I’ve written before about my struggles with my appearance; feeling fat causing many episodes of self loathing. I’ve never been a very sporty person, never really enjoyed exercising and dipped in and out of gym memberships for many years. I know that exercise is supposed to be one of the biggest aids when it comes to a healthy mind and it’s something I am trying to introduce into my life in a more steadfast manner. But it’s hard. It’s hard because I’m not only physically crap at exercise, but I suffer from insane amounts of self consciousness whenever I undertake anything remotely exercise-like. You know the score; you go for a run in the park in your oversized tee and leggings and you’re faced with all the beautiful lithe people in their new season Sweaty Betty gear. You feel embarrassed. You feel like the whole world is looking at you and thinking “Jesus, look at that whale running like Phoebe”.
To try and help with these feelings, I decided to join the PureGym near to my office with the intention of going in my lunch breaks. Granted I’ve had these intentions before and they’ve never really come to fruition, but last week I went. And I enjoyed it. It wasn’t as hideous an experience as I thought it would be and it felt like I was in control. I could do as little or as much as I liked, there wasn’t a load of people there so I needn’t feel too self conscious; I was giving it a go, it was a start.
As life goes, the next couple of days were a wash out. I had meetings at lunch and fell ill so I didn’t make it again as intended, but I wasn’t beating myself up about it, I’d just go again when I could. No-one was checking up on me or judging me.
Fast forward to today; 7 days after I first signed up to the gym and I’ve received an email from PureGym telling me “there’s not been much action” and using the words “gym shy”. Usually this sort of thing would not bother me; I know how marketing and communications work. But this email has really got to me; it’s angered me and it’s upset me. I beat myself up enough about not being fit enough, not being thin enough, not doing enough – I don’t need these thoughts to be reinforced. I don’t need to feel any worse about my body than I already do.
I know they wouldn’t have intended to make anyone feel like that but they did and I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt humiliated by it. If you want me to continue to use your gym, make me feel good about myself. Make me feel more confident. Make me feel like I’m doing something good. Don’t make me feel inferior, because chances are I’m just going to cancel my membership.