Maybe you’ve said, or overheard someone say, one or more of the following:
- “I want to hire a personal trainer, but I have to get in shape first.”
- “I am too out of shape and I feel self conscious in the gym, so I want to lose a few pounds before I join.”
- [Loudly, in public, usually to the ‘more fit’ friend] “I was good today. It’s 7 p.m. and all I’ve had was a salad and some crackers.”
- “I feel so awkward, like everyone is laughing at me when I go near the weights.”
- “My body is ruined anyway, so why even bother trying to lose this baby weight?”
- “I feel stupid running with a stroller.”
- “I’ll get back in shape once my kids are older.”
I can’t count the number of times I have run by a woman on the trail in a baggy t-shirt and a few extra pounds who looks down self-consciously and avoids eye contact when she sees me coming. Or a woman running or walking with an infant in a stroller and a look of shame in her eyes. I want so badly to pass out cards that say “hey we’ve all been there, rock on!” How about the women who sit on the sidelines at the gym and watch what the rest of us are doing, dying to jump in? Or the ones who cling to the treadmills, honestly believing that they have no place in the weight room? Worse still—the ones who never even try because they are too self conscious about being judged.
And it’s impossible sometimes to know: do we avoid fitness because we’re not motivated, or do we lack motivation because we’re self-conscious about our lack of fitness? I can tell you that when my thyroid was at its worst (just 6 months ago!), it was probably a combination of both!
Ladies, and I mean all of us, in whatever shape we happen to be in—where’s the love? Shame on those whose judgement has caused the problem (though this is a problem that runs in cycles, so who knows who deserves the blame). Here’s the truth: WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE. Whether you’re already fit, trying to get fit, or looking on from the sidelines waiting to start your journey, this post is important!
While I can’t speak for everyone in every gym everywhere, and I can’t promise that every gym is a judgement free zone, I can tell you that the super “fit” ones you expect are judging you probably aren’t. I don’t mean the wake-up-skinny-and-blame-it-on-the-salad women who normally occupy the treadmills in clusters—they are the gym version of Mean Girls and they probably are judging you. The ones I’m talking about, and the ones whose opinions still don’t matter but are more meaningful, are the knows-what-hard-work-is fit women. The ones who sweat and lift weights. The ones who look the way they do because they work damn hard.
We all started somewhere that was not where we are now, and we know what it means to start from the beginning.
The Good Fit women (again, the fit women who are not the Mean Girls) see your potential the minute they lay eyes on you. Personally, I find myself spotting good genetics everywhere I go—I think “hmmm I wonder if I should tell that woman she’s built for power….” Or “would it be creepy if I told her she has great genetics for bodybuilding?” I pass women on the trail who are clearly trying lose their baby weight and I want so badly to stop them and say “OMG I was really really fat with my pregnancy! You look awesome–You can do this!”
I am often inspired by the badass moms with their months-old babies in running strollers. Or the ones who put their babies in backpacks so they can hike. Really—how hard core IS that? Those posters and Facebook memes with pictures of really skinny women and messages like, “how bad do you want it?” have absolutely NOTHING on the real-life image of a woman dragging her tired-mommy butt out of bed to run with a stroller, or a woman hiking up a mountain with a baby on her back! So if you’re sitting at home with an infant, avoiding the trails or the gym because you think someone will laugh, keep in mind that the only people who would even raise an eyebrow are the people driving by in cars—not running. Those of us on the trail beside you are thinking, “damn I thought I had a hard time getting out for my run this morning—look at HER!” We are rooting for you.
It’s the same in the weight room. When you see women lifting weights, you can safely assume that we all want to see MORE women lifting weights! Give it your best shot—if you have no idea what you’re doing, just ask someone who does! The secret is that most people don’t really know, and the ones who do can all remember a time when we didn’t.
True story: Several years ago, I was a treadmill clinger with a twice weekly, four-exercise “free weight” adventure. I stuck to the basics, such as dumbell curls, front raises, assisted pullups (done horribly wrong, looking back on it!), and maybe a rope pulldown. I chose what few things I thought I knew, and I stuck with them exclusively. I was absolutely terrified of the idea of breaking out into other things because I had no idea how. But then one day I saw a girl squat, and after that I desperately wanted to try it. Maybe I was just a little mad because it was a girl I didn’t even really like that much, and there she was being a badass in the gym while I did my stupid 10 lb. front-raises. But damn if it wasn’t inspiring! For me it was the little things that were paralyzing—what were those butterfly-shaped metal things she put on the bar? How did she know how much weight to put on? How did she know how to adjust it to fit her height? I was mortified at the thought of someone watching me try to figure it out. I was also mortified at the thought of asking my then-boyfriend—oh the horror of having him “lead” me!
But eventually he did. I asked him, somehow without telling him that I had never squatted before, and he got me started on some basics. After that, more people jumped in to help me out around the weight room…and here I am, six years later, ready to pay it forward!
Moral of the story: you have to be willing to be the Effin New Guy. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable just one time. But I promise that if you do take that leap, there will be people ready and waiting to help you discover your full potential.
…As long as you’re not the Effin New Guy know-it-all…but I’ll save that for another post!
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