I was at the gym yesterday after doing some long stretching, and our in-building gym trainer was between personal training sessions, so we had a bit of small talk, which included him suggesting some strength exercises to incorporate into my routine to complement my running (he tends to always come in when I’m on the treadmill). After just a few reps with his guidance and a resistance band around my thighs, I was already exhausted and feeling sore.
We exchanged comments and grievances about health and fitness, and I told him how frustrating it used to be going to the old gyms I used to visit before we had this in-building gym, and how frustrated I used to get when I’d see people sitting in the middle of the floor, talking on the phone or texting, or even just scrolling through Instagram. The gym is where you go to work out, to exercise, to get away from all the distractions of the day, I said to him. Why would you spend all this time and money to go to a gym and not do a real workout? That just boggles my mind.
He responded that a lot of people want appearances. They want to be able to say that they “went to the gym” or “had their workout.” In their minds, when they hear the saying, “Half of winning is showing up,” they are literally thinking that they have won just by going to the gym; whether they actually broke a sweat is another story.
“You know that saying — ‘All the world’s a stage?'” he said to me while I was doing my squats with the resistance band. “Everyone is constantly in a state of acting in this world: on the street, in the office, with their families at the dinner table. But at the gym, this is really your one chance just to be yourself, to be who you really are. No one is really watching you or keeping tabs on you. It’s just you and yourself. So what are you going to do when it’s just you? That’s when the real you comes out, and if you don’t want to actually do what you came there for, it reveals a lot about you. It’s why I love working as a personal trainer. I get to be with people when their true selves come out.”
That was pretty well stated, and he’s right: at the gym or during exercise, you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself.