A freshman once saw a cute guy at the gym and tried to show off by turning up the speed on the treadmill. Unfortunately, her shoe got caught on the treadmill and she fell off the machine right as the guy passed by. Although embarrassed, she was able to push past the shame and still works out regularly, but she now keeps the treadmill on a lower speed.
This freshman is part of a Cornerstone class surveyed last week on the subject of “gymtimidation.” It’s a real problem and it’s something the SWRC can change by encouraging acceptance of all body types and teaching beginners how to use equipment.
Comedian Brian Regan described the issue of gymtimidation in one of his sketches.
“I joined the health club,” he said. “That’s intimidating. You always have some big giant guy showing you around. I think he was making up muscle names just to mess with me.”
It’s something everyone can laugh at with Brian Regan.
But when it’s your turn to feel the shame, the overwhelming self-consciousness as you compare your flabby arms to the toned biceps flashing around you, the fear of hearing your own heavy breathing as you crawl on the stair-stepper and the humiliation of showering in front of stick-thin models, it’s really no laughing matter.
Despite having a state-of-the-art, free recreation center at their fingertips, some ACU students still avoid the gym. While they may swipe in for a PE credit or intramural game, they rarely go to the SWRC for personal exercise. Other students make it to the gym, but avoid the down-stairs weight area.
In a survey of ten freshmen in one Cornerstone class, half the students said they feel intimidated when they see strong, experienced people working out. Although the surveyed students still go to the gym, 3 out of 10 avoid the weight area when they exercise.
The CDC recommends muscle-strengthening activities for all major muscle groups at least two days a week and a study by Purdue University shows that students who regularly go to the gym have higher grades and better time management skills.
But when students compare these benefits to the embarrassment of having to work out in front of more experienced people, many decide to just stay home.
Gymtimidation is partially based on a student’s determination and self-esteem, but the SWRC can still help students. The Curves for Women gym franchise promotes exercise for middle-aged women. They offer a gym atmosphere that is free of mirrors and intimidation. Planet Fitness, another gym franchise, posts signs that say “No critics” on their walls.
The SWRC could do something similar by promoting workout times for beginners or a “mirror-free” event that encourages self-confidence. Even though a few P.E. classes teach weight training skills to students, according to the survey, 3 out of 10 freshmen don’t know how to use the weight machines. The SWRC should offer basic instruction on gym procedures to freshman during Wildcat Week. There should also be an SWRC employee moving throughout the gym to keep equipment clean and answer questions.
ACU prides itself on being innovative, exceptional and real in everything the university does. If the SWRC is going to be exceptional, it needs to implement policies that will boost student’s self-confidence in the gym. It needs to encourage attitudes and habits that will combat gymtimidation and make it possible for freshman, like the one who tripped in front of the cute guy, to overcome embarrassment and continue staying healthy.