Credit: Fit For Life 24/7 Gym via Facebook

The gym is my double-edged sword

By Isaac McLean

From the fear of the gym to gym addiction, writer Isaac unpacks the thoughts and feelings that many of us experience when going to the gym.

The word ‘gym’ will resonate differently with each person. For me, it is a double-edged sword, a place that can produce both highs and lows. I have always enjoyed sports, so the gym always seemed like a rather dull idea to me. The repetitiveness of it all seemed tentative when I could instead play a game of football, squash, or tennis. Its desolate, ordered appearance of weights and benches provides a stoic impression. Its emptiness is daunting, yet when it is full, its brim is seeping. At least, that’s how it appears to a newbie. It’s easy to be intimidated by all these modern-day Adonis’. To the eye of a newbie, their bodily perfection blends awe and intimidation, proceeding to unforgivingly force-feed the impotent mixture down the newcomer’s throat. 

The sheer volume of contradictory information available online about the gym can also be overwhelming and leave a starter flustered. Where do I start? What machine do I use? What weight do I lift? What’s the right technique? Are people judging me? The vulnerability of putting oneself in the gym environment is why so many people struggle or are put off from going in the first place. Nobody wants to be self-conscious after all; anxiety and low confidence can be the motivation behind beginning and quitting. Luckily, a couple of my mates are junkies of the gym. They showed me the ropes – and the cables and the rings. Successfully immersed, after many prior failed attempts, the gym quickly became a second home for me. I religiously turned out for push, pull, shoulders, chest, legs, and abs. You name it, I trained it. 

Consistently forewarned that the novelty would soon wear off, I was determined to let the gym obsession last. After the duplicitously natured ‘beginner’s gains’ had worn off, there the real test of character lay. It isn’t as easy to go day in and day out when all visible physical progress tailors off; the natural response for many is to throw in the proverbial towel. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. The progress and the accompanying package of pride are welcomed allies. However, greediness is your foe and a deceptive one at that. Inch by inch perfection creeps into your outlook. Nothing is ever good enough. There will always be someone who lifts more, who is more shredded, whose body is more symmetrical. One’s perception inevitably becomes tainted – the steroid-headed self-professed “natties” make sure of that.

The initial struggle is making going to the gym a habit. The secondary struggle, and profoundly more challenging, is the one within: how can I strive for self-improvement without developing a toxic obsession with body image? I would be lying if I said I have the answer – I don’t. But at least I still get to enjoy that pre-workout buzz.


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