to not go more often than I did last semester (aside from sleeping in for an extra hour before breakfast or watching Westworld on my roommate’s HBO account), mine has been to regularly go to the gym for an hour, at least four times per week.
“The gym” has always been a delightful area of discussion that I’m quick to avoid discussing (or appearing at). Despite the overwhelming media advocation for healthy lifestyle choices and making friends that are vehemently more “into it” than I (some have even gone for two months straight without taking a day off), I’ve been frequently opposed to going. I think it’s the disposition lots of people have; the disposition that you need the physique of Cristiano Ronaldo or Karlie Kloss to even step foot beyond the rotating metal bars in the front entrance, let alone use one of the machines. However, after realizing that my steady diet of cookie dough and Girls wasn’t getting me anywhere close to my Calvin Harris-esque physique goals, and hearing my roommate’s girlfriend casually remind us multiple times that “swimsuit season” (oh, the horror) was mere months away (and a potential beach trip on the horizon for mid-June), I decided I would go.
Maybe it was because I’d spent too much of my spare time watching Nicole Richie’s Instagram story or reading important journalism (such as charming Buzzed articles like “8 Photos Of Kylie Jenner Realizing The Floor is A Thing”). Maybe it was because I couldn’t gather the motivation to get out of bed, throw on a coordinating shirt and shorts and make the two-minute-long trudge to the Freeman Center. But after going more regularly, I can confidently say that I’m slowly on my way to understanding how the “gym works” (no massive lifestyle changes or mindset change necessary!).
I think the main reason people decide to not go to the gym to exercise is because they feel like everyone is focusing on them. All of the people with perfectly-toned bodies who look like they’ve been lifting weights since they were born can be kind of intimidating, and seem like they’re totally staring you down as they lift and run and stretch longer than you can. And before I began going for longer periods of time and getting more comfortable with going more often, I had the same type of mindset.
Here’s the thing, though: nobody’s focusing on you more than you are! If you’re in the weight room or the dance studio with 14 other people, chances are they really don’t care what you’re doing! Unless they’re a trainer that you’re directly working with, nobody’s focusing on you or trying to improve you. The main point of going to the gym is self-improvement. As in, nobody’s paying attention to how long you’re spending on the elliptical, or how you’re holding your barbells when you lift, or how steep you set the incline on the treadmill. Everyone that’s there is focusing on improving themselves. They aren’t there to monitor you or pay attention to how you’re trying to work on yourself, because they’re really just there to work on themselves! If you’re spending your time at the gym thinking about how other people are judging you for doing what you’re doing or stressing that you don’t have the arms or butt or back of the person across the room from you, you’re wasting your time on nothing; just focus on improving your own techniques and ignore whatever you might think is happening with the other people around you!
As for me, it’ll maybe (definitely) take more time at the gym before I’m fully used to it, have developed more specific routines, and have gotten used to being more active. Maybe I won’t be as chiseled as Chris Evans or Tom Daley when the semester is over (and I’ve stuck with it long enough). But it’s a new year, and I’m trying to positively change myself by doing something new. I know I’m making a better decision to go as often as I’m trying to than to not go at all. It’s a commitment that I know will pay off if I work at to as hard as I do with most things in my life, and, most importantly, I know I’m not trying to improve anyone other than myself through it. And for right now, that’s enough.
Now, as I feel I’m semi-qualified enough to give this advice, here are some tips for you if you’ve been stressed about going to the gym (for various reasons):
- Don’t be afraid to ask another person how they’re doing something or ask for help. If you’re inexperienced, chances are the people around you have been (if they aren’t) in your shoes before and will be more than willing to help you improve!
- People at the front desk will help you however they can! They don’t bite. They won’t find it laughable that you’re at the gym in the first place, or roll their eyes if you don’t know where the locker rooms are because you haven’t used them yet. They’re there to help.
- Try working out with your own music, if you aren’t or haven’t already. It can really help to focus on the specific technique or exercise you’re doing if you’re just listening to music you hear regularly, as opposed to what the gym speakers are playing (although that music is perfectly fine for most). After I decided to bring my own music to the gym (and determined that the only workout-ish songs in my music library were overplayed David Guetta and the always delightful “Get Low”) I made my own playlist specifically for the gym. It’s helped me to focus more on what I’m doing and improving myself by listening to my own compilation of M.I.A., Sleigh Bells and Britney Spears than something else.
- Nobody (unless you’re working closely with a trainer, of course) is or should be focusing on you except for yourself. Having a self-improvement mindset is key!