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It’s that time of year again! A ton of people you’ve never seen before are beginning to flood your gym in attempts to lose weight, get in shape, or achieve whatever other fitness goals they have written down on that obligatory New Years Resolution list. They will take all of the parking spots, all of the best treadmills, and ruin your workout with all of their other resolutionists shenanigans, like curling in the squat rack and commandeering the adductor machine for a few hundred repetitions in hopes to achieve that inner thigh gap. You and the other gym regulars will become frustrated. You will roll your eyes at the newbies in the gym, then take to social media to lament about the crowds of the uncommitted to your friends. People will respond with comments like “they won’t last”, “by February it will be back to normal” and “the sooner they start, the sooner they’ll quit”.
I see this cycle every single year. And though I know it is always coming, it always frustrates me none the less. Not the gym crowds…the sudden “elitist” attitudes by the regulars, many of whom spend the rest of the year constantly spouting off the good word of physical fitness and how MORE people need to exercise. Go figure.
I’ve spewed off obesity facts on this blog more times than I can count, so I’ll spare you the statistics this time. Instead, I’ll say what we all know: the majority of our society is overweight and inactive. Simply put: we are killing ourselves. MORE people need to be in the gym and you know it, even if you might not like it. Now, on to the next point. I’ve worked in gyms for almost four years now. Not very long in the grand scheme of things, but long enough to state a few observations:
1) MOST beginners are terrified. I absolutely hate the fact that fitness is so intimidating to so many people, but it is. And not just fitness in general, but fit people, the seemingly complex equipment, and spandex…lots of spandex. It makes the already self conscious even more aware of their lack of fitness. If I had a dollar for every person that has told me “that wasn’t so scary after all!” after a general introduction to the equipment and setup of a basic routine, I’d have enough money to replace this laptop that keeps restarting at random intervals. That reminds me, I should hit that “save draft” button now. Sadly, however, many people do not take advantage of the orientation offered by most gyms. Therefore, they are at the mercy of trying to figure out how to work the multi hip machine by themselves while trying to avoid the stares of the regulars.
I know for a FACT that there are people who don’t exercise simply because they are scared of judgement. It isn’t a lack of money, it isn’t a lack of time. Yeah, that’s their problem, not yours, but that doesn’t mean you should contribute to the attitude that beginners are unworthy or unwelcome during the month of January. I can assure you that at the gym I’m currently working in, we have far more current memberships that are going mostly unused than we have current memberships with members that show up on a near daily basis. Intentions are high, but anxiety is real. In our society, we are sadly more likely to avoid discomfort, both physical and emotional, than face it. But do you know what helps people become more confident? Physical fitness.
2) PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU. The other day, Geoff and I received the most amazing compliment at the gym. I was working behind the front desk when a man came up to us and said “I just want you guys to know that you totally motivate me to be in here. You guys are always having so much fun and working hard, and it makes me think that even though I hate showing up to the gym, maybe one day I will enjoy being here too.” I was flattered, and the compliment made my day. Now, I abide by the idea that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (thank you Mrs. Roosevelt,) but still, I’d SO much rather be the person who inspires others to get fit than the one known for giving sideways eyes at beginners and making them feel like they don’t belong.
3) YOU WERE A BEGINNER ONCE TOO. You may not have known it at the time, but one day you walked into “your” gym for the very first time, and while you may have held your head high, you probably took someone’s parking spot, “their” treadmill, and may have even made a few beginner mistakes without even realizing it.
To sum this soapbox post up (there’s been a lot of these lately, eh?): be nice, you guys. It boggles my mind that people spend the rest of the year encouraging others to get fit, but come January, it’s “get off my treadmill”. BELIEVE ME, I understand the frustration. Working in a gym, this time of year I deal with my own set of chaos: three times as many weights strewn across the floor, my own parking lot woes, three times as many people who don’t read the “please don’t wear street shoes on the workout floor” and leave snow, rock salt, and mud all over the treadmills.
But do you know what excites me? Three times as many opportunities to spread the good word of fitness, to show people how GOOD they truly can feel when exercise becomes a regular part of their routine. Exercise changes lives. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you are active and have experienced some sort of positive life change from physical fitness. Why would you want to deny someone the same experience? USE this opportunity to encourage and teach. See a resolutionist in the gym doing something really ridiculous? As if you can help. Or find a trainer (like me) and point out the newbie, and let them help. Again, I understand the frustration that comes with crowds, but encouragement and a smile instead of sighs or dirty looks can honestly mean the difference between someone changing their life by becoming fit or going home ashamed and feeling judged, without stepping foot in the gym again. Think of what kind of person you want to be, and choose your words and actions wisely.
We all know that, yes, come February, 90% of the resolutions will be gone. “Your” gym will be back to normal. But in that short time frame where all the newbies are at least making the effort to show up to the gym (which, for the record, is the hardest part), your attitude is your choice, so why not welcome them instead of sneer at them. Inspire. Encourage. But most of all, don’t be a jerk. You never know who’s life you may help change.