Have you ever judged someone during their workout?
I totally have.
Besides involuntarily checking people’s form constantly while I’m in a gym (side effect of doing that for a living, I swear I can’t help it), in the past I have glanced over at other people in class and thought to myself “Pshhhst. You’re not working as hard as you could.”
But now the treadmills have turned. Going on almost a year of recovering from my hip injury, I’ve been feeling pretty judged. I feel like people must think I’m doing a lame workout, or that I could go harder or faster, or wondering why I always seem to be doing the same exercises over and over. The other people in the gym may or may not actually think this about me, because most of those judgements are in my head. But it does make me self-conscious at times. I’m judging myself based on standards I either hold myself to, or standards I think others believe in.
When I was invited to do Barry's Bootcamp for a good cause a few weeks back, I immediately had two concerns: First, was my body even capable of making it through that workout, and second, will people judge me if I’m not able to do the first?
It also made me ponder how other people must feel about fitness when they’re a little new to it. There are probably loads of other people out there that worry about their own injuries holding them back, but more so, I bet there are a ton of people who worry about what they look like or whether they’re “strong enough” or “in good enough shape” to try a new workout. It must be so intimidating to get back into working out, to walk into a gym or a class where it looks like everyone but you knows what they’re doing.
In case you didn’t know, I’ve been recovering from a torn left hip labrum for most of this past year. What the heck’s a hip labrum you ask? Here’s how I explain it to people:
Make a fist with your right hand. That’s your femur bone, or, that big enormous bone in your leg.
Make a “cup” shape with your left hand. That’s your pelvis, or, your hip that basically holds your whole body together.
Hold the cup over your fist. That’s your femur fitting into your pelvis.
Now imagine the salted rim of a margarita glass. Don’t get distracted! This is science, not happy hour.
There’s a piece of tissue called your labrum that looks like the salted rim of your favorite drink, and it suctions your femur into your pelvis.
So that tiny yet super strong and important piece of tissue that basically holds my leg into my pelvis…that’s what I tore. Yeah. Ouch. Majorly inconvenient.
My apologies to any super smart medical people who just rolled their eyes at my explanation.
Okay! So now you understand my apprehension when my work friend Joe (a beautiful, sparkly, lovely specimen of a man) invited a bunch of colleagues (including me! I'm special!) to celebrate his 1 year sobriety birthday at Barry's Bootcamp FiDi
I thought it was so cool that he wanted to celebrate this personal milestone in his life with fitness and movement, and I really wanted to go.
But I was worried about whether I could handle the workout or not.
Barry’s is about what you’d imagine it to be: loud music blaring, dark intense lighting, running, sweating, weight lifting, and all of it topped off by a gorgeous instructor who keeps yelling at you. The goal is to get a hard workout in and sweat your ass off, and you can see how hard everyone else is working just by glancing at their treadmill or their weights.
It’s pretty intimidating.
I’ve done Barry’s before, years ago, when I was in great physical condition, running half marathons, competing in pole dancing, and I STILL found it intimidating.
So I found myself registered for the class, 2 weeks out from my Physical Therapist clearing me to return to “normal” activity, wondering if I’d even make it past the first circuit.
You know what though? I figured, I can’t be the first person to wonder if they can handle this class. I can’t be the first person to worry if other people in the class will stare at them for not being able to keep up. I can’t be the first non-perfectly-chiseled-ab person to try and make it through this 45-minute class.
I showed up at Barry's Bootcamp FiDi a few minutes early, and true to form, our Barry’s Bootcamp Instructor emerged, and was basically the most gorgeous man on the planet, Thomas Stracke:
Shameless Disclaimer: I absolutely stole this photo from his Facebook because it’s truly just too beautiful not to share with the world. Sorry not sorry.
We all filed into the dark room, found our assigned treadmill, and immediately the gals on either side of me, clearly veterans of this workout as evidenced by their multiple pieces of clothing labeled “Barry’s”, ramped up the speed on the treadmill like Thomas told us to.
I brought mine up to a brisk walk.
For the next 10 minutes, Thomas alternated between yelling weight lifting instructions to those on the floor and yelling the running intervals to those of us on the treadmills. The thing about having your treadmill literally half an inch from someone else’s is that they keep peeking over at your screen to see who’s working harder. Maybe I was projecting, but probably I wasn’t, but I’m pretty sure my treadmill neighbors were not impressed with my “maximum effort sprint” that topped out at 5.0 mph (a 12 minute mile, definitely not a sprint) and my recovery run speed of a walk. They gave me hi-fives like Thomas instructed everyone to do, but did I sense a little resentment in those hi-fives? Well, too bad. I’m not going to re-injure myself to impress some strangers.
Were people actually judging me for not working as hard as them? I have no idea. All I know is that I have judged people in the past for appearing to be perfectly capable of a workout and not “trying” as hard as me. I was feeling judged in that moment because old me would have judged me. Talk about learning a lesson.
Next up was the floor weight lifting, which was basically more of me going way more slowly than everyone else, modifying for my hip when necessary, and constantly reminding myself that I was here to support my friend Joe, and not to impress anyone.
This is a hard reminder to tell yourself when you want to be the baddest bitch in the room.
I was feeling pretty self-conscious at this point, and whether people were actually looking at me with judgement or not, I felt like probably a lot of people feel when they’re not confident in their abilities during a workout, and I wasn’t having fun, and I was starting to feel pretty bad about myself.
And then I thought to myself: “How can I turn this situation around into something that feels genuine and healthy to me? How can I change the conditions to make me feel more comfortable?”
My hip was starting to get tired, so instead of hopping back on the treadmills, I decided to document Joe’s celebration class instead. I grabbed my phone, and shot adorable pictures of my co-workers sweating it out together, which is a pretty damn cool thing. While Thomas yelled over the music for our second round, I wandered the floor, taking selfies, and not really giving a fuck what anyone thought of me. After all, I paid for this class, why not make the class an experience I enjoyed?
During my second round of weight lifting, I modified about 90% of the exercises, and was totally out of sync with everyone else. Nobody said anything because at this point I had established myself as the weirdo in class who was dancing to their own tune. The resentful onlookers kept their judgey-wudgey looks to themselves. It was awesome.
By the end of class, I had some great pics, I was tired and sweaty, but most importantly, I was really proud of myself for turning a situation that made me feel self-conscious into one that I felt really good about. I shouldn’t have to explain to everyone that I have an injury so please don’t judge me for not keeping up with you. I should just be allowed to do the best I can. And so should everyone else.
Barry’s Bootcamp is a high intensity workout for sure. If you want to work hard, they have something for you. If you want to feel like a badass, it’s the right place for you.
But also, if you want to give it your best shot, you can do that too. Just make it your own experience and don’t worry so much about what everyone else thinks.
After our class, the DIAKADI team and friends that had come out to support the fabulous and wonderful Joe Andrews for his sobriety birthday gathered up for a group photo. It was so great to have been able to be a part of this support crew, whether it had been my ideal workout or not.
I was proud of myself for working through both physical and emotional challenges that the class brought up for me, and felt like I had won battles on both sides. Because I took it easy in class but pushed myself a little, my hip was sore for the approved 24 hours and went back to its new normal afterwards. Because I made the situation one I was more comfortable with, I felt great about how I handled a class that felt outside my comfort zone and turned it into a good memory.
If you feel self-conscious about trying a new fitness activity, or anything for that matter, you have a couple of choices. You can either sit it out, be okay with some things just not being for you, and possibly wonder what would happen if you tried it. Or you can show up to something that scares you, give it a shot, and turn it into an experience that feels good to YOU. It shouldn’t matter what you look like, how slow you go, or if you’re out of sync with everyone else. BUT….if it DOES matter to you, then own that and make it yours. But don’t let not being the strongest, fittest, fastest person in the class hold you back from putting yourself out there.