How Peter Ross got over his presumptions about the gym, and made one of the best decisions of his life.
I love the gym. I first started lifting weights a few years ago in order to improve my competition judo. I saw it as merely a means to an end—I wasn’t going to be one of “those guys”: I had a clear purpose in setting foot in the gym. It wasn’t long, though, before I found a love of lifting iron for its own sake. If I wasn’t still practicing judo, I’d probably be doing competitive powerlifting right now. The gym is a great place for any man to be—no matter what is going on in your life, whether your job stinks, or if you’re having relationship problems, the iron is always there as a release. Even better, when you feel like you aren’t achieving anything, when you need to just gain a bit of momentum in life and get things happening, the iron is the perfect place to start.
See, there is nothing at all subjective about lifting weights. There are no crowds to distract you, no referees to stop you and certainly no judges that can screw you over for any reason. When you step up to any exercise it is just you and the weights. If you can’t lift it, you can’t lift it. The failure is yours and the fault of no one else; you just need to train harder. When you break a personal record it is no different—the achievement is yours and yours alone. Lifting also improves your mental strength along with your physical strength; when you have double your bodyweight on your shoulders and have to squat with perfect form or risk serious injury you need tremendous mental strength.
I was recently having a chat with a work colleague about going to the gym when he said something that really bugged me. After giving the caveat that trying to get really strong was okay, he made it clear that he thought of any other bloke in the gym as something of a preening narcissist. The sad thing is, I have seen this kind of behaviour on many online forums from men and women alike. Even in person, when it comes to the topic of gyms no one seems to be shy about throwing their negative feelings out there. I had similar opinions, once upon a time. What I find most pathetic about it is not the ignorant opinion, but the fact that these people admit they’d go to the gym “if there weren’t so many tossers there.”
I’m going to call everyone with these sorts of opinions out right now: you’re either jealous or just woefully insecure if you will not set foot in a gym because you think everyone inside is some kind of “Jersey Shore” type that constantly poses in the mirror. Being in the army I’ve had to travel a fair bit, and have been to my share of different gyms—military gyms, health club type gyms and small Spartan, dungeon like gyms. The number of “Jersey Shore” types I have seen in all of these gyms combined is so minimal as to be almost non-existent. Believe it or not, most gyms are frequented by regular, everyday people. Some do weights (and usually poorly), some do cardio, some do both. If you’re scared of going to a gym because there will be an army of buff guys waiting to make you look bad, don’t worry: you’ll fit in just fine.
The other thing that really bugs me is this attitude that there is something wrong with training like a bodybuilder for aesthetic reasons. Seriously, what is the problem? Most men will spend money on grooming products to make themselves look good, or spend plenty of time styling their hair, but when it comes to spending time in a gym to make their body look better it’s all of a sudden labelled as narcissistic. There are also those that get all offended and complain when people grunt or make noises while they are lifting. What’s next, people complaining if you sweat? If you never need to grunt while you’re at the gym lifting weights, you’re probably not working hard enough.
I wrote this article not to complain or have a rant, but to encourage guys to get over their silly hang ups and give the iron a try. There’s nothing intimidating about your average gym, you just need to find one that’s right for you—the odds of which are good. Bodybuilding and powerlifting gyms are rare and not advertised like your typical health club, so there’s no chance of you accidentally stumbling into such places. All you need to do is respect the other people there and their reasons for working out. At the end of the day, very few people in any gym are going to care about what you do. No one is going to snicker, or point and laugh because you are only lifting a small amount of weight—we all started there. You might even be surprised by how willing people are to help you out with your lifting technique or by providing a spot if you need it. Don’t let your assumptions or insecurities get in the way of something you could end up loving.
Image of bodybuilder in training room courtesy of Shutterstock