The other day I was working out at a gym I hadn’t been to before on a guest pass. This gym is wicked. Top of the range equipment, cool vibe and promises to get you into shape in an environment you look forward to being in. So far so good.
Towards the end of my workout, I was stretching near a man who was shadow boxing. He wasn’t moving much and didn’t need all the space he had around him. He looked like he was in the zone and probably quite intimidating to some. A larger gent then came into the area we were working in. Quite the opposite to the boxer, he seemed nervous and unsure of himself. He went to set up the equipment he needed to do his workout, which was about 5 feet away from the boxer and definitely would not have affected him punching the air. What happened next is the reason I am writing this blog…the boxer shouted at the fella, telling him he had no idea what he was doing and that he clearly hadn’t been to the gym before because of his size.
Deflated and defeated, I watched the new gym goer, put away his equipment, walk back to the changing rooms and shortly after leave the gym…without working out.
This really bothered me and has made me become more aware of fitness bullying (a term coined by The Girls Gone Strong). I see it everyday, from the way new gym goers are spoken about in January, to the way the clothes people wear are judged more important than effort put in.
When you are scared to use the gym and intimidated of exercise, joining and going should be all it takes to earn admiration. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case as often anymore.
Fitness is not a club that you have to be deemed worthy enough to join. If you can do a one armed handstand, endless muscle-ups, run obstacle races across tough terrain, Olympic Lift like a boss or any other feat of the human body, then you should be really proud. However, please don’t let that pride get in the way of remembering how hard it was to walk into the gym on your first day and not know how anything works; equipment to etiquette.
If someone is finding joy and progress from only using the cardio machines, praise them for it. If someone isn’t quite ready to use free weights but is beasting it on the Lat Pull Down, congratulate them on their success. If someone doesn’t know how to use a machine or looks lost in the gym, help them!!
Every single member of every gym has the desire to improve themselves in common. Our will power, knowledge and skill may be different but we are all trying and that is a quality to be universally admired and guided; not broken down into ability levels and made exclusionary.
Sadly, I feel that fitness professionals/gurus are partly to blame for this emerging culture. Thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms, people are no longer becoming inspired by the things they can eventually do themselves but rather getting caught up in cults of personality. Look up any fitness professional/guru who has over 200k followers I guarantee on average you will find more posts about lifestyle aimed at making you envious of their life, rather than helping you improve your own. It is this shift in focus that I feel is filtering down into gym environments and making it a bit more unfriendly than it should be.
Individually we can change this trend by going out of our way to make sure everyone feels welcome at the gym. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge or too self-involved to accept it from others. Let’s collectively make our gym environments somewhere everyone is welcome, all successes regardless of size are praised and where no one has to leave the gym a victim of fitness bullying again!