This Shouldn't Be That Complicated, But It Is: I Don't Know How To Go To The Gym

I used to laugh at people huffing and puffing away on machines until the day I realised I was one of them.
Publish date:
June 18, 2013
gym, fitness, exercise, shame

I hate exercise and love french fries. I've been 'blessed' somewhat, with what I'm told is a fast metabolism. I have for the most part felt comfortable in my body but a recent snacking frenzy turned into a whole inexcusable greasy month of McDonald's and midnight instant noodles. Let's be real -- food was entering my mouth at every conscious point of the day and I could only blame my period for so long.

Things were getting slightly wobbly and I could feel my heart beating hard and fast as it tried to escape my congested body. Not cute.

For this reason I decided to pay a visit to my apartment building's gym, opening up a whole range of weird issues. For me, the gym is unchartered territory of social behaviour that my 22 years have yet to equip me for. I've started going quite regularly now, but these are some of the things which make me feel really uncomfortable/amused and my ridiculous mental processes behind them make me wish I had my mum there to hold my hand.


I arrive at the gym and, perfect, every machine is taken (well not every machine just all the ones I think I know how to use). Obviously I can't just turn around and walk back out, I am a strong independent woman! I will just loiter by the water cooler, ah water. You life-giving treat. I'm probably doing more for my body than everyone else in the place.

Looking occupied with a cup of water is harder than it sounds, I need a bit more to do. What's this behind me? A diagram of different pre-work out stretches? You delicious jackpot. Should I put my water down? Do I need to really commit? Everyone is looking at me, aren't they? The awkward girl doing sort of lunges in the corner of the room. That is how I'll forever be known. I hate the gym.

OK, the water is going to sit on the floor now. Maybe I will too. Maybe I'll do this pretzel looking thing. Maybe I should turn my music up REALLY LOUD so that I can't hear people laughing at me/discussing how much of an impostor I am. I bet they put this stretches poster up to comply with some kind of safety code and I am the only person who has looked at it in years. I don't know why I'm freaking out so much, I was actually pretty athletic at school.


Ha-Ha-OK. So, I know the gym is meant to be one of those no holds barred places where you can show up and just "let go" and "be yourself" and "do you" and a lot of the time that equates to regressing, a.k.a. dressing like a sweaty neanderthal who has been wearing the same shirt since a 1980 Bruce Springsteen concert (I know that's a lot of time travel, I doubt it makes much sense, but nothing really does in a hot room full of moving people).

Exercise wear seems to clump people into two types: the dewy skinned angels who appear to have been painted in Nike's latest and most expensive, and everyone else. I don't feel too bad making judgments as harsh as these because I know that I fall into the sad latter. I would do anything to walk outside, post-work out, and have a stranger point at me and say to her friend, "Is that Jessica Alba in Adidas by Stella McCartney?" "No it can't be!" "It must!" In reality, my life goals list is far more extensive than that, but god damn wouldn't it be nice to be one of those women who does the groceries in her (Nike) Free's? And look better than the snotty bitch with the blowout? If I stepped outside after the gym I would probably be mistaken for homeless.


I used to laugh at people huffing and puffing away on machines until the day I realised I was one of them. Somehow, I made it through so many sessions without realising how truly red my reflection was in front of me, or how much sound I was making outside of my Missy Elliott sounding headphone haven.

When it happened, it happened on the rowing machine. The exact place where I had hoped to meet a cute preppy rower who had perhaps become stranded inland by torrential weather, preferably from Oxford, but Cambridge would do. Every now and then I would look to the empty rowing machine by my side and sigh for the Bartholomew, Theodore or Charles who never came.

He must have walked in, heard the gusts of wind exiting my mouth and stormed out. I will bet a very small amount of money that my one shot at love was lost because of how heavily I was panting.


I'm clearly still unfamiliar with gym etiquette (and it's becoming apparent that I just don't know how to deal with being a human in general) so when I found that I had the entire place to myself one morning I wasn't quite sure what to do. A TV was already on, playing pop music very loudly and I couldn't see the remote.

"Fuck it," I thought, and put my headphones on, turned my own music up. Soon after another woman came in and started going H.A.M. on the bike machine. I wasn't sure whether I needed to explain to her that I had no control over the horrible Maroon 5 pouring from the speakers or whether I should just continue my regular routine of avoiding eye contact at all costs. I got my answer as soon as I started picking up my stuff to leave - she marched straight over to where the remote was fastened to the wall, very aggressively turned the TV off and resumed her biking. Oops.

I'm definitely on my way to becoming a Jedi of gym knowledge.