Gym Culture: Is It Right for You?

There can be an unwelcoming stigma around gyms and fitness centres, the kind that makes you just not want to go. We fall easily into traps of comparing ourselves to everyone else there, or feeling like the shy, new kid at school. “My gym clothes are not as cool as hers”, or “I can’t do as many reps as him” often circulate our minds. It’s almost as if we forget the real reason for being there as soon as we walk through the doors.

Afterall, gyms were created to help people to achieve their fitness goals, not to ‘look cool’ or feel popular and admired. If you are struggling at all or feel affected by ‘gym culture’, ask yourself again what your real reasons are for going to the gym. The advice below may also help you to figure out if the gym life, or this particular gym, is right for you.

Refocus your goals

Do you ever feel like you’re just not making any progress? It may be that your goals are simply not achievable or too abstract. Wanting to make 30 reps on the squat machine is a much healthier goal to have than wanting to see defined abs. Before you go any further, make sure your goals are realistic and attainable.

It’s fine to go to the gym for aesthetic reasons, but don’t let your expectations consume you. The gym has a dark side too, and many people get sucked into the world of unrealistic body standards which can also be mentally damaging. Keep your gym routine varied and workout different parts of the body. This way, you won’t be constantly working on one specific part and becoming obsessed with it.

Stop looking at everyone else

You may feel the eyes of your treadmill neighbor burning into you, judging you on your speed and ability. Whether or not that’s actually happening, you should not let it hold you back. You have a right to be there just as much as everyone else. So what if you can’t go for as long as the cardio freaks in matching Gymshark coords? You’re allowed to start where you are and focus on your own personal goals.

The gym is often an exciting place to be, especially if you’re a natural ‘people-watcher’. However, looking at everyone else all the time poses as a big distraction to your own workout routine. By focusing less on what people around are doing and thinking, and more on why you’re really there, your gym experience will become a lot more meaningful and you will notice your progress more as well. Remind yourself of your goals before you go in so that you’re in the correct headspace right from the get-go.

Don’t overdo it

You may be eager to get your daily exercise in, but it’s important to take it easy sometimes and not to send your body into overdrive.

When done right, exercise puts a strain on muscles and sometimes causes muscle tears. These tears repair post-workout, making the muscle stronger. However, if the body does get enough rest, the tears do not heal properly and this can lead to injury.

It is a good idea to take a rest day, if you can. Plan your week ahead of time and if there is one day that you may struggle to fit going to the gym in, make that your rest day. Your body needs time to recover and rebuild its energy. You will only come back stronger, refreshed and ready to go again.

If you are set on going to the gym everyday, take a less intensive routine on at least two days a week. Switch up your workout so you don’t go straight back to the exercise you left on the day before.

Be yourself and set an example

If your gym feels like a negative environment with a lot of judgement and unfriendliness, why not take the first steps to making it a better place?

Smile at people, say hello, ask them about their workouts. The gym doesn’t have to be a serious, high pressure sweat house. Take Gandhi’s advice and be the change you want to see in the world. You will make others feel better as well as yourself, and you will create the supportive atmosphere you need to keep going.

Written by Emily Wright
Emily is a media graduate and a keen writer. She enjoys exploring topics such as mental health and social politics, with a particular interest for how new technology can affect both mental and physical wellbeing.