I Will Not Be Joining Your Gym

This is not the gym I visited, but it is pretty emblematic of the “fitness” attitude that I dislike.

Yesterday, I thought about joining a gym. It’s in my building, group classes, shower access, blah blah blah. I went to investigate and it turns out, I will not be joining this gym. Here’s why:

The scene: The lobby of the swanky-swank, fancy-schmancy gym (or “training gym,” as our tour guide kept emphasizing).

The Characters: Our trainer/guide, equal parts super white teeth and commission-based enthusiasm. Me and my very tall, very leggy, very lean friend. Just a reminder: leggy, lean, and tall are not adjectives used to describe me. 

The trainers asks us about our current exercise habits. I answer truthfully (yoga and elliptical-based cardio). My friend scoffs and confesses that, despite being a former athlete, she hasn’t worked out in a year. He tells her that she “looks like she’s in good shape.”

I should tell you a few things about this gym. The motto is “Look Good Naked.” They have classes like “Pain and Pleasure,” and “ASSolutely ABBulous” (Note: I have no idea why they capitalize the second B). The trainer, in his reiteration of the gym’s training focus, referred to helping clients “achieve a certain aesthetic vision”.

I should say right now that this gym is probably perfect for many people, and more power to them. Many people do work out specifically to “achieve a certain aesthetic vision.” From a use-case perspective, this aesthetic pitch is probably dead-on 85% of the time. But for me, it did nothing but convince me that this is really not a place I want to spend very much time.

I want my body to be healthier and stronger, and I measure that by achievement. Run longer, run faster, do more push-ups, hold hurdler’s pose an extra two breaths. I’m not saying I don’t look in the mirror every once in a while and wonder what life would be like with a body different than the one I have, I do. But then I remind myself that this is the body I’ve got, and it’s actually pretty fucking awesome and I smile and move on with my day.

On a broader note, the comment about “looking like you’re in good shape” drives me up the wall. In one sentence, it encapsulates our general conflation of thinness and fitness. What you mean when you say “You look like you’re in good shape” is “You look thin.” I do not look thin, therefore I do not look like I’m in good shape. This is NOT a criticism of my lovely friend, but criticism of the attitude of the trainer and the gym that the only metric for exercise success is weight and/or waist size. He’s a fitness professional who, presumably, has had some considerable training in exercise and nutrition. He, presumably, is aware that some big people can run 5Ks and some thin people can’t climb a flight of stairs. It’s a measure of his, and probably his employer’s, priorities that the illusion of  fitness (as indicated by dress size) is prioritized over cardiovascular or muscular health.

I did not enroll.

Related Post: Amy is afraid people won’t want her as a running coach because she doesn’t look the way a lot of running coaches look.

Related Post: A yoga studio that bans skinny people? Yeah… no.

Related Post: Don’t take my picture! Come on, you’re at the beach!

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10 Comments

Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Sports

10 responses to “I Will Not Be Joining Your Gym

  1. I agree 100%! Recently wrote a similar post but about the general health (i.e. dietdietdiet) attitude. I would not join a gym like this one either… good for you 🙂

  2. Good call. “Fitness” ideologies like that are under-thought at best. I’m far more drawn to gyms/groups who emphasize true health (absence of disease) and fitness (the ability to perform activities).

    Personally, I couldn’t care less how I looked naked if I wasn’t able to walk anymore. Ironically, some of the most muscular people are the ones who will tear them hamstrings when they jog because they’re so focused on aesthetics that they forget anything else in the world exists.

    Lastly, I personally wouldn’t presume that your trainer knows anything. Trainers are often incredibly under-educated. There are even certifications some gyms promote that can be received in thirty minutes on the internet without prior knowledge in the field.

    America’s mainstream gym scene currently sucks. Great post, though! I’m always thankful to see rational people like you promote true health and fitness pursuits. 🙂

  3. aviatrixkim

    I feel this exact way about fitness. And it’s the same reason most of the women’s “health” magazines drive me insane: they assume our goal is fitness=hot body=score a man, rather than fitness=health=happiness. (And no amount of exercise is ever going to make me taller than 5’3″.)

  4. I note that the Equinox ad says” It’s not fitness, it’s life…” Whose? I can’t remember how long it’s been since I did a backbend in a party dress while a man pointed his (much too large) thingy at me…

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