The word “gym” doesn’t represent what it has the potential to. In fact I belong to that vast and varied group of people that regularly and loudly state they “hate gyms”.
We can point the finger at Globo Gym, Planet Fitness, and Swipe Card Fitness and blame them for the bastardisation of what should really be an inspiring and exciting concept, or blame magazines, advertising, the internet, under-educated personal trainers, or all of the above. Sadly, “gyms” just don’t do it for us.
I grew up in boxing clubs, trained at Olympic Weightlifting clubs, martial arts clubs and with anyone who was doing something interesting or had something to teach. I tried sprinting, cycling, swimming, but I refused to go and run on a treadmill or lift weights in a commercial gym on a regular basis. I couldn’t stand the thought of walking into an ego-driven, aesthetic-focused environment, full of people who were wandering mindlessly from one machine to another. No one seemed to learn anything new about their bodies or themselves in these places. These “gyms” looked and felt . . . unhealthy (and still do).
I hear it all the time in my job from people who feel the same way: “I know I should go to the gym, but it’s a bit . . you know, full of douchebags”. It was deeply saddening when a client once told me that she didn’t feel like she was ready to go to the gym yet because she was embarrassed about how she looked. And I felt partly responsible, because although I may not have contributed to her feeling like that, I was a Personal Trainer who was part of that industry that seems to do a better job at making people feel unworthy than it is at inspiring and motivating them to enjoy exercise.
Where was this place where everyone could go to get stronger and fitter and more confident? Where was the non-judgemental community which supports its members and encourages positive action, positive role models? Sadly, except for a few rare gems and independent personal training studios, I’ve come to realise it’s a myth – it doesn’t exist.
So how do you build that? That place built on the principle of inclusiveness that feels like a second home? How do you actually get stronger and fitter and have an engaging community atmosphere? Well, if you haven’t already, get a training buddy, or two, or three. People who will support, encourage and motivate you and come along for the ride. Go to group classes and laugh, sweat and learn with everyone else.
Build an awesome team around you and you cannot fail, no matter what your goal is.
If you want to train somewhere free of big egos, then leave your own at the door. If you want to be accepted, then accept everyone else, their goals, their struggles, and their journey, it’s probably not that different to yours. And if you want to make new friends, start by saying hi to a stranger.
It seems pretty common sense when it’s written like this, but in the real world these things are hard to do at first. They’re muscles that are not often used and need to be encouraged and trained.
We built Urban Athletic because we know that there is something more to being healthy, fit and strong than rows of treadmills and bench presses. The missing piece of the puzzle is the community, the atmosphere, and the environment that encourages and nurtures people. Without that, it’s just a big room with stuff in it.
Hope to see you in the “gym”.