While reading articles on fitness blogs and websites I stumbled upon a post called ‘Are you a Fitness Bully?’ on the blog Girls Gone Strong. The title got my attention at first because I thought “hey I’ve felt bullied at the gym before.”
As I was reading it, my realization was not that it had happened to me, but rather “oh… that has definitely been me…” as in, I have been a bully.
The author of this post, Jen Comas, describes a guy who she had seen working out at the gym, day after day, doing the same three or four bicep exercises. In her head, she began referring to him as The Biceps Guy and it irked her that he only ever worked on his biceps. One day, he noticed her and struck up a conversation.
“You’re pretty serious about lifting weights,” he said to me.
“I love it!” I gushed. “Being strong just makes life easier, ya know?”
“Yeah, probably. I just come here to escape,” he replied.
The way he said it, paired with the expression on his face, told me something was up. His home life, his job… who knows? He didn’t elaborate; he just wished me a good day and walked off.
That conversation forever changed the way she thought about the people she encountered at the gym and the poor people victimized on social media, just because they don’t work out the way others do.
The author goes on to talk about how her Facebook feed has more frequently been full of her friends and fellow fitness enthusiasts mocking people they had seen at the gym. She saw everything from women making fun of a man in the background of her photos who is lifting less than she is to people bashing others for being involved in Crossfit or Zumba.
Through reading her whole post, I felt less like I was the victim and more like I was one of the Fitness Bullies she was talking about.
Like the author, I was never the type of person who would video someone exercising to criticize them on social media, but I was guilty of other types of bullying, as are most of us. Comments with friends about other people’s form, giggling at someone as he/she dances around with their iPod on at the gym, even just glaring at someone because they are lifting heavier weights than you is all potentially harmful to that person.
We all see things at the gym or on the trail that we don’t like or agree with, but that doesn’t give us the right to judge someone. None of us have been in another person’s shoes before. You don’t know his or her whole story.
It could be that person’s first step in fitness and your unwelcoming sneer could make her turn around and leave. The person could just be taking a class to have fun with her friends and doesn’t give a damn about getting the moves exactly right or lifting a heavier weight. That one guy doing the same exercises over and over could be getting out the stress of his day or he could be just learning and does whatever is familiar. On the reverse side, the person who is lifting the heaviest weights and is showing off proudly may have just reached a personal goal. Wouldn’t you be just as happy?
I am guilty of fitness shaming as many of us are. But why? We are all working toward a common goal: to be healthy and strong.
So in closing, here is a challenge of the non-physical variety: next time you find yourself being a fitness bully, step back and put yourself into that person’s shoes. Like Jess’s video she posted today, we all have goals and we should help each other reach those goals.
Like the author of the post that inspired this one said: “Rather than bashing what we hate, let’s promote more of what we love. Let’s put an end to fitness shaming for good!”