I love working out. Seriously, I love working out. I love sweating, I love flexing, I love using machines and medicine balls and free wights and BOSU balls and strengthening exercises and cardio and yoga…all of it.When I work out, I get to see all the things my body can do, and see results in the form of new muscles, better breath control, and increased overall happiness.
I hate going to the gym.
My university campus has a fantastic gym (fondly named UREC). It looks almost like a museum, and contains multiple rock-climbing walls, squash courts, hundreds of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and strengthening machines, an Olympic sized pool, a TRX rig, hundreds of free weights, dozens of medicine balls…you get the idea. It’s a really good gym. Which is great for working out, because you get to experiment with different workouts, new machines, and then get lost at the end of the day when you’re just trying to buy a smoothie but somehow you’ve ended up in the men’s locker room. Not that I would know. Stop asking.
But having a gym that’s so state-of-the-art and well-equipped can also be intimidating. A state-of-the-art gym that’s full of beautiful, skinny, judgmental people who look like they were born doing squats? Even worse.
I love working out, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. Going to UREC makes me incredibly nervous, because I can’t help but feel that I do not belong in there.
It’s ridiculous! I know! The gym is for everyone! Fitness is for everyone! But I’m nervous.
Let me describe to you the average college girl at UREC. She is blonde, and likely wearing a full face of makeup that can magically outlast an hour of cardio. Every day is leg day for her- she’s always on the elliptical, the treadmill, the leg press, or doing squats in a multipurpose room. She’s wearing pearl earrings nearly as large as her eyeballs, brand-name leggings (usually LuLuLemon or Nike), and either a brand-name tank top or sorority letters. She is skinny. She is beautiful. She has prominent hipbones and a teeny waist. She giggles. She’s the poster girl for “fitness”.
Then there’s me. I’m blonde, but my hair always looks messy. I try to work my full body and like to practice my boxing on the punching bag (not that that’s inherently better than Leg Day Every Day). I wear my promise ring, leggings that usually double as pajamas, and a ratty t-shirt from a club or event. I’m not fat, but you can tell that I love me some Benny’s pizza on the weekend. I build muscle before I lose fat, and when I’m working out regularly, I don’t look petite and giggly. I look like I could beat something up.
Working out around girls like this makes me feel like a frumpy giantess, but more than that, it feels like I am working out wrong. During my workout, I stop focusing on reps and sets and start wondering if it’s too late to switch to cardio and legs, delete my Pinterest strengthening boards, stop telling myself “strong, not skinny”, blow my paycheck on overpriced workout clothes, and start straightening my hair just to go to UREC. I feel as if I should be like these other girls, because they are JMU students who go to the gym regularly, and I too am a JMU student who goes to the gym regularly, and I find comfort in disappearing into a crowd.
This feeling is, I guess, rooted in my double obsessions with my body and belonging on campus.
Since I was sixteen, I’ve wanted to be skinny at all costs, and I sacrificed my own health for it. I developed an eating disorder that I struggled with until last year, and still find myself falling into unhealthy, disordered habits.
Since I’ve arrived at JMU, I’ve felt “other” than other girls. There are 20,000 people on campus, 16,000 of whom are female, and it feels as if 15,000 of them are sorority girls who want nothing more than to get a good tan, major in communications, and get married at 22. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I can’t relate at all, and it affects my JMU experience a lot.
So when I go to UREC, it’s both of those things combined. I desperately want to be like these girls in the aspect of their weight, build, and workout regime; but if I do that, I negate all the work I’ve done in overcoming various eating disorders. I can’t win.
Maybe I’ll just build a home gym.