Staring at the gym.

I stare at myself at the gym…

Did you just cringe at that statement and decide never to read my blog again? I can hear some of you now: “She stares at herself at the gym? She’s so different from what I imagined. I don’t like her anymore.” I understand your reaction, but before you get your granny panties in a bunch, or your thong in knots, let me please explain.

I’ve been going to the gym since high school. As a part of the track team, it was mandatory to hit the weight room during the week. Oh it was an old musty place with a scattering of 1. boys who were trying so hard 2. the jocks (a.k.a. mighty kings and lords) 3. track team girls. All other high school girls were apparently betting on their teenager body staying the same forever with no effort. It seems to me now that the only girls ever interested in working out were the girls who were already dedicated to a sport and pushing the limits of their bodies. And boy did they have bodies. I distinctly remember one girl, let’s call her…Perfection. Perfection was freaking perfect, and I wanted so badly to live up to that. Admit it. You knew a girl named Perfect in high school too, didn’t you? Well, it didn’t matter how good I was feeling when I woke up in the morning, if she stood next to me I withered like day old lettuce with tomato on top. The problem, of course, was that I couldn’t find a single thing flawed on her. I knew my strengths, but I also knew my weaknesses. She had none.

But the thing that drove me mad with envy inevitably wasn’t her lack of flaws, but the sheer perfection of her legs. They were everything that a woman’s legs should be. Perfectly proportioned calves and thigh muscles that tensed when she walked. They glowed with I’m-an-athlete perfection. Although I had nice runner’s legs myself, I felt like hers were the epitome of everything to be strived for. Sidenote: If any feminists were on the fence about my blog, they’ll never return when they hear this. My reason for going to the gym shifted from strengthening myself for racing to making it my life’s mission to achieve such beautiful legs. Random Poll: How many of you have flat out lied and said that your health was your number one reason for going to the gym? It’s okay. This is a safe place.

Back to my point. Skip ahead to college. I’m at the gym regularly, but this time it’s a big fancy gym with lots and lots of mirrors. Of course I never permit myself to look in the mirror. Such vanity! Such public vanity! “Who developed this system of torment,” I thought. “They must be laughing at us all- trying so hard not to sneak a peek at how things are progressing in our various body regions.” And this was my thinking well into adulthood. I never looked. I always used the machines and stayed away from the mirrors. Then something changed.

I started using free weights and because of that, I needed the mirrors to check my form. I discovered that mirrors were there to help us, not shame us by revealing our¬†narcissistic selves publicly. I realized that not only is it okay to look, it’s good to look. And, everybody’s doing it!

So my dear Readers, what did we learn? 1. If you never have mirrors around you at the gym then you must get out of the girlie section once in a while and lift some weights. 2. The next time you’re hitting those squats or lunges, check the mirror to be sure you’re doing it safely and with good form. 3. While you’re checking your form, it’s okay to check yourself out too.

When you see those perfectly proportioned calves or firm thigh muscles (or both) it’s something to be proud of.

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