Due to circumstances out of my control, I have recently found myself at a new gym. Unfortunately, the gym I have been visiting for the past two and a half years has closed down so I had no choice but to seek out an alternative. I’ve been attending this new gym for about a month now and something has come to my attention – the atmosphere is completely different.
As I’ve discussed before, Sweat and Stretch was perfect for me as the atmosphere was relaxed, non-judgmental and you really did get a mix of people, all at different fitness levels and all attending the gym for different reasons. I’ve come to realize that I was very spoilt as the differences at this gym are so striking that they are hard to ignore.
I’ve never believed in gym culture. So many people have said to me that they don’t attend gyms because they find them intimidating and uncomfortable. I used to think that gym culture only existed if you let it. If you choose to compare yourself to others, if you choose to let yourself feel uncomfortable then gym culture can indeed take over. I’ve always tried my best to ignore everybody around me during a session and focus on why I am there and what I want to achieve. By taking this outlook, gym culture has never existed for me.
So you can imagine my discomfort when it suddenly rears its ugly head at this new place…
Firstly, the majority of members walk around half naked. I feel like I’m in an episode of Love Island rather than a fitness centre. Yes, you get hot and sweaty during a workout and yes, you don’t want to be wearing layers and layers. However, I think it goes a bit too far when you are showing off your underwear. Ok, your abs may look amazing without a top on and yes, that new sports bra really does look like you’ve had a boob job but do the rest of us want to see your body in all its glory? I certainly don’t – put a top on.
I’ve also noticed that the amount of men who have arms as big as their thighs has tripled compared to how many beef-cakes there were at Sweat and Stretch. Don’t get me wrong, their physiques are impressive and they have obviously worked extremely hard to look like that but I can’t help but notice how they walk around like peacocks. They look each other up and down, try and lift more weight than the other and like to make grunting noises just to prove that they are actually doing something. Is this to impress the sports bra women? Maybe.
Another big change, this new gym has Wi-Fi. Now I actually love this. As a TV addict, it enthralls me that I can now catch up with Coronation Street whilst I’m working out. However, is this what the managers intend it to be used for or are they encouraging people to take endless selfies of themselves in the many mirrors and upload them to social media? I mean, if you didn’t take a selfie at the gym, did you even workout?
So where has this egotistical gym culture originated from? I think it has naturally evolved. It’s in our human instinct to compete against each other, compare ourselves to one another. Cave men probably did it! Fighting each other for their cave women, seeing who could list the heaviest boulder. I can definitely see snippets of this behavior in my new gym. Girls prancing around in their sports bras, hoping that the beef-cakes will notice their bodies that they’ve been working so hard on. We like to show off what we can achieve, how fast we can run and how much weight we can lift. We want to run that little bit faster than the chap on the treadmill next to us just so we can feel a slither of satisfaction.
Dominic Utton makes a good point in his article he wrote for The Telegraph: “They’re not there to get healthy – they’re there to make themselves look good. In a culture where appearance is more important than substance, the gym becomes a place of worship. And what people are worshiping there is themselves.” I couldn’t agree more.
I can’t help but think that it’s behavior like this that enhances other people’s insecurities. It’s no secret that we live in a world where people are endlessly comparing themselves to others. I’m definitely guilty of doing it. It’s sad that I’ve suddenly been made to feel uncomfortable in the gym. When I see girls walking around in tiny tops, I almost become envious. My body definitely isn’t ready to be dressed like that!
On the plus side, it could be argued that gym culture creates a little healthy competition. If you really are at the gym to become fit and healthy, maybe you could take some inspiration from those around you. No, put that sports bra down! I don’t mean prance around half naked. However, sometimes when I’m lacking motivation, I’ll look at those girls and think even though I don’t want to show off like that, I would love a flatter stomach so let’s just work that little bit harder.
What do you think? Do you experience a daily dose of unbearable gym culture? Do you get sick of the vein gym bunnies or do you see them as healthy competition? I would love to hear your thoughts…