The Fat & Skinny of Gym Anxiety
Yesterday, it was 64 damn degrees in New York City. It's February folks. FEBRUARY! Well, I guess mother nature was going through hot flashes and decided that she wants to remember that it's winter. It's presently in the 30s and dropping. I woke up at 4:45AM to a winter wonderland. It's the most beautiful bipolar shit that I ever saw in my life but it'll be just like my personality in 12 hours: messy, looking like dog shit but still persevering.
Nevertheless, I took my 5'3, 220+ pounds of excellence to the gym at 6ish this morning and was semi delighted to see only a few people there. My mood is much lighter when there's not that many folks in the gym. If there's too many people, my anxiety spikes and it takes me 15 - 20 minutes to get out of my head for my workouts unless I have a buddy tagging along with me. Doesn't phase me much when I'm training a client, strangely enough. You would think that a self professed potty mouth with a degree in profanity would not be anxious about going to the gym at this point. Well, I do. I'll share some of my personal issues, along with a combination of ones that I heard over the last four years.
1. Oh great! I look like I don't belong here.
Once upon a time, I was 265 pounds (or more) and I avoided the gym like a deadbeat who owes child support. My workouts started at home despite paying two years of fees at this point to Planet Fitness. I told myself every bullshit lie that next Monday will be the day, just to look at my clock and say, 'Not Today.' Next week, I'll go. Next month, I'll go. My family needed me. I have job commitments. My ice cream needs to be embraced. Blah, blah, blah. It took for me to get acclimated to the neighborhood track for me to desire going into the gym. The heat was beating my ass and despite my sexy tan, I was growing bored.
When I walked in the gym, it felt like everyone was staring at the whale who dared entered the weight room. In my head, it felt like every man told me to take my fat ass back upstairs to the cardio section. I am a pretty confident person and even when I'm insecure, my sarcasm level serves as a bitch repellent but in the gym, I felt defeated way before I started.
As a woman, I encountered strange looks or offers of help. If I picked up a weight that was over 15 pounds, I was suggested to pick up a 5 pound weight. Sometimes, there was a fruit fly pervert who would lurk around me as I would sweat like Spanish Pork slow cooking in a preheated oven as I would do renegade rows. I didn't ask for attention and please, don't come over and put your undesired greasy hands on me to correct my form.
So how did I get over it? CONSISTENCY. Consistency meant that I became a regular. Consistency means that some of these strangers weren't so intimidating. And guess what? Most times, it's all in your head. There's a few fucktards here or there but most people truly don't give a damn because they're dying at the gym too. If you have a person who offers help and you don't need to be rescued, respectfully tell them no thank you. If they persist, tell them that you have a nervous tick that makes you feel the urge to mace people. Maybe don't say that much but you get the point.
2. Backhanded Compliments: You work out well for a skinny/fat person.
Granted, it may not be THIS bold of a statement but it does happen to me a lot, especially when I'm throwing up weight in the gym.
Most times, the people who are giving you these compliments don't even see it as an insult. Coincidentally, I had one of these compliments today. Perhaps you came across one of these:
3. I actually don't know what to do in here and what exactly is this contraption that might kill me.
If you think that you're the only one who looks at the gym as if you're a new patient into an insane asylum, know that you're not alone. There's days that I have brain farts and try to figure out what is on the agenda. Some days, I truly enjoy walking in aimlessly to get in a good sweat. This is not the case during marathon/ultramarathon training season for me. My time is exceptionally limited because the pavement takes a huge chunk of my time. Mommy duty calls. Stomach duties call. Hell, my bill collectors aren't trying to hear about my gym woes if I don't have an income thanks to my indecisiveness making me late for a client, translating into being unemployed.
Solution: Write it out. You're not going to look weird or pretentious holding onto a mini notepad. I write out my workouts a lot these days since I started getting clients.
Writing it out actually helps me have a healthy gauge at my time on a particular exercise, a way to have a short cut on days that I want to refer to an old workout and prevention from feeling lost.
But what about the ones who don't know what to do? Here's a few suggestions:
4. Bring a human security blanket.
Drag a friend...or seven. You can both hold each other hands in fear as you enter the not so scary pit called the gym, lifting shit and putting things down.
Seriously, your gym buddy will take away some of the edge. I love going to the gym with my gym/accountability buddy because he inspires me to push beyond my comfort zone and we can do partner workouts. Nothing like having someone who can share your love for sore joints and tiger's balm.
5. Avoid Peak Hours.
Peak hours makes me want to dive into a bottle of Jack Daniels. I get the urge to leave if there's too many people on really stressful days. There's a few times that I took a fukitol pill but most times, I avoid those hours. Most gyms are either packed during the lunch crowd or directly after work. If you're fortunate enough to have a 24 hour gym, use it. If not, ask your front desk attendant about the dead hours at the gym. Both of my gyms are pretty dead before dawn until 11am. It picks up a bit around noon and falls off around 2pm. In the evenings, I encounter the express train rush around 6pm to 8pm. If your gym doesn't have a time limit on machines, good luck during peak hours. You might have the zombie apocalypse runner on the treadmill or Miss Selfie Queen 2017 on your favorite bench. Avoid the awkward eye exchanges and try to avoid the busy hours.
6. Tune them out..literally.
When I am not recording my gym sessions on Instagram, music is my best friend. You might catch me dancing off beat, doing my best Drake impressions or singing out of tune softly. Don't call the hospital. I'm just in a good zone.
7. If everything else fails, fuck em!
Fake it until you make it. Yes, I curse a lot but it's only because I am trying to get my doctorate's degree in profanity with a purpose.
You are not at the gym for anyone else but yourself. Guess what? They have insecurities and worries too. You might be looking at them, looking at you, looking at everyone else. Keep your eyes on the prize and fake confidence until you make it. Who knows...you might actually gain some confidence.
When I started yoga, I was worried that I'd be the hungry hungry hippo in class who would rip a fart. My incredible yoga instructor and friend Latesha gave me simple advice: "Everyone farts. We're all dying together. Just come to one class and see how you like it." And yes, I farted...eventually. But what I really learned is that perhaps I was a bit too judgmental. I came in with preconceived stereotypes that it would be a bunch of snobbish skinny women in class performing asanas that I couldn't do in my most intricate of dreams. Realistically, we were all sweating, swearing in our heads and farting together.
Bring Yo ASS to the Gym!
I know I'm abrasive as hell. Some might find me too lewd. Sorry, this may not be the blog for you. I certainly hope that if you made it this far, you get the point. You already have a gym body. Small. Large frame. In between. Oddly shaped. Insecure. Confident. Loner. Extrovert. Classified. We all are capable of taking ourselves to the gym. It's just a big ass playground. Go have fun. Stop seeking others' permission. And if they say something to you, pull out your figurative mace and tell them to back the hell off. Never give someone else permission to make you feel like crap. Pursue your fitness goals.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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