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.
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