I hate gyms. As an obvious fat person, I have a warped sense that gyms are filled with people who are there to judge you and your body instead of working on themselves. As much as I know that isn’t true, just like with seasoned drivers who shout at learners on the road, some regular gym users come across as having forgotten they once too wore learner plates.
Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty low. I say lately, but it’s been since the start of the year. Nothing is overtly wrong, but it’s a string of events and situations that I can’t quite get out of. It’s people I have difficult feelings for being around me more than I’d like. It’s feeling like I’ve lost my way even though it’s probably not true, and I’m probably just being impatient.
With all of this going on and not having much variety in my daily life, I decided to join a gym. I needed to do something productive to make myself feel better. It had to be something that would get me out of the house, not arrive in an ASOS box, and it couldn’t be edible. So, the gym felt like the obvious choice.
Joining the gym was not a decision I made lightly. The moment you start going to the gym, people expect your body and eating habits to change. I’m not paying £25 a month to get a summer body. I have a body, and if we actually have a summer this year, then I’m all set. I’m not doing it to get a better arse – although I’d welcome it if it comes, just as I would going down a cup size, but I digress.
Where some people who go to the gym see the mental health benefits as a welcomed side effect, that’s how I see any weight loss that might occur. My primary focus is to help strengthen my mind and well-being.
Exercise has millions of benefits, like helping regulate and ease heavy periods, but people always jump to weight loss or muscle building. There is nothing wrong with that, but maybe if the other reasons for attending the gym were highlighted more, people wouldn’t feel so insecure or daunted by the thought of attending.
On my first day being in any gym setting in years, I was nervous. It was much as I expected, a bunch of people hanging around the weights and challenging each other, it stank of sweat, and everybody immediately looked at us as we walked in because you could tell we had no idea where to begin. By we, I mean my best friend who also came on this journey with me for the same reasons.
There was something different about going to the gym this time, though. After we managed to figure out some of the machines and got into a bit of a groove, my subconsciousness kind of went away – I actually felt as comfortable as any unfit person can around gymnites.
There were people of all different abilities, some having their first personal training session, some who you can tell live there, and others who were more interested in their phones than their workout. There were little post-it notes of positivity and affirmations on the mirror in the women’s changing room, which was something I really didn’t expect. All of the messages – except one – were uplifting and accepting of the self and it helped put me at ease.
In my mind, I know I want to stick this out as long as possible because I did feel better once I left. My track record with making such commitments isn’t the best, but knowing there is a place I can go to escape my thoughts or get clarity gives me great incentive. Who knows, in time, it may just consume my whole personality – just kidding. But nothing changes if nothing changes – so my t-shirt says – so let’s hope making this change will help incite change in all the areas of life I need it.
The gym is something that I think will work for me, but for some, gyms are just too traumatic of a place to be. For all those struggling mentally, I hope you find the outlet for you that gives you some reprieve from whatever struggles you’re facing.