Every day it seems like there is an overwhelming amount of new information emerging that has to do with health and fitness lifestyles. Whether it be our diets or what we physically do with our bodies, it is hard to get away from the conversation. Magazines, television, and social media (specifically, Instagram) are flooded with images of people at their peak performance, giving the impression that “gym culture” is now a significant part of our everyday life.
The media pushes this image on us, but the reality is that not everyone exists in a perfectly picturesque health and fitness bubble. Many feel as though joining a gym and being a part of that arena is intimidating for different reasons, such as learning how to participate and fit in to a new space that has been labeled “male dominated.” While there are some truths built into these statements, they should not be the end all be all to the decision to be a part of any “gym culture.”
The first step into this realm may translate into a few hours of the week and, as a busy MU student, this may help you decompress from the many stresses we experience in a positive and productive way.
With anything new there is always a learning curve, and that is no different with the gym. However, the difference is that the learning curve should not be a deterrent. As students, we learn boundless amounts of new information every day, and while it may be difficult, we plow through it because we are not afraid of learning. That mindset should be applied here in the gym realm as well.
Similar to the college setting, we would never major in every subject all at once, so why is there a feeling of dread trying to figure out what healthy habit we might be fond of? The same way we decide our majors, we can pick what area of athletics we find most appealing and from there slowly learn more about it.
Let yourself learn more about the culture and community you are entering into, whether it be weight lifting, yoga, cross-fit, etc., the people you encounter might become the supportive network you did not know you were missing. Since you share a similar interest, they will help guide you and relate to you, just like when you make friends with people within your major at school.
Once the fear of stepping foot through the door is conquered, the thought of the gym being a “male dominated” arena still exists for women new to the gym. I am not going to tell you this is not true, which may be disheartening for some, but I want to remind you of a few things.
“Male dominated” does not mean walking into a room of a hundred men who are going to stare at every single thing you do. It means out of the handful of people that might be in the gym, maybe a majority of them are male, but everyone is minding their own business.
The people you will encounter are also people who, at some point in their life, started in the same place as you—unaware, unsure, and perhaps just as intimidated by “gym culture” as you were. While some people may appear to have the hard exterior of someone you never dreamed of speaking to or interacting with in your wildest dreams, they may be just the person to help you break out of your shell and feel more comfortable in your new community.
Everyone has to start somewhere; these people just started before you. Learning from others is the best way to expand your knowledge and provide yourself with the basis for what you might want to learn more about. Interestingly enough, that sounds just like the reason we have teachers in the classroom.
Secondly, “male dominated” is a term that frequently gets associated with weight lifting gyms. The point to be made about weight lifting is that the people who participate in this community are dedicated to improving themselves and reaching their goals in the gym. Even if the population is majority male over female, you should not be intimidated because you have the same goals, and you are focused on you, not everyone around you.
The people you may feel intimidated by have a mindset of ultimate focus. Even though personal anxiety may make it feel like entering into a new space will make you the center of attention, this is far from the truth and it is important to remind yourself of that. Although the gym can be a great place to meet new friends, and you most likely will, it still is not prioritized as a social endeavor. As you are feeling things out, you’ll be able to come and go as you please with no interruptions, despite what “gym culture intimidation” might have us believe.
Although the pressures and anxieties of living a healthy gym based lifestyle may always be bearing down on us in some way, the takeaway is that health should never be something to be intimidated by. It is something you do for you and that is who it should matter to most of all: you.
Once the ice is broken and new activities are explored this space becomes an outlet, one I personally find of utmost importance throughout a stressful life. The stress of getting started certainly does not outweigh the benefits of relieving future stressors. Beyond that, you gain confidence boosts every time you achieve something you did not think was possible and there is no downside to that.
If we enjoy reaching goals in other aspects of our life, like raising a low grade, for example, why stop ourselves from experiencing it in a way that is good for us mentally and physically as well?
Gym culture may be on an upswing in terms of media presence, and maybe it won’t be “trendy” next year, but regardless of that fact, getting involved in this culture and community is for you and not a decision that should be swayed by anyone but yourself.
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