For those of you who haven’t done it before, stepping into a gym for the first time is a big challenge.
It’s intimidating. It’s terrifying. And to do it alone takes a lot of guts.
The weights room in particular is a horrible environment if you’re not used to it, and the first few minutes are awful.
ENTERING THE GYM
You open the door and a wall of testosterone slaps you in the face. It can be dark, it’s hot, it smells funny. There’s men everywhere, and they’re all big and muscly and sweaty and pacing up and down, throwing weights around, grunting, making sex noises (can this stop please by the way?). Everybody seems to know what they’re doing and look like they’ve been doing this since they hit puberty.
You peer in, get one glance and go “Oh shit. No chance.”
And so, to get yourself in there, you almost need to get your “man” on. You realise that you need to toughen up and that you need to walk in there feeling confident, looking like you know exactly what you’re doing. You put your headphones in and your “get the hell away from me” face on. And what happens is, we forget to let the guard down.
RESTING GYM FACE
You see, we act tough to get ourselves going, but this then becomes our gym “persona”, and we end up acting like this all of the time. I for one know that the smiling, sweet Bon that goes to the farmer’s market to buy her vegetables and picks up litter lying on the streets is not the same Bon that walks into the weights room. Because “sweet” Bon wouldn’t last 5 minutes in there.
And this happens to all of us girls. We find our inner badass in order to act confident and fend off the men, but we forget about our gals.
So, instead of smiling at the woman who walks in the door, we ignore her. Or we stare at her and think “fuck, she looks better than me” or “Jesus Christ she’s strong, I’ll never be able to lift that”. We might be thinking the most amazing things about her, but what does she see?
She sees a room full of men, and a girl staring at her.
Wtf is going on?
Do you remember the first time you walked into the gym? Do you remember how scared you were?
I’d tried to go for weeks, and every time I’d sit there in the changing room thinking “nope, I can’t do it.” I put it off over and over again until one day I said ENOUGH, and I pushed those doors open into the weights room, walked straight to the end of the room, squatted down in a corner and pretended to tie my shoelace. Nobody even batted an eyelid but I sat there thinking:
“omfg what have I done. They all looked at me when I walked in, did you see that? All of them. They know I’m not one of them… fuuuuuck. Okay, right, it’s fine. You can do this, Bon. Just don’t smile at anyone. Pretend you know what you’re doing and…
Oh my god there’s a girl over there. A GIRL. She looks good. Holy shit look at her ass. Ooooh she’s a pro, she’s defos done this before. Oh my god she just looked at me. Should I smile at her? Yeah, smile at her. FUCK SHE DIDN’T SMILE BACK. SHE THINKS I’M AN IDIOT. Oh my god she’s so confident, how does she know what to do? What is she doing? Squats? Is that a squat? Yeah, she’s doing squats. Okay. Go squat beside her. Don’t make eye contact with anyone. Don’t look in the mirror.”
and so I strutted over to her with my best bad-ass walk, probably did around 10 sets of squats, too terrified to move from my spot, and then ran home.
Now, imagine if the situation had been different.
Imagine I’d walked in, and the girl doing squats hadn’t just glanced over at me and glanced away.
Imagine I’d walked in, and she’d turned to me and given me a big smile. Or a little nod of the head. A silent “In you come, honey. Don’t worry, I got you.”
Do you have any idea how big a difference that would have made?
The girl doing squats wasn’t a bitch for not smiling. She wasn’t a bad person. She was just in the zone. She was in gym mode and she forgot to turn it off for a second, which almost all of us are guilty of doing.
But, for those of us who have managed to conquer the gym fear and now feel comfortable in there, it’s our duty to look after the newcomers. It’s our job to help the ones who are trying.
Because we were all there once. Maybe some of you still are. And there’s nothing more beautiful and powerful than one woman making another woman stronger.
So don’t stand there and stare at them when they hover at the door debating whether today might just be the day that they manage it. Don’t give them a quick up-and-down and continue with your set.
Make sure to catch their eye and give them a smile. Don’t get in their space, don’t patronise them. You don’t have to hold their hand and sit in the corner braiding each other’s hair. If they walk past you or look super lost, just check they’re okay and ask if you can help them. Just do what you would have wanted someone to do for you on your first time.
Don’t feel intimidated by other ladies in the gym. Feel stronger with them there. Don’t compare yourself to them, on any level. They are your comrades, not your competition. Your friends not your foes. You will often be the only female in the weights area, so when another woman comes along, don’t treat her like a rival. Use her strength to build you up. There’s times I look around and there’s three or four ladies with me and you know what I feel? EMPOWERMENT. Not insecurity, not intimidation. I feel like I got my damn squad with me and we’re running the place.
The gym is scary, I know, but together we can make everyone feel comfortable.
All it takes is a smile.
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