Gyms can feel judgmental, but you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your workout.

The gym is supposed to be your mental sanctuary, the place where you can smash your fitness goals. However, the often-aesthetic focus of fitness creates an all-eyes-on-you feeling that can cause anxiety and stress.

I have heard plenty of people complain of common gym behaviors that cause them to feel embarrassed. But, they’re all normal things that shouldn’t cause any such embarrassment. Let’s break down these taboos, one by one.

Also: I’ve put some of these headings in quotes as to show that terms like “heavy lifting,” for example, are subjective rather than objective.

Sweating “Too Much”

People are often embarrassed to “sweat too much” at the gym. For some unknown reason, people think their sweat symbolizes that they’re out of shape or “gross”. First, being sweaty is a trademark of a hard workout (though not necessary for one); it can show you’ve put in maximum effort. Second, it’s good for you! Sweating is your body’s way of regulating its temperature, ridding itself of toxins, and even boosting your immunity. So, get your sweat on and embrace it. The visual embodiment of your work ethic and natural cleanse should be nothing to stress about.

Fumbling with Machines

Sometimes, you approach a weight training machine (ex: leg extension, lat pull down, etc.) and it’s not perfectly adjusted to suit your height or preferences. Or, maybe its your first time using the machine and you need a moment to get your bearings. You might feel embarrassed to fumble with the settings, or slyly try to decode the machine’s workings via its infographics. However, it is far better to adjust a machine or take a pause to understand exactly what you’re doing than to blindly use it. Improper usage or settings can lead to injury or at least ineffective sets. You should never be embarrassed to take some extra time to understand and adjust your machine – it simply shows you’re a more conscious athlete.

Using “Light” Weights

Just a few things to say here:

  1. You have to start somewhere.
  2. Everyone was a beginner at some point or another.
  3. Some exercises and muscle groups require smaller weights than others.
  4. It’s none of anyone’s business how much or how not-much someone is or is not lifting.
  5. Listen to your body and lift accordingly.

Refusing to Treadmill Race

Just like in lifting, running on a stationary cardio machine can be a nerve-racking experience. You gaze around at all the gazelles sprinting at a 500 incline at speed 1.2 million and feel sluggish and ungraceful. You may be tempted to skip your cardio all together, or jack up your speed to one outside of your ability. Instead, you should block out your surroundings and go at your own pace.

People use the treadmill for all different purposes: intervals, long distance, power walking, shake-outs and warm-ups. There’s no point in comparing yourself to anyone else, because you have no idea how long they’ve been running or what their goals are. And even if you knew these things, someone else’s cardio routine is neither better or worse than yours. Focus on yourself and you will reap the rewards of mental and physical fortitude.

Using Fellow Gym-Goers as Resources

Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery. Using others’ workouts as inspiration is nothing to feel embarrassed about. Additionally, asking a veteran gym attendee for advice on lifts, form, or programming isn’t something to fear. People are typically happy to help, and expanding your scope of
knowledge can lead to better informed exercise decisions.

Final Thoughts

So, next time your in the gym, don’t sweat the small stuff. Do your workout, clear your head, and carry on with confidence in your stride and pride in your accomplishments.

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Author Casey Douglas

Casey Douglas is a junior year at Boston University, where she studies public relations and anthropology. In her free time, she enjoys lifting weights, getting lost on runs in the city, and eating grapes. Casey hopes to one day work in the communications industry and represent a company in the field of health and fitness.

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