I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on social media recently, namely the public shaming of people who don’t seem to know what they’re doing at the gym.
This was the first clip of this I saw:
And then I saw this Vine that follows the same format:
I am currently employed as a group fitness instructor, and have access to a full gym. While I frequently use the cardio room and free-weights, I rarely if ever venture into the weight room. Everyone in there is built like Craig Funk* clearly knows what they are doing, and despite being a fitness professional, I still have the same fear of looking like an idiot that I had the first time I entered a gym.
Gyms are fantastic places to get strong, healthy and lean, but if you have never been in one before they are also truly terrifying places. I have been the overweight, frumpy girl who clearly doesn’t belong in the gym. I have tried to make it look like I know what I am doing to all the lean, toned gym-bodies while I secretly have no idea what body part any of the equipment is meant to work. I have tried to avoid eye-contact and push through the embarrassment and fear of judgement as I try to lose weight and get healthy. I have spent entire visits to the gym worrying if everyone around me is laughing at me, judging me, or simply wishing I’d take my doesn’t-belong-here overweight self off the stair-climber and back to drive-thru fast food restaurant where it clearly belongs. And I have let those fears keep me from coming back.
I doubt I’m alone. I am sure most people entering the gym for the first time are worried everyone around them is laughing at them and judging them.
These YouTube and Vine clips prove them right.
Yes, it’s definitely funny when we see someone doing something wrong, but it’s also mean-spirited. While we may have the impulse to laugh, it may behoove us to take a second to remember that none of us walked into a gym the first time knowing how all the equipment worked. We either had a friend show us, the benefit of solid self-esteem to get past the initial hiccups and gym fails, and most importantly the good fortune to have started our fitness journeys before this new trend of online gym-shaming began.
While we may not be able to control the impulse to chuckle internally, we can definitely rise above the impulse to publicly humiliate someone online.
I could have finished that last sentence as follows: “…. someone online, especially someone who is trying to improve themselves.” That brings me to the flip-side of the mean-spirited gym-shaming, which is its positive discrimination counterpart. You’ve probably seen a lot of these sorts of posts online:
While I have massive respect for anyone who is trying to improve their lives with good health, especially when they face the level of disrespect overweight people suffer in this society, I am at odds with the overall messaging here.
Yes, if we see this person on a bicycle we should support and encourage them. But does that mean if we see them sitting on a couch with a box of cookies, we’re entitled to mock and denigrate them at will?
Maybe they aren’t trying to better themselves in the specific way we want them to (i.e. by losing weight and exercising), but maybe that person is bettering themselves by studying hard to finish a college degree. Maybe they are supporting their family. Maybe they foster children, or spend every free minute volunteering at a soup kitchen or a no-kill cat shelter. Maybe they are looking after a dying relative, or maybe they take care of an elderly neighbor they barely know. We should support and encourage people we meet whether or not they are focused on they self-improvements we think they should be prioritizing, and whether or not they are at the weight or health level we expect them to be.
In fact who are we to deem someone worthy of basic respect? Maybe they are making no improvements to themselves or meaningful contributions to society at all. That person is still a human being, which means they are worthy of respect and kindness regardless of any other consideration. It also means we are all equal, and no one person has the authority to judge the worth of another human being else based on their health, weight or activity level.
Respect isn’t something that should have to be earned. It should be the default.
And this brings me to Team DDP Yoga. Having been deterred from previous fitness and weight loss efforts by the ridicule of others, whether perceived or actual, I finally found an amazing community of people who truly support and care about one another. Team DDP is unique in that everyone wants the best for one another. People are allowed to fall off the wagon, make bad choices or hit the various hurdles we all encounter during a self-improvement project without fear of judgement or mockery, and when they’re ready to get back on the wagon, everyone is ready to give them a hand up. It’s the only place on earth where you can share your successes without any fear of cattiness or jealousy. It’s the only fitness community where you can ask for help without feeling stupid or embarrassed. Everyone is on your team, willing to help you out with anything you’re struggling with, and rooting for you every step of the way.
I can say without reservation that I never would have met with my goals without the support of all the friends and teammates I met at Team DDP. I never would have stuck with fitness for longer than a month (my previous personal best) without Team DDP. I never would have improved as a person without Team DDP.
If you’re looking for a healthy and supportive environment to get healthy, Team DDP is the most supportive and encouraging community you’re ever going to find. After all, it’s the “Best Support System on the Planet!”
* While Craig Funk has the most amazing physique, he is also an amazing, caring person too. He’s a true ambassador of TeamDDPyoga!