One of my fears about going to the gym has always been that someone will look at me and be disgusted. Worst case I would see the look on their face, or hear them laugh at me. This self-conscious fear has been a factor in my lack of gym usage.
I have to admit that my wife inadvertently added to this fear. Last weekend we were discussing getting our bicycles back on the road. I told her I needed a new helmet. Part of the reason I wanted to buy a new one was that mine is 10 years old, and I was worried that it was the cycling equivalent of wearing a leather helmet to play football. When I told her this, she laughed hard out loud and said “that’s what you are worried about?” I asked what I should be worried about and she said I should be worried about showing butt crack, or that my ass was too big for the seat.
I thanked her for alerting me to those concerns, which had never crossed my mind! Great, two more things! We both laughed and then I went and bought a stylish new helmet anyway.
But, the gym was still a place where I was concerned about people looking. So, I decided to break down who exactly is at the gym, and whether they are looking at me. I have been to the gym a few times, and have observed who I have seen there. Here are my findings
People working on themselves. I think this group encompasses the vast majority of people I see. They are people, like me, who have something they are working on. Maybe they are trying to lose weight in general. Maybe they are trying to tone up specific parts of their bodies. Whatever the case, there is something on them that they think needs some work. They are the Average Joes (and Josephines). I would bet the farm that all of them are just as self-conscious as I am. They don’t want anyone looking at them, and they are certainly NOT LOOKING AT ME!
Sculpted gym rats with perfect bodies. This is a numerically small group of people. They have zero percent body fat, and perfect muscle tone. They are there to chisel themselves, or to bulk up some muscle. They use every machine with perfect form and style. Typically they are at the machines near the mirrors so they can watch themselves work out. (Since I mentioned it, what is with all the damn mirrors? I could do with about 80% fewer damn mirrors). This group of people only looks at themselves, or people they may be spotting for in the free weight section. They are too busy with themselves, and they are NOT LOOKING AT ME!
Creepy guys. There are a small number of dudes who go to the gym to scope out women in yoga pants. They are a scourge to society and need to seriously get a life. Some of them might be in one of the two categories above, but either way, they are NOT LOOKING AT ME!
Men and women looking to find their mate. I have heard stories of men and women finding one another at the gym. They meet in spin classes, or yoga. Their eyes meet as they are working out on a treadmill or elliptical, and harps are heard in the background. I am sure that some people go to the gym with the hope of finding Mr. or Ms Right. I am also sure that those who are doing that aren’t seeking out 52 year old, portly dudes sporting a dated headband and a wedding ring. Bottom line, they are NOT LOOKING AT ME!
Employees and personal trainers. This may be the only group that might look at me. There could be the altruistic, concerned trainer who wants to help me get the most for myself. There could be the profit driven, client seeking trainer who sees my girth and has their eyes turn in to dollar signs. But, none of them are going to give me a hard time. And so far, all of them are NOT LOOKING AT ME!
Conclusion. My rather limited, non-scientific study has shown me that, in fact, NO ONE is looking at me at the gym. My concerns about embarrassing myself are unfounded. Everyone who is there is looking to improve upon some aspect of their physique, just like me.
Now, the only remaining fear is seeing someone I actually KNOW while I am in my sweaty workout gear. I will need to keep my head on a swivel!