Gym Success: Overcoming The Hidden Headaches That Hold You Back

Learn how to set aside gym judgment, find the right gym for your training style, and overcome personal obstacles. Don't be a victim of circumstance: reach your goals.

You are being judged

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the (somewhat cliché) adage that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but, love it or hate it, we live in a society that places much emphasis on superficial characteristics. Heck, we have competitions (ala bodybuilding, fitness, bikini, etc.) that judge people solely on the way they look.

Granted these physique competitions are voluntary on the competitor’s part, we all face some degree of superficial judgment everyday just walking around in public. Sadly, the intensity of this judgment tends to be exponentially heightened in gym atmospheres.

When people hear the term “meathead”, I’d surmise a majority of them conjure up an image of an intellectually-deficient hunk with Schwarzenegger-esque proportions (well, back when he was the golden boy of bodybuilding). Moreover, many individuals seem to blanket overweight individuals into a category of being lazy, gluttonous slobs.

Skinny males with glasses are inherently “nerds” or “geeks”. Attractive females with blonde hair are “dumb”…the list of stereotypes goes on.

So we have this propensity to acutely judge individuals based on how they look, but is this shallowness founded on any definitive connection between superficial features and intellectual aptitude? Is it really necessary (and/or proper) to preemptively debase people because they appear a certain way?

Alas, if that’s your way of viewing people I can’t stop you, but hopefully you’ll consider the following thoughts and rethink not only the way you view your peers in the gym, but also individuals you come across in daily life.

Find the right gym for your training style

Bicep CurlsBefore delving further into the subject matter, it’s pertinent to consider what’s the proper gym environment for yourself. Unfortunately, many gyms just don’t (or can’t) cater to the training types/mentalities of all trainees. It’s likely unwise for someone who doesn’t like loud, intense training environments to workout at a hardcore barbell club that blares death metal and reeks of ammonia and sweat.

At the end of the day you want to find a gym that surrounds you with like-minded individuals. However, this doesn’t mean that a soccer mom who just wants to do some cardio can’t make progress at a hardcore bodybuilding/powerlifting gym; it just iterates the point that the trainee stands to benefit greatly if they find an environment that meshes with their training style.

Case in point, a powerlifter or an Olympic weight lifter trying to perform their training at Planet Fitness would likely result in that individual being thrown out of the gym. Oil and water are not miscible, and sometimes the gym and trainee face the same polarity.

Quick digression here, but isn’t it ironic that Planet Fitness’ motto is that it’s a “Judgment-free Gym” yet they have an alarm (dubbed the “lunk alarm”) that obnoxiously roars every time someone makes too much noise (e.g. grunts, drops a weight, etc.)? Anyhow, that’s a rant I will save for another article.

In instances where you don’t have access to a gym that you find suitable to your needs, consider training at home if you have the resources. There are pros and cons to both commercial and home gyms, so it is ultimately up to you to decide what is best for yourself when all factors are taken into account.

Moreover, if you are stuck with having to train at a gym that you don’t find ideal, it’s still certainly better than not training at all. Worst-case scenario, you could always train Rocky IV style by cutting wood and running to the top of snow-covered Alps in sub-zero temperatures.

We all face our own obstacles

One point I most wish for readers to take home after reading this exposition is that each and every individual in this world is faced with their own set of circumstances. Whether it’s financial struggles, genetic shortcomings, inborn (or contracted) disease/illness, social problems, etc., we all deal with a milieu of hardships throughout life.

This is why it’s senseless to compare yourself to others; the path towards success is an intrapersonal battle, not interpersonal. So how does this relate to one’s goals in health and fitness?

Well, for one, it tells us we shouldn’t be so hasty to look at others in the gym and chastise them because of their physical stature. Who knows what they’ve been through?

Consider the example of an overweight individual, maybe they were faced with a crisis situation and unfortunately it led them to poor dietary habits and/or lack of exercise for a period of time. Does that make it okay to vilify these individuals and treat them like a source of amusement?

Absolutely not. I don’t care what they look like at any given moment; they are still in the gym and trying to change things for the better, which in and of itself takes some level of determination.

Also consider the contrary, whereby an individual may have a lean, muscle-bound physique. Most people probably assume this person was genetically graced with the body of a Roman god and doesn’t deserve the look they’ve achieved (which, 99% of the time couldn’t be further from the truth).

Gym Workout

It is entirely possible that this individual was at one point in a similar scenario to the aforementioned overweight person, and they just chose to persevere and transform their body. I assure you this individual would have nothing but respect for others in the gym because they would know exactly what it feels like to have others disparage you based on external appearance.

The preceding examples are just two of infinitely many situations people may be faced with. They merely serve to reinforce the point that despite the different obstacles we are faced with and our (perceived) physical imperfections, we all still share one common goal in the gym: to be better than yesterday’s version of ourselves.

I implore you to acknowledge and respect this before snapping to judgment about others in the gym (and any other environment for that matter). Maybe next time you see Fatty McTubbs walking on the treadmill you will see the positive side of the situation instead of tapping your friend on the shoulder and making some smart-ass joke? Or when Mr. Quadzilla is squatting 600lbs ass-to-grass, maybe you will accept the fact that he’s been working his butt off for decades to get to that point instead of assuming he’s just a half-witted, steroid-using genetic freak?

Everybody is, at one point or another, a beginner in the gym. If you see someone doing an exercise improperly, take the opportunity to help/teach them the correct way to do it. The gym should be about camaraderie and selflessness, not about mocking your peers because they’re “doing it wrong”.  Now, don’t take this to mean you should just stick your nose in other people’s business and correct every thing they do, but if someone is chronically performing something wrong and they are a newbie to the gym then it’s only natural to help guide them.

You don’t have to be a victim of circumstance

I wish I could tell you that making consistent improvement with your health and fitness will be easy as 1-2-3, but the reality is that you reap what you sow in and out of the gym. Half-assed effort usually yields half-assed results, so just take a step back before you embark on a committed plan to improve your health and understand that you really are only shortchanging yourself by making excuses or slacking on your diet and/or workouts. I know these statements sounds crude, but they are the truth (which is a tough pill to swallow at times).

There is a promising side to all this though, and that is the fact that you always have the choice to change for the better. No matter what your current situation is, no matter what your genetic shortcomings are, no matter what others tell you, you’re still the one in the driver’s seat. It’s pretty damned easy to wallow away and play the woe-is-me card, but where does that get you? Probably nowhere.

So you have the option to either let these circumstantial factors ruin your aspirations by continually making excuses and pitying yourself, or you can simply put your best effort forth in the things you can control and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. It may sound paradoxical, but when it comes to your fitness and physique, you don’t have to be a victim of circumstance, because you are in control.

Going forward

I hope this article has shed some new light on ways to approach your physique and fitness goals and set you up for success. If you don’t remember what was discussed, here’s the abridged version:

  • Find the right gym environment for your training style and goals.
  • Respect (and help) others in your gym rather than belittling them.
  • You’re in control of your choices when it comes to your fitness and body, don’t let the things beyond your control bog you down.

Now go and achieve your goals!