I caught myself slipping in mid-thought as I walked into the gym a few days ago. Before I get pissed off about the New Year resolution crowd, once upon a time I used to be them. These days, I'm still baffled about how I became the popular fat kid in the locker room when I grew up in an era that picked those people last.
Before I pick up another cup of Southern Comfort and cream soda, I thought it was best to rock out this post. Here's a half-assed disclaimer: I might say some things that's gonna sound a bit hypocritical but you might look at yourself twice because you may have said it too. Now that this is out there, let's talk about my distaste for pretentious ass New Year's resolutions and my year in reflection.
New Year. Same Bullshit. Recycled Dreams.
Throughout the year, I've been recording my gym workouts on my Instagram feed and in my stories. Countless times people sent over direct messages laughing about the person who would either sit down and read text messages between gym sets, stare at my ass freakishly while sipping on their water or watch the crowds build as I move between workouts. Bringing in a new year means a host of gyms are offering the same bullshit promotion to promising potential members to get a gym membership that they're possibly going to watch rot with Cathy's shitty potato salad with the snap peas, partially cooked carrots and leftover beef liver -- nothing personal towards anyone name Cathy unless you do this vile shit. Alas, you find yourself as a frequent gym rat like me trying to lift up weights in peace and there's people there who have no fucking idea what they are doing.
Around this time of the year, I learned how to breathe deeply and tuck away my judgments. At times it gets really damn hard. Here's a mini survival guide for each situation:
Patrick with the Good Form
Maybe you've been going to the gym about 4 - 6 times a week, working out consistently for five years and pulling up close to race number 200 - and yes I'm describing myself in a not so humble way - and Patrick with the questionable form offers to help you with your assumed weight loss journey. He might even tell you to put down the weights because Patrick is able to gaze at your boobs exceptionally hard and it told him you are way too fragile to possibly handle those 20 - 30 pound weights that well. And when you see him walk over with his Netherlands blocking your view while doing a weighted sit up, try not to lose your shit.
Every year like clockwork, I encounter people - typically male identifying people - who feel the need to suggest that:
To those who find themselves in this situation for New Year's day, stand your ground and reserve your space. There's a small percentage who truly want to help and there's a slight possibility that they truly do see something wrong. And if you happen to be that person who see something, really read this section: If you are not certified AND if that person is wearing their 'Go Fuck Yourself Douchebag' unisex cologne, you might want to mind your own business. I've seen some cringeworthy performances at the gym but if the person is not seeking help or isn't indicating that they're in danger, know that your 'help' could be a hindrance, especially if you're not a trainer at that facility.
If you have time for pettiness like I do once in a blue, already told him to back off and you're really good with a certain move, allow Patrick with the bad form to feel good about himself for two minutes. And if you start to notice that this person has shit form themselves, maybe you want to suggest room for improvement on their end. Hell, give them a demo and yeah, I'm being a dick -- but I did this very thing to a guy earlier this year who INSISTED on showing me how to do a proper pushup. We're semi cool now, even though I broke his ego by doing about 20 plyo pushups and taught him to stop pump faking the floor. Once in a while, it's sad that you have to show people better than telling them but know that this can backfire on you as well.
There's a heavy chance that you don't have time for petty and in this instance, here's some real advice: Start with a firm 'no thank you' and if they persist, give a warning to the person that you will report them in to gym staff for harassment. Anti harassment policies exist in most facilities and will ban/revoke a person's membership for not respecting another's space. Please don't abuse it and do this to someone just because you don't like them; karma is a bitch.
No Racking Crystal: The Weight Hoarder in Apartment 3C
Personally, I caught myself being that person in the earlier stages of my fitness. In hindsight, it's such a crappy thing to do. If you REALLY like being that person, try not doing this move at peak hours. Peak hours at a gym tend to be right before rush hour for office jobs and directly after work. We're realistically talking about 6:30AM - 8:30AM and anytime after 5PM for most places; lunch time is a power hour or two as well.
If you notice someone holding onto a piece of gym equipment that you truly desire, ask that person in a respectful manner:
Some gyms have time limits on certain equipment like the treadmill during peak hours. Keep these policies in mind. And when in doubt, I bring some of my own stuff that I can reasonably carry. It may be an ab wheel with distinct colors to separate it from the gym's property or a jump rope.
Lord Devonshire of Anal Tailgater Academy
Alas, you found yourself here in a decent size room and Monsieur Crotch Sniffer is positioned directly by you despite ALL of the space in the gym. Maybe he brought in six of his friends to join the party conveniently next to you. Or maybe it feels like that because you don't function too well with too many people so five people in a medium space seems like 20. Suggestions? Absolutely:
I find it easier to move myself from one position to another if it's too tight in one area. If there's really a decent amount of space, I plant my feet on the ground and channel my nervous energy to my toes and respectfully ask if that person can move over. Everyone's interpretation of spacial awareness varies. At the gym, I can work in the most hectic and tiniest of spaces but this comes from being a NYC girl who is used to being crammed in expensive ass tiny apartments starting at 3K a month. If my anxiety is truly heightened, I'm not good with those conditions. On these days, I use headphones as a coping mechanism, slow down my workouts - not speed it up - to control my breathing and I don't wander my eyes around the room paying attention to everyone else. This may take a bit of practice. If I cannot function under these circumstances, I ask the front desk for estimates of slower activity times at their location.
Maybe it's not them at all? Is it just you? Can I tell you something, even as a plus size girl who tends to have eyes on her most times at a gym: After a while, people really don't give too much of a shit if they're doing what they came there to do -- workout. Consistency, consistency, consistency darling. If you want to overcome a barrier or fear, you must face it once and revisit it more than twice. Showing up is the hardest part of the journey. Show up for a few minutes and walk out. On the next visit, show up for ten and then fifteen. Do whatever meditative practice you need to pump yourself up to the environment that you desire to be in. And don't allow any person to tell you that you DON'T belong. At one point of my life, I felt like I was taking up too much space in yoga. Personal insecurities about my body type, size and uncontrollable things like my ass making noises made me self conscious. Here I stood as the 260+ pound girl in a hot yoga studio and while my mat held me, I worried that I would be too visible. After a few sessions, I realized that everyone was too deathly engulfed in their routine to care about my size. Am I noticed? Absolutely. Do I notice myself? More than everyone else there. Did I belong? Just as much as everyone else.
Hi Pot. Meet Kettle. She's Black. So Are You.
Here's a reminder to myself (and maybe you too): Everybody starts from somewhere.
Keep your judgments, hypocrisy and bitching tucked into your deep pocket and don't pull it out. At some point of our lives, we were all a newbie to something; I'm sure you weren't naturally gifted at everything you touched.
In a society where we are seeking to not be at the bottom of the totem pole, it's easy to push others down simply because we're scared of being the bearer of all of the weight. In my road runner world, that's called the fear of being 'dead fucking last.' These days, I'll take it over 'did not start.' But while we talk about the 'did not start' crew, don't frown on them because there might be reasons on why they don't show up.
Not every person will be as brave as you on the day that you decided to be courageous. It's absolutely disgusting on how we can easily forget the struggles that forged our journeys and we're so egotistical to shun others who are paving their way in a similar or drastically different style. Shame on us for not being as encouraging to another's process.
As the person who was well versed in the skinny world and now learning how the 'fat athlete' thing works, I'm amazed and disheartened by the journey so many days of the week. The comparison games or the political correctness of how I should speak or perform is outright disturbing. I don't want to wait until 2019 to tell someone to stop correcting me when I call myself 'fat.' Nor do I desire to be offered advice on how to look like everyone else nor be your circus attraction. Your comfort will not be my comfort. And sure -- I come from a generation where the term fat was a curse word and praised in the same breath. As an '85 kid, I never thought that the fat girl in the locker room would ever be praised for doing the same activities as a "normal size" girl would do - whatever the fuck normal means - but here I am. And it's not that we didn't exist before; we were excluded and removed from conversations that were spoken about us in the fitness world.
When everything about your body type is shamed - whether small, full figured, curvy or flat as a rectangle - it's a hard journey to trek in finding your own beauty and light. I keep this in mind when I see a newcomer in the gym or a person starting their running, cycling and powerlifting journey. I want to embrace them with the same warmth that I desired when coming onto this scene five years ago. I want to not give them an awkward ass clap because someone thought it was the appropriate thing to do as 'encouragement'. I want to treat them like a human. I want them to feel like there's a seat at the table. I want them to keep coming back when they need nourishment. I want them to grab whatever freedom or reminders of life necessary for them to have in those 30 minutes to hours of being there. If they're anything like me, it might be the only sense of personal identity that they know and have for a long time. For these last two days of 2018 and the start of a new year, practice being great to yourself --in and outside of the gym.
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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