Gym Shaming

         As a self-proclaimed gym rat before my health struggles last year, I never struggled with feeling intimidated or unwelcome at a gym.  I would often brag about being one of the only girls in the free weight section and loved knowing that I could go to (almost) any run club and feel like I could hold my own.  Looking back now I realize how arrogant my attitude was and I was probably definitely part of the problem that I’m writing about now.  I recently overheard someone making fun of a girl for taking part in a bench press challenge because she didn’t have a lot of weight on the bar.  As I continued to eavesdrop it was obvious to me that this judgmental behavior was considered normal to this guy and his social circle, due to the laughter that ensued at his condescending statements.  

          Thanks to the jerk at the gym, the idea for this blog post was born.  Before I became sick, I always felt like the gym was a second home. However, after taking almost 8 months off last year, when I tried to return to working out – I felt like a foreigner in a different country.  I vividly remember how uncomfortable and out of place I felt. Several times I had people comment on how short my workouts were, and I heard, “I’m surprised you only showed up for 15 minutes.” Well, what that person didn’t know is how much pain I was in from my surgery and 10-15 minutes on any piece of cardio equipment was about all my stomach could handle.  Also, for some odd (very, very odd) reason after I had surgery I lost the ability to lift both legs up when I’m laying flat on my back. My physical therapist recommended some exercises I could do in hopes of building up my ab muscles again. Two separate times I heard comments about how “easy” the exercises looked followed by statements implying they were a waste of time.  I’m not implying that those people intended to hurt my feelings, it’s possible they had good intentions, however, their words were completely unnecessary since I didn’t ask for, nor want, their opinion.

           I decided to text several of my friends who I know are current members of a gym, or have been in the past to ask them if they have ever felt gym shamed (intimidated, unwelcome or embarrassed by comments others have said at the gym).  Below are some of their responses:

  • “You’re doing a Spartan Race? How are you going to fit your big butt under the barbed wire?”
  • “Aw, you’re so cute trying to lift the big weights.  Let me show you how it’s really done.”
  • “I think you’re in the wrong place.  This is where we lift, not where Zumba happens.”
  • “You can do all the cardio you want.  Until you stop eating all that fried chicken you’re never going to like the way you look with those fat rolls.”

Each quote comes from four different friends who attend four different gyms.   I’m a wellness coach at my gym one night a week and am now making it my personal goal to intentionally talk to members that are new.  I don’t want anyone to leave the gym when I’m on shift feeling unwelcome or like they don’t belong.  Besides, it doesn’t matter how in shape your body may be, if you are making fun of people at the gym – you’re a really ugly person.




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