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Actually, we ARE silently judging you.

Friday, February 08, 2013

**This was totally fun to write. I do not know why. I think it's a little less PolyannaPositive than I usually am on SP, but it feels more authentic to me. Please don't take anything snarky as a negative or as about you even though you totally know I'm using your example. One awesome blog post sort of was the tipping point on this, but her's was awesome, not sad. There are a lot of sadder message board posts that made me want to write this. Also, be aware that the farting-in-the-weight-room example is all me and totally happened. Twice.**

Ok, I know everyone on SP is all hearts and sunshine and unicorns that shoot rainbows out of their butts...but sometimes we gotta be real. I keep seeing a lot of people post about being embarrassed at the gym because they don't know what they are doing or they feel fat or whatever. And most of us respond with something like, "Oh, it's all in your head, they aren't judging you!"

But that's totally not true.

I can't judge people on most things, but I'm a rower. Which means I'm a snob about the rowing machine (called an "ergometer" or "erg" or "Satan Incarnate" by rowers). So I totally judge people who use them improperly at the gym. It's actually become a Thing before - when I sit down next to someone who DOES know what they are doing and demonstrate that I also know how to use it, we usually end up talking. I've also found rowers at the gym by noting who silently rolls their eyes at the guy who puts the setting on 10 and then just uses his arms. I'll grab a treadmill next to them later and ask if they get on the water. Judging others totally brings us together.

So I'm extrapolating here - if I get silently judgey about people on the erg, I'm betting that others are silently judging me on whatever their equipment is. I am tired of pretending it doesn't happen. It's TOTALLY happening. You are NOT paranoid.

The question is - what are you going to do about it? I can think of a ton of better responses than sitting on the couch and eating cupcakes. Though that has it's appeal during certain times of the month.

*LAUGH. A snowboarder once told me the way to get better at snowboarding is to make sure that no matter what insane thing you just did - laugh. If there is a bone sticking out of your leg at the end of an epic fall, YOU MUST LAUGH FIRST. Then you may cry. Also, scream. Also, narcotic pain killers. So when you can't figure out how to turn on the equipment or when your balance ball shoots out from under your a$$...laugh. And share your story. Everyone does something dumb at the gym and it helps both you and them for other people to hear about it.

*If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning. Maybe your wiggly bits are being judged by the superfitguy over there, but I bet at least once in a while someone else with jiggly bits looks at you and thinks, "Well hell. I always wondered how they turn on the ellipticals. I'm glad she showed me that so I didn't embarrass myself." There, you can feel good because if nothing else, you saved someone from looking like a fool too.

*Let go of it. You can't control other people. Ever. E-V-E-R. All you can control is your response to them. If you change the way you respond to someone, they HAVE to change in response to you. So make eye contact with Judgey McJudgerson and smile. Or ask them what you should be doing. I especially like doing this to guys who have headphones in because it forces them to stop what they are doing and take the headphones out. It's a bit of petty revenge. Also, sometimes I actually learn something. BONUS! You can only control what YOU do, not what THEY think.

*Learn something. Go hire a trainer. If you go to a gym, they are probably all over the place. They're like roaches in red teeshirts except they don't scatter when you turn on the light and they are actually helpful and they won't survive a nuclear apocalypse. So maybe they aren't like roaches at all. Get one. Even if s/he's not a great trainer, you'll learn SOMETHING and you'll get some confidence. And someday, you will discover that something they told you is "wrong." And then you can judge THEM silently.

*Buy some cute clothes and wear earrings. Yep, I said it. Vanity, thy name is ME. I don't mind looking like a doofus as long as I do it in a pretty blue tanktop and I have on my small silver hoop earrings. I do not know why this works for me, but it totally does. My husband actually takes a shower BEFORE he goes to the gym. And he must wear something yellow when he goes because that color makes him so happy. If I'm going to drop things and fart while doing deadlifts and pass out in the middle of the floor, I'm going to look decent doing it.

*Remember how much worse it could be. If you don't go to the gym and gain another 10'll be worse. You'll be even more jiggly and you won't be any more coordinated. If you DO go to the gym, you'll learn something. Remember the old saw from Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." So you did something not-right today - that's one less mistake you'll make next time. I have explained to a few people that it's not that I fell on my face and scraped it all up when learning to ski - it's that I discovered that while you CAN stop yourself from falling down a mountain by using your face, it's better to use skis. At least I learned something from it.

*STOP DOING STUFF YOU HATE! This is the most important thing I can think of. If you really can't stand the judgement-in-the-gym and you can't get past it, then stop going to the gym! Exercise is not punishment - it's a reward. It makes you stronger, faster, better, and happier. If the gym workouts aren't doing that for you, go take classes, do exercise videos at home, join Curves or PlanetFitness or a different gym, find an outdoor sport....ANYTHING ELSE. If anyone has read "The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl", you'll know about "Vampire Running" (running in the dark when no one can see and judge). Do something like that if that's what floats your boat - just do SOMETHING.

What about you? Do you have something to add? Good advice? Bad advice? Horror stories that you need to share and laugh about?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Okay, I do not know how I missed this post when you first added it, but I cannot stop laughing. AMAZING.
    1688 days ago
    Well, hm...I'm one of the "roaches in a red tee shirt" (except mine is pink), and I do love what you wrote. Gyms are not for the faint-of-heart. You need to be absolutely secure that you are there for only one purpose: to be healthy. Everyone, and everything else be damned. I especially love the people who walk in looking like what the cat dragged in, i-pods on, heading directly to their favorite cardio machine. They don't look left, right, up or down. Completely focused on the task at hand. Also, a couple of people made a very good point: Do what's fun. If you're exercising and it's drag then it's not going to be anywhere near as effective. Your head has to be in the game, or it becomes a chore that deserves to be put off until tomorrow....
    1695 days ago
    Thank you for your honesty! I go to a "judgement free zone" gym but my boyfriend and our workout buddy were just talking about all the judgement flying around that place.

    Judgement at the gym is inevitable. Generally I try to check myself when I find myself judging someone - where is it coming from? Am I envious of their less jiggly bits or excellent form? Am I thinking "at least I look better than her"? And then I try to turn it around. Clearly I'm striving to be less jiggly myself so what can I learn from that awesomely fit person? Can I help the newbie learn something? When I'm judged, I just remind myself that at least I'm here and I'm doing the best I can, by god!
    1709 days ago
    You are so right on this one!!!! I watch others in my class to make sure that I keep up with them and exceed others. It works as a motivation for me and keep me going when I feel like dropping the dumbells. I know that I am competitive so by taking the classes with others, it keeps me motivated. I am not a runner, so when I recently started running on the treadmill at a low speed, I saw the woman next to me look at my machine, put her machine at the same speed, and she kept power walking, while I was jogging. Really? I know that I am slow, but must you rub it in my face? emoticon
    1710 days ago
  • EVEMG12
    I loved this blog! I am not ashamed that I judge everyone who happens to be at the gym while I am there, because I know they judge me back. I may judge the perfectly made up girl who walks on the treadmill while chatting away on her phone, but she is judging me, the out of shape girl with butt sweat gasping for breath on the treadmill next to her. You just have to take it. If you don't want people looking at you, stay home!
    1710 days ago
    I once had this woman who was on the elliptical on my left side stare at me with the most snarky, spiteful look on her face.... She kept looking at me and was literally seething.... Her feelings were so raw and visible- I saw her expressions through the window I was facing, so she thought because I was facing ahead, I could not see her facial expressions... Guess what?? Erm.... Lady, what did I ever do to YOU?? I've been coming to this gym solid for 2 years, lost 60 pounds and packed on sexy muscle.... So I sweat and give it my all while I'm here.... I cranked that ELI machine harder...... If you are gonna judge me and not mind your freakin' business, let me really give you something to talk about emoticon
    1710 days ago
  • KK1973
    Totally true, informative, and entertaining blog! Loved it!!
    1710 days ago
    Yes! Best blog ever. I admit to judging at the gym. I also admit to spying on people in the weight room and copying their form. We do all watch each other. It's reality. I love your view: we can't change what they think, we can control what we do. Truth!
    1710 days ago
    i don't do gyms (i have a personal trainer - my border collie - who insists we spend all free time making sure he gets enough miles under his paws, and he usually doesn't judge, unless i throw the frisbee really badly, in which case he gives me a purely border collie look and delivers the frisbee to dad instead who always throws it perfectly), but this blog has to be one of the best i've ever read here on SP. apart from the fact that it had me laughing, so many people can take home a lesson that is soooo needed. so all i can say is emoticon
    1710 days ago
    totally true!
    i don't do gyms.
    1710 days ago
    When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to do much: my mother was too afraid I was going to hurt myself and that she would have to take time off work to take care of me. So I had to stay still.

    It sticked for a long time and when I got in my 20s, I started doing more things. I felt a bit silly learning how to rollerblade as an adult and knowing everyone was watching. Now that I am in my 30s, I know people are still watching when you are obviously a learner of something that maybe you're too old to learn now (they say...). But now, I just think that I'm badass learning to longboard at my age, even though I suck at it :)

    It's learning new things that keep us alert.
    1711 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/11/2013 1:01:54 AM
    I'm really happy to read your comments. You are so honest and also, brave about being up front about the complexities of human emotions by confronting all that is negative and painful out there.

    I also agree that when exercising, do what you enjoy best. I hate the gym and find it boring. I like the energy of group classes. I do not look at what other people do in these classes, especially since I tend to go to spin and yoga classes where I am mainly concerned with my own performance rather than others. When someone extremely overweight attends a spin or yoga class, I admire them rather than judge them and also realize that learning is a process. But, I agree that there are lots of people out there who are extremely competitive and insecure, and will judge others in their personal fitness routine to make themselves better. And, that to face this ugliness of human nature, and continue regardless, makes us more resilient than if we pretend otherwise.
    1712 days ago
    Rolling my eyes at the people who totally don't know how to row.

    But it's okay. They see me flounder on the treadmill. So we're even.
    1713 days ago
    This is a fantastic blog. FANTASTIC. I get totally paranoid when I'm on the eliptical. Once I noticed the super jacked guy next to me peeking over to look at my progress. I cringed, but then I turned my head and looked him right in the eye with an air of a challenge. He nodded his head in approval and went back to his workout. I was totally being judged, but I think I came out of it on top :)

    1713 days ago
  • GLC2009
    good writing. totally funny and true. emoticon
    1713 days ago
    I never really cared too much except when it came to weight equipment. I knew I didn't know how to use it and was too embarrassed to ask! LOL
    I always wondered about women who worked out at the Y in jewelry and makeup, thought it was stupid, but maybe it was their armor, I never really thought of it that way!
    I do need to confess that on of my main methods was to try to find someone in worse shape than I in the room (just with my eyes), this of course worked, because let’s face it. Human’s are rotten piece’s o crap sometimes, me included. Seeing someone that looked worse than I, or who was breathing more heavily, sweating worse did make me feel more self confident.

    1713 days ago
    HAHAHA! This is so funny and so true!
    And *ahem* it's confession time...
    I have been that person that cranks the ergometer up to ten and doesn't know what she's doing!
    The next time I go to a gym (don't know when that will be) and they have one, I am going to ask one of those trainer-roaches how to use it properly. I promise!
    1713 days ago
    woooo! ::internet high fives:: (I have a deep appreciation for snark)

    my vanity thing at the gym is often my socks, I have a large collection of stripey knee high socks, and I love to wear my converse shoes with knee length sweat pants and striped socks. Hey, gotta have fun somehow or it's not worth my time :-p and yes - I agree that exercise should not be punishment.
    1713 days ago
    Haha, I love this! And totally agree with everything except your desire to look cute. In my personal opinion, if I look cute while I'm working out, I'm not working hard enough. And dangly earrings bounce when I run and make my ears hurt,
    My "necessary" workout gear includes three things: My Cascada Pandora station, good shoes, and a good sports bra (or two) to minimize the sometimes painful bounce that inevitably comes with a good run. When I first started using the weight machines, I totally looked like a moron, and I knew it. Sometimes I still do. But the gym is not a high school cafeteria, and I don't honestly care what 99% of the people there think anyway. Judge away! And yes, of course I do it, too. But I'm not running around the gym criticizing anyone. I'm more likely to flash a friendly smile and offer advice and a "Haha, I totally didn't know that machine was supposed to work that way at first, either" story than anything.
    Today, I will take my roommate to the gym for the first time. I have never ever ever seen Henry run, and the thought of him next to me in Zumba while he stares longingly at our gorgeous instructors and trips over his own feet or plows into me will keep me amused for weeks to come. And the best part? He knows that these things will happen, and that people will judge him, and that I'll come home and tell his boyfriend all about how silly and awesome he was, and he's gonna come anyway, and laugh at himself along the way. And there is no better attitude to have. (=
    1713 days ago
  • STRONG_SARAH, seriously,........I laughed out loud. Great post!
    1713 days ago

    Loved your blog. Also love your writing style. Awesome. I have to admit that I am one of those chubby out of shaper people at the gym. I also go to a gym on a military installation sooooo there are lots of fit, muscular and perky people of both sexes. I have embarrased myself by being on one of the center treadmills with runners on all side to only be able to job in low speed 2 minutes! You know what? I didn't care. I also sweat a lot!!! I have found that it is less noticeable if you put your towel on the seat before sitting. I haven't fallen yet. Almost off an elliptical once but I saved myself. I haven't farted yet (thank goodness) but I have almost crapped myself a few times.

    But at this point in my life I really don't care if they judge me. I dont care what they think. Because what they don't know is I judge them too.

    1713 days ago
    Funny story first. My Mom and i walk together and we were walking by this house and all of sound this little dog who thinks he is the size of king kong comes running at us didn't do anything but bark but a car was coming so he waited for the car to pass and then came running at us. My Mom shooed him away and he went back towards his house which we had to pass which we did and the dog grabbed at stick to show us how ferocious he was and destroyed the stick. It is the funniest thing i have ever dealt with while walking. But my advice for working out is do something fun.
    1713 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/8/2013 2:29:01 PM
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