Every year about this time, droves of people storm the gyms, firmly resolved to get into a fitness routine that will get them ready to wear a bathing suit and lead them into a life of health and beauty. Most of them don't make it beyond the first week or two. Those of us who have managed to stick around for the long term are quick to point a finger and raise accusations about lack of commitment and self-discipline.
But it's just not that simple.
Being successful in the gym is about as difficult as being successful in life. It takes a lot more than commitment and self-discipline. The gym is a microcosm for society - nearly everyone is represented there - and if you are challenged by certain situations in your life, then you will also find those situations in spinning class or on the weight floor.
Several years ago, I used to attend a gym in my town. There was one woman there (I'll call her Sue) who always worked out at the same time as I and she had a habit of talking incessantly. Sue would talk while lifting, she would talk while on the cardio equipment - and it didn't even matter if she knew the person who was next to her - she always had something to say. I didn't mind so much that she talked, but she talked very loudly and she talked about topics like celebrity gossip and how much money she saved clipping coupons.
I admit, I judged her. I saw her as inconsiderate, perhaps unintelligent. As time went on, she got under my skin. Even when I had my headphones on with music, I could hear Sue yapping away. Eventually, I quit that gym, mostly because she was always there, and I was always irritated by her.
I have belonged to several gyms since then, and I can tell you that every gym has its Sue. And they all have a guy who confuses his obesity with muscle, and he walks around wearing one of those tank tops that show nipple. Then there's "cologne man", "unbearably skinny treadmill girl", and "the f-bomber" who cusses at least at the beginning and end of each sentence.
These are people. They are part of the package, and whether you're trying to lose weight or climb the career ladder or gain spiritual strength or just get through the day, you will have learn to deal with them, tolerate them, or love them if you want to be among them. Among us.
I returned to my old gym the other day because I'd heard they moved to a new location and had a nice set-up with new equipment. Sue was still there. She's matured a bit, I think. She wasn't talking as much and she was more subdued than I remembered her. Yet when I climbed up onto the elliptical trainer, I found myself square in front of a young woman loudly chatting away about what seemed like so much nonsense to me. But she has a right to do that if she wants to. And I already know that no matter where I go, she will be there. Trouble is... so will I. The only way to avoid being irritated by her is to change my response to her.
When you join a gym, you become a member of a community. This is what makes the experience such a challenge, but it's also what gives it value. The people you see every day at the gym are on the journey with you. If you treat them with respect and kindness, chances are they will provide you with the accountability and the motivation to keep showing up every day, keep working. They will teach you how to get along, how to play nice, how to be part of a community. And that's what it's all about.
Julie Scipioni McKown is a certified personal trainer, and a physique transformation champion. Her e-book, Body Wizardry: The Art of Physique Transformation from the Inside, Out is now available for the Kindle ebook reader. Don't have a Kindle? Get yours here. For information on purchasing other versions of the ebook, email us at
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