The 8 a.m. bells tolled brightly from Old Main as I strutted into Walker Fieldhouse with the swaggering confidence of an internationally accomplished bullfighter.
I was going to the gym. I was going to get absolutely ripped! Visions of Chris-Hemsworth-esque muscles rippling across my bare chest flitted fancifully through my mind.
Maybe I’d finally even be able to wear watches without having to poke extra holes in the strap!
Suddenly I was at the door, looking through the window at the rows of treadmills and dumbells. As my eyes passed around the room, they slid past the gaze of an impossibly tall blonde man wearing a nylon Hamline shirt and red Nikes who was stretching on the floor.
It wasn’t hostile eye contact. It wasn’t even unwelcoming, but for some reason, I felt myself go clammy. Air left my lungs, my heart rate spiked and my sweating hands palmed nervously at the doorknob.
Before I knew what was happening, I was scurrying down the stairs and out of Walker Fieldhouse, tail between my legs like a whipped urchin.
Why are some of us so scared of the gym?
“It’s mostly about judgement,” first-year Kiersten Adams said. “I’ve never been taught how to properly workout, so everyone will know that I don’t know what I’m doing.”
I couldn’t agree more. I understand that most of the machines are difficult to misuse, but someone as inexperienced with workout equipment as myself is bound to make mistakes at first.
People who work out are cool, and I don’t want to make a buffoon of myself in front of them.
I remember one particular incident in high school. One day when cross country practice was canceled, I decided to go down to the weight room for a change.
In an attempt to impress the football players already in there, I vastly overshot my weight limit for squats, and, when I inevitably dropped the bar loudly on the ground, was literally laughed out of the room.
Deep down, I know that no one in the Hamline gym is like that. That was high school; a darker time. Still, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that I’ll be the subject of jokes if I screw up.
It doesn’t help that the walls are covered in mirrors. As Adams puts it, “I feel like even when I’m not looking at someone, they can see me all the time.”
There’s also the matter that, if you haven’t been to the gym by this point in the year, it almost feels too late to start.
“I’m a person who doesn’t really work out,” first-year Sam Meverden said. “So if I see someone at the gym that does work out, people are going to think it’s weird that I, a person who doesn’t really work out, is working out.”
What do the people who actually use the gym regularly say?
“To start, it can be a little intimidating, but once you get in there and build up your confidence, people in the gym are most of the time a lot nicer than you think they are,” first-year basketball player Jake Veldman said.
Ask any athlete, they’ll all say essentially the same thing; gyms aren’t meant to be scary, and outsiders are always welcome.
“There’s been times I’ve done a lift incorrectly and people have come up to me and corrected me,” Veldman said. “The first week or two, it’s kind of tough to get used to, but after that you just get into the flow of it and it gets easier.”
Our fears, it seems, are highly irrational.
I went back to the gym yesterday, and though I didn’t leave with biceps the size of fire extinguishers, I did manage to rake up a little bit of self-esteem. The athletes didn’t bother me one bit, and a few of them even smiled at me.
So, to those of us who panic every time you smell that whispering tang of rubber mats, sweat and metal; don’t worry about it. There’s no need to sacrifice your own physical well-being in fear of being judged.