Running. Sweating. I come around the bend of the indoor track and pass a women in a gray sweatshirt. We look straight ahead as if no one was there. Invisible, I continue on and pass by a second woman. No eye contact, just intense focus.
I enter the weight room and there is an air to the place. Men are lifting and spotting their friends and you hear the sound of clanking metal as they re-rack the weights. The women, again, don't look at each other. They do their workout systematically, like a machine. It is a cold and unfriendly environment, exactly what I do not like. I decide to break the code and speak to the girl next to me. "Are you going to use these?" holding up the 10 lb. weights. She looks at me and I almost see a curl in her lip as if she is going to smile and then her lips quickly tighten back to a straight line.
Where am I? I feel as if I took my passport and entered a different culture. I remember I am in "gym" culture. I have worked at a lot of places and know the culture well. It unnerved me at first, but I soon learned to come to terms with the intensity. It was ruled by men who set the tone. No eye contact. Few words. I soon realized women followed their lead.
The typical gym experience is why so many shy away from it. Only 10% of Americans go to a gym and I can understand why. As a trainer I find it sad because with 30% of our population being obese the ones who need it the most don't feel comfortable enough to walk through the doors.
I have decided to make a point to be friendly and talk to the girls there. I freely get rid of my "cool" card and even approach the ones that have "Stay away from me." written across their forehead. (They are actually the most fun because usually they open up the most). You see, we are all social creatures who need community. It feels good to break the ice and relieve the unspoken tension from the white elephant in the weight room.
Next time you visit your gym, help a sister out and smile at her, don't just walk by. Maybe, just maybe, it will catch on. More will feel welcome. More will come. More will reach their goals and then pass it on.
Are you a gym goer or do you shy away?