Poll: Do Mirrors Help or Hurt Your Exercise Efforts?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  96 comments   :  26,912 Views

I almost never look at myself in a mirror. (If you saw my hair today, you'd agree that this must be true.) When I'm brushing my hair in the morning, I look at my hair for a moment, but don't notice or pay attention to any other part of me, or my body looks like as a whole. When I brush my teeth, I walk around the house or look at my teeth, but don't notice anything else. When I use the restroom during the day, I don't even glance at the reflection right in front of me when I'm washing my hands. Once every few weeks, my own reflection catches—sometimes when I'm walking past a large window or if I'm trying on new clothes in the store. When it happens, I'm always surprised. "Oh, so is what I look like!"
If your weight has had ups and downs (especially lots of ups), or if you've struggled (as I have) with body hatred or a negative self-image, sometimes it's easier to just ignore your reflection than to face it—and the hurtful silent comments that come with it. I no longer hate looking at myself, and I no longer say bad things about what I see. But I still general ignore mirrors—I think out of habit.
Recently, I started workout out at a new studio that has mirrors in the Spinning room. You could either pick a bike that directly faced the mirror or one that faced the other direction (with the mirror to your side, out of your direct line of sight). I chose the bike in front of the mirror, unsure whether it would help or hurt my exercise efforts.
I actually loved facing the mirror. And when I returned to class the next week and the week after that, I picked the same bike every time. Watching myself work out was a distraction (in a boredom-busting way), and it somehow motivated me to push myself harder. I suppose whether you like what you see ("Look at me go! I'm a machine!") or you don't ("Burn, baby, burn that fat!"), I could see it being beneficial.
Last winter, I watched myself running on a treadmill at the gym to pass the time and inspire myself to work harder—and it worked. (Check out my five other tips to take the dread out of the treadmill.) Watching myself exercise, I've learned, makes me feel empowered, which inspires me to keep working hard.
I would always encourage people to use the mirrors as a feedback tool, especially when it comes to strength training, because it can help you with your form. This is especially true if you aren't super coordinated (you know who you are!) or don't have a good sense of how your body is moving in space if you're not able to see it.
Whether mirrors motivate or not depends on the person. And research is mixed in that area, too. Although some research shows that watching yourself in a mirror while working out can sap your motivation, other studies show that it can be a boon to your form and performance.
If you're the type of person who ignores mirrors—or avoids them at all costs—I would encourage you to try exercising in front of a mirror just to see how it affects your form, motivation and willingness to work hard—no matter how you feel about yourself or the appearance of your body. When you see it moving, doing positive things, performing or getting stronger it just may help you to appreciate what an amazing machine it truly is, no matter how that machine really looks to you (or others).

So tell me: Do mirrors help you (in any way) during your workouts or not? Do you simply avoid them at all costs?

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  • 46
    At home i don't have mirrors but I think it would help to make sure my form is rcorrect. Makes sense anyway. - 1/27/2012   5:39:54 PM
  • ANNEV2012
    I only use the mirror for strength exercising...like to ensure I'm maintaining good posture and form. - 1/27/2012   4:09:47 PM
  • 44
    I don't necessarily like them BUT they do help me. On good days, when I seem myself trotting on the treadmill I feel like a warrior and I might bump up my speed or incline. On bad days, I just crank up the tunes and look past myself in the mirrror. - 1/27/2012   4:06:34 PM
  • 43
    I take zumba and the room has mirrors and I like it, can see the instructor when we are turning, 2 other classes TaiChi and balanceing used the mirrors and it made it easier to correct wrong form.Both our exercise rooms have mirrors and really are used for form correction - 1/27/2012   3:33:00 PM
  • 42
    I don't really look at myself as whole until I'm at the gym floor and start lifting weights or doing glute work or core. I like to be in front of the mirror to make sure I have right posture, my right arm is doing the same as left etc. I can see me and I know I have a belly and my arms have little "wings" - but I'm proud of my body, because it's moving and it's also transforming as I move! When I'm running I usually see myself in the shadow or some store window - it also makes me happy! I love that I'm available to move and I don't mind seeing it! - 1/27/2012   3:26:01 PM
  • 41
    When I look in the mirror, I get self conscious because my mind's eye has a whole different impression of what I look like. When working out, I do prefer a mirror to check form, but I really look forward to the day when I look in the mirror and see a thinner me! - 1/27/2012   3:07:28 PM
  • 40
    No I'm not a mirror girl. I actually was horrified when the gym placed mirrors every where. When I was strength training with my son, he would put me in front of the mirror and I would inch myself away from it. He had notice what I kept doing and asked my why was I moving away. I told him I don't like the reflection I see in the mirror. I'm not at the point where the mirror is my friend. That will take some time. - 1/27/2012   3:02:37 PM
  • 39
    I really don't like working out in front of a mirror. It doesn't motivate me. I do sometimes look at myself in spinning, but only to see form. I took zumba last night and 3 of the 4 walls are mirrored. I try to look at the instructor, instead of myself. Sometimes I catch myself on the treadmill and think, 'you look like you're in slow motion' even though I'm working really hard for me. I try to avoid mirrors. - 1/27/2012   2:22:59 PM
  • 38
    Not having mirrors made it much easier to become obese because I wasn't seeing what I was doing to myself.
    I like to workout in front of a mirror. Sometimes to help with form. sometimes for the distraction because you can imagine it's someone else sweating in front of you and sometimes because I am just so freaking amazing, someone has to see it, LOL!!! - 1/27/2012   1:40:05 PM
  • 37
    Jogging by a reflective surface immediately saps my energy and makes me feel discouraged. To keep myself motivated I have to think of myself as a powerful machine. The image I have in my head, and the one looking back at me are very different. It bursts my bubble. That being said, when I was much thinner, I did not mind doing cardio in front of the mirror at all. I also don't mind dealing with it to check my form for strength training because usually nothing is jiggling. - 1/27/2012   1:26:54 PM
  • 36
    It helps me keep my form proper when weight-lifting or on the treadmill! - 1/27/2012   1:26:28 PM
  • 35
    I like using a mirror when I'm lifting weights for form check, but when I'm on a cardio machine I don't - in fact, I don't even recognize the person in the mirror because my mental image is much thinner and healthier. - 1/27/2012   1:12:26 PM
  • 34
    At the gym I like looking at other people looking at themselves in the mirror. I check my form every now and then but mostly pass the time looking at dudes in the weight training area checking themselves out. The best was this beefcake guy at my old gym who used to rap to himself in the mirror. Who starts rapping to themselves in the middle of LaFitness? It sure helped pass the time on the treadmill. - 1/27/2012   12:55:08 PM
    If I am spinning I generally have my eyes closed so a mirror really won't work. Work harder when I close my eyes.

    Only time I really look in the mirror is if I want to see if I am doing the wieghts correctly. - 1/27/2012   12:42:30 PM
  • 32
    I had to check twice to see that this was really written by Nichole - she is so gorgeous! I would love to see her image in my mirror! Before I lost the weight I have lost, I had begun to hate, fear and avoid mirrors - after a prior life of loving them. As the weight started coming off, I can't wait to look again and again. I put a full length mirror in my office, theoretically so I can watch myself do Nichole's Office Workout - but also, and really, because I want to keep checking to make sure I didn't just dream thin - that I haven't put anything back on that shouldn't be there - and to keep me motivated so I don't want snacks.I actually see the full-length me when I stand up to walk over to my little refrigerator; the image reminds me how hard I worked and am still working to get to this point. Then I do a dozen wall push ups and pour a cup of tea instead of eating. So, yes, I totally need the mirror. - 1/27/2012   12:29:58 PM
  • 31
    I pretty much CANNOT buy clothes in a shop by trying them on THERE. I buy, take home, try on and return if they're not okay. That's a lot of effort (especially since I live 100 miles from a mall). When I'm working out, I do NOT want to watch myself (cardio) but... when lifting, I find it's necessary! My form isn't what I think it is. Recently, I started kettlebells (fun!) and was lamenting that no matter how much "hip" I put into it, the kbs wouldn't swing up where they were supposed to. My kb-swinging friend told me to do it in front of a mirror. Guess what? It was perspective again. I was exactly where I should've been. So, I'm pro-mirror for form :) - 1/27/2012   12:03:51 PM
  • 30
    Definitely helps me because it allows me to see where I am cheating on my form. The mirror helps me to check the basics and also helps me decide if I am using too heavy or too light a weight. Proper form is very important to me to get the max benefits from weights. Also on the treadmill, bike or elliptical trainer it helps me refocus on form also. - 1/27/2012   11:58:58 AM
  • 29
    I always thought there were mirrors in a gym in order to help make the ROOM look bigger as the exercise room is often in an area of the building with NO windows. The mirrors don't bother me either way. - 1/27/2012   11:30:41 AM
  • 28
    I love working out in front of a mirror! It lets me see that my form is good and, as you said, is kind of a distraction that helps get me through my workout. Also, it delights me to see my progress. Maybe a part that used to jiggle unpleasantly no longer jiggles or jiggles less, or maybe there's just a little more definition somewhere. This motivates me to work even harder to get the body I want! - 1/27/2012   10:15:26 AM
  • 27
    I definitely LOVE working out with mirrors. I use them for both inspiration to keep going when I feel like I want to stop, but I also use them to check my form. It's pointless to do an exercise is you aren't doing it correctly! - 1/27/2012   10:09:47 AM
  • 26
    Definitely helps me... not just from a motivational perspective, but to also check my form. Form is SO important - especially when strength training - and it's good to check yourself. - 1/27/2012   9:49:32 AM
    I say they help 100%. I have read several of the other comments and agree that form is very important and more easily monitored when you can see what you are doing. Posture plays a large role in proper working out and really does effect the results you see, or don't. Also, seeing yourself, for lack of other words, jiggle when working out will show you where your target areas are, pick the one you want to battle first. Watch your progress you'll be amazed at that shirt looking a little baggier or your thighs getting a little more solid. If you don't appreciate your hard work and know that you are improving who else will? Try it out, study your calves, hips, waist, neck and wear something shows that improvement off. You're earning the flaunting rights. See the differences that are small and make then happen for the larger picture.

    My last words of caution are: be proud, modest, and move others to better themselves so its not lonely at the top! - 1/27/2012   9:41:58 AM
    It depends what I'm doing I guess - I quite like a mirror if I'm dancing in my house, so that I know which moves to avoid if I go out dancing!! If I'm at the gym though, I'd rather not see myself red, sweaty and in workout gear - it's not my best look.

    In general I don't like mirrors, but I rely on them to ensure that I at least look passable. Sometimes I think I'd be less self-consious and have more fun if I didn't look though!! - 1/27/2012   9:41:50 AM
  • 23
    I never look in the mirror....unless I can help it. But I know that will change soon as my weight loss continues. - 1/27/2012   9:35:59 AM
  • 22
    I used to hate mirrors. Never owned them and I feel like that got in a lot of trouble. Now that I am healthy, I enjoy mirrors and I need mirrors in dance class. I don't feel like I am doing things properly until I see myself doing in a mirror. - 1/27/2012   9:34:58 AM
  • 21
    I do like mirrors, oddly - they give me confidence boosts (like, "Holy cow, I'm running! I'm really running!") and even if my body isn't perfect, I'm proud to get to see what it can do! - 1/27/2012   9:23:35 AM
  • WWMOM68
    I find that mirrors are very helpful for maintaining form. I like to make sure that my body is doing what it should be doing. Sometimes we feel like our bodies are doing an exercise correctly only to find out that it isn't when we are told (if the instructor is observant or we are observant with general class corrections) or by looking at ourselves in a mirror. I have struggled with negative self-image for years as well, but understand the need for a mirror so that I don't injure myself, get in someone else's way, or in the case of ballet class, make sure I am correctly executing the step. - 1/27/2012   9:19:02 AM
  • 19
    I don't like mirrors when I exercise. Our gym has very few, and no full body mirrors. When I'm in a class, I want to focus on my form and my activity. To me, watching myself work out is a distraction. To myself, I look clumsy and awkward. I don't know that I am, but that's what I see. I imagine that once I get closer to my goal weight that I will feel that less keenly, but in the meantime, I'd just rather not worry about it. I don't avoid mirrors everywhere; I just like not having them at the gym. - 1/27/2012   9:16:53 AM
  • 18
    I work out at home, but I do have a mirror that I sometimes use when I do Zumba (I want to be an instructor so I need to make sure I don't look silly...) and also for strength training to make sure I have good form and I'm not damaging my body in some way... Mirrors don't bother me, whether I like it or not, the person reflected in it is who I am! - 1/27/2012   9:13:53 AM
    Very good info im putting in mirrors - 1/27/2012   9:06:50 AM
  • 16
    I am addicted to mirrors when I exercise. In the beginning and even now after 2 years of consistent exercise I use them as a tool. At first it was mainly to make sure I was using the proper form. And then later on as I got closer to goal I must admit it was to admire myself while demonstrating the proper form. I love to watch myself lift weights. After a lifetime of being covered in a layer of fat, seeing my muscles at work fascinates me. - 1/27/2012   9:05:57 AM
  • 15
    I used to avoid mirrors as much as I could before losing a lot of weight so sometimes, out of habit, I will still not look. I catch myself doing this and will make myself look at me in the mirror. I'm still not where I want to be but I just feel I need to be o.k. with me now. When I'm working out, it is a must-do to be in front of a mirror so I can make sure my form is correct. If I'm on a cardio machine, it can be quite motivating. - 1/27/2012   8:58:00 AM
    I love the mirrors to exercise. I get inspired by seeing myself sweat with that look of determination on my face (it's actually exhaustion, but whatever). It's also really helpful when I use free weights to make sure my form is correct so I don't hurt myself and get the most out of the exercise. - 1/27/2012   8:54:17 AM
  • 13
    I work out in my living room and I don't have a mirror, but I don't think I'd mind having one someday. Although I already laugh at myself when I try to do balancing exercises as I fall over easily so a mirror may up that :-) - 1/27/2012   8:52:39 AM
    To be completely honest, i do like looking at myself in the mirror :) don't always like what I see but it does keep me motivated and work harder to achieve and get to the point when I would both enjoy looking in the mirror and love what I see :) so my relationship with mirrors is positive :))) - 1/27/2012   8:46:06 AM
  • 11
    LOL, we have "skinny" mirrors and "not skinny" mirrors at our gym. The regulars always try to get the "skinny" mirrors. It does help!
    - 1/27/2012   8:32:27 AM
  • BAMBI31311
    When I'm working out with weights I do prefer to be in front of the mirror and from time to time watch how I'm holding my body, are my abs in tight, is my back in the correct position, am I working the muscle group that I am supposed to be working on. I think it helps me for sure. - 1/27/2012   8:09:09 AM
    I don't always like what I see in the mirror but I always take the time to look. It motivates me when I see progress and it motivates me to do more when I don't see progress. I think it helps me to see if i'm exercising correctly and thank you for reminding me to do this. - 1/27/2012   8:05:48 AM
    I only check the mirror occassionally. I have to work to improve this and work to improve how I react to see my reflection in the mirror. - 1/27/2012   7:56:10 AM
  • MAGGIE101857
    Have been looking for some mirrors for my exercise room....I definitely feel it is a great tool to check your form! I can't afford a full wall mirror so I am leaning towards purchasing 3 behind the door type mirrors - it will make the room look bigger as well! - 1/27/2012   7:26:49 AM
  • 6
    I'm not afraid of mirrors, and I don't hate what I see, but when I exercise, I look within my body, and try to commune with my muscles, joints, bones, organs, etc., so I feel that looking in the mirror would be a distraction, and is more about focusing on how you look than how you feel, or the health of your body. I don't get bored, because I listen to music, or I meditate while exercising. - 1/27/2012   7:22:18 AM
  • SUNSET09
    Although not always pretty, it helps me use the weights correctly and and helps me with my posture and form. when I used to see the body builders, I thought it was arrogance, now I know! - 1/27/2012   7:12:54 AM
    Mirrors help with my form. - 1/27/2012   7:06:11 AM
  • 3
    I have a tendency to avoid mirrors as much as possible. I am going to try using one when I do my strength training and posture exercises, to help with my form ~;-D - 1/27/2012   7:01:02 AM
  • 2
    I like mirrors to make sure my form is good. - 1/27/2012   6:53:50 AM
  • 1
    I generally work out at home, but there is a window on my right that becomes very reflective after dark. I like checking my form and posture as I lift weights, and workout to videos and dancin' games. Maybe it comes from years of actual dance class, where the mirror was always my friend. - 1/27/2012   6:17:33 AM

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