There are plenty of reasons not to go to the gym.
For some, playing a sport is a more enjoyable way to get their exercise. For others, going for a run or bike ride gets the job done. A lot of people, especially at Penn, have such busy schedules that they can’t make time to exercise at all.
Those are all good reasons not to go to the gym, but not going out of fear is often misguided.
Countless friends have divulged to me that they have been wanting to start going but are afraid to for various reasons. I’ve even had friends order dumbbells online so they can work out at home, which is notoriously expensive, not to mention cumbersome.
Stories like these are always upsetting for me to hear, as going to the gym for me has long been a way to get in good shape, clear my head, improve my mental health, and genuinely enjoy myself. I would hate for someone to miss out on an opportunity like that for a silly reason.
The fear that many face when going to the gym for the first time — or the first time in a while — is certainly not unfounded or irrational, but it is in many cases uninformed.
A lot of people assume they will be judged, fearing they look too skinny or too fat, or otherwise don’t fit the mold of their perceived "typical gym-goer." However, many people’s view of a gym’s patrons is distorted — most of them do not at all resemble the roided out, greased up, shirtless stars of Venice Beach in the 1980s; they actually look a lot more like the people you sit next to in class everyday.
There certainly are muscle gyms full of macho weight lifters grunting at a rate faster than most interstate speed limits, and those would admittedly not be a great place to start in your gym journey. However, Pottruck is not one of these muscle gyms — and neither are the vast majority of gyms one would encounter.
With that being said, even at a normal gym there’s a solid chance that as a beginner you may not be as in-shape as everyone there. However, that is no reason for fear, as I can assure you that no one there is paying attention to you.
That may sound harsh, but I mean it in the best way possible.
Working out can be a very involved and personal process, so most people are focused on themselves. They are thinking about their own workout, counting their reps, planning their next set, changing the song they’re listening to, replying to a text, or maybe even checking themselves out in a mirror. People are narcissistic, especially at the gym. The last thing anyone has time for is to scrutinize others.
Others may not care as much what people will think of them, but choose not to go because they simply don’t know where to start. This is understandable, and for people in this boat, it may be a good idea to tag along with an experienced friend the first few times — most gym-goers would be happy to help.
If you don't know anybody, then maybe check out YouTube. I mean this in all seriousness — there are probably more internet videos on gym and workout tips than there are rats in New York City, so it is a great place to look for help. As someone who has been going to gyms since middle school, I still consult the web all the time when I want to try out a new workout.
Avoiding free weights in favor of machines — which are often straightforward to use and display instructions on them — is also a good move.
If after all this you still have worries, you can try to start working out during times and places in which you will be less visible. For example, Pottruck is noticeably less busy during the day, and the fourth floor and multipurpose rooms always have less foot traffic. You can even try the Fox Fitness Center, a rarely used cozy Pottruck alternative nestled inside Franklin Field.
I’m not here to tell you to start going to the gym or to extol its benefits. Others can do that for you. But if you have a desire to go, don’t let fear stand in your way.
BRANDON PRIDE is a Wharton senior studying finance from Morgan Hill, Calif. who was a Senior Sports Editor for the 137th Board of Editors. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.