Commentary: Gym culture today : Stereotypes, self-consciousness and name brands

The gym can either be your favorite place to be or a personal hell. For more and more people, the gym is becoming a place of insecurity, stress and paranoia instead of a place for stress relief, enjoyment and socialization.

“Am I using this machine right? Am I doing this exercise right? Ew, I’m sweating. Do I smell? Why is that person looking at me? Is that person looking at me?”

This has happened to every person who has ever gone to the gym, even the regular gym-goers.

Second-year student Makayla Wamboldt goes to the J.B. O’Keefe Fitness Centre regularly to work out.

“I think the gym is a prime place for self consciousness. There are different fitness levels of people who go to the gym. Someone may feel as though they are not making as much progress or be self conscious if they don’t have the ‘ideal’ gym body,” Wamboldt said.

The gym is supposed to be a place where we focus on ourselves. Sadly self–consciousness takes over and we end up thinking about everyone else there instead of ourselves — what they’re wearing, what exercises they’re doing, their body type.

Caroline Delaney says she feels like people are expected to look a certain way and do certain things while they are at the gym. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

First-year Caroline Delaney feels there is an expectation of what a person is supposed to look like while at the gym.

“They have the right name brands, have the sneakers and newest gear with a bottle and their pre-workout,” said Delaney.

“I would say at times I have felt like what I’m wearing at the gym screams that I don’t know what I’m doing exactly, and the fact that I did not have a pre-workout beforehand.”

We live in a world where people feel obligated to look good in places where that shouldn’t be a priority or even necessary. If you’re going to the gym to work-out and sweat, a full face of makeup shouldn’t be a requirement.

“I think self consciousness can be difficult to avoid in the gym, even if you’re confident you still fear who is watching you and why,” Delaney said.

We judge clothing, whether we realize it or not. If someone’s wearing, say, jeans and flip flops to the gym, we’re going to judge. That’s not gym apparel, but what is gym apparel? If you’re not wearing shorts or tights, sneakers, a tank top or a T–shirt, then you’re automatically judged because it’s not the gym norm. It’s socially acceptable to wear work out gear to the gym, but not a dress shirt or a blouse.

People are in constant fear they are being judged for what they are wearing or the way they are exercising. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

There are multiple stereotypes about the gym and who goes there. Delaney listed a few she could think of.

“There’s gym rats, only jocks go to the gym, girls just go to show off their bodies or go to talk to guys, and only super fit people go to the gym.”

At the end of the day we all just need to remember everyone at the gym has a goal, whether to get healthy, to maintain their health or they’re there just because they enjoy it.

Wamboldt admitted she sometimes feels self-conscious but finds ways to break herself out of that frame of mind, something everyone should think of next time they’re feeling bad while they’re working out.

“I do sometimes feel self conscious or intimidated at the gym. But then I try to remind myself we are all in different stages of progress and you should be proud of where you are and how far you have come. Try not to compare yourself to others.”

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