I’ve been in and out of the gym since I was 3 years old. I started gymnastics when I was 3, quit when I was 5, started dancing when I was 7, quit when I was 9 and we moved to Alaska, started dancing again my freshman year of High School, quit when I was 19 and pregnant with The Nerd, started working out at the gym 3 years later, quit when I moved to Orlando 2 years later and began a fast-paced schedule, then started going again in May of this year. *deep breath*
Every, single time I have become the “newbie” at the gym, I’ve been aware of the stares, the judgment, the wonders of how long I’ll last before the regulars never see me again. This awkward judgment has kept me out of the gym many-a-time. When we moved to Raleigh, I was terrified of what people would think. I spent the past 2 months out of the gym, but started going back to the gym almost 2 weeks ago and I’m being treated like a newbie again.
It’s always easy to tell who the gym regulars are: They’re running 500 miles on the treadmill then following it up with a full-body free weight work out. They glance at you and roll their eyes, then turn their perfect noses up into the air as they continue on with their workout. They stand inside Zumba class in a massive huddle whispering while you stand in the corner, alone, incapable of breaking in. You don’t even get the opportunity to say, “YO, I just moved here!”.
Eventually if you go often enough, they might say a swift hello to you, but in my experience, it takes months.
These feelings came flooding back recently when I overheard a conversation between two gym regulars where someone was commenting on how busy the gym was. They ended by saying, “It’s not even the new year” and then erupted into raucous laughter. The person with them made a comment about not being able to stand the “Resolutioners” and loved when the gym slowed down again around February.
Earlier this week, I was at the gym, eyeballing the free-weights. I desperately want to get back into lifting weights instead of using the newbie machines. I used to lift weights, but I can’t seem to remember how to do it. Maybe the truth is I’m afraid someone will judge my form, and instead of coming over to offer me some advice, they’ll just laugh at me internally and scoff, “Newbie”.
I was sitting on the leg press machine between reps and I noticed a very obese woman on the treadmill. I could crawl faster than she was walking and my immediate thought was, “why pay for a membership if you’re not going to sweat?” I immediately gave myself a high-five to the face and shook the thought off and followed it up with a new one: She’s MOVING. She’s HERE. And eventually, as long as she keeps moving, her weight should change and she should become healthier.
I couldn’t believe that I was thinking these unhealthy, self-righteous thoughts. It really disgusted me.
Today in Zumba, we had to partner up for a fun dance for cool-down and the girl who I partnered with said to me, “This is my first time, I have NO idea what I’m doing. Don’t judge.”
She felt like she had to justify her lack of Zumba talent to me because it was her first time. NOT. COOL.
Why do we make people feel this way?
If you’re a gym regular, you should smile at the new people, make them feel welcome, help to hold them accountable by saying, “I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow!”
There’s no reason to squeeze them out and make them feel unwelcome.
Have you ever considered the way you size someone up, the looks you shoot them, the things you say that they overhear; perhaps THOSE are the reasons that the newbies stop coming to the gym after a few weeks.
Have you ever considered that the overweight person huffing away on the elliptical machine didn’t used to be overweight? Have you ever considered that everyone has a story, and that everyone’s story matters, and that the important thing is that they are at the gym in the first place? Give them a slap on the shoulder, let them know you’re happy to see them there, and tell them that you look forward to seeing them again.
Being like a weed and choking out people who are trying to make positive changes in their lives does nothin’ for noBODY.
If you’re a gym regular and you are having these thoughts, perhaps you should work on making your thought-life healthy. When you think a negative thought about someone, counter back with three positive things.
Negative thought: Look at that fatty on the elliptical sweating her butt off. Wonder how long she’ll stick around?
Positive thoughts: 1. They’re here, they’re moving, and they’re burning calories. AWESOME!
2. My oh my, that person has beautiful hair
3. Look at those killer calves! They must have been extremely athletic at one point in their life.
The truth is, you don’t know their story, and their story doesn’t really matter.
Be the flower in the garden, not the weed. Nurture the newbies so that they continue coming back. I think you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel in the long run.