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You vs. The Gym

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I joined a gym last summer. I didn’t want to lose weight necessarily, but I wanted to be healthy. I am finally able to not obsess about a number on a scale. Just give me a place where I can build fitness and exercise into the balance of my happy life. It was a good idea in theory.

Eight months later, I couldn’t figure out why I would leave the gym every night feeling great in my body but sick in my soul. I would climb the Stairmaster, burning calories but all these negative thoughts would swirl in my head, such as comparing myself with the thinner girls I saw. Last night, I finally stopped and wondered, why does this place make me feel like I’m coming up short?

I didn’t have to wonder too long. One look around and I found that I was in good company. The girl next to me looked half-dead on her exercise bike. Two guys in the stretching area were trying to out-perform each other in feats of bravado. And who can forget the woman who, weighing no more than 100 pounds, stays on the elliptical machine for an hour until her sweat pours like rain.

All around you is evidence of striving, competing, and wallowing in a general undertone of discontent. It's why so many people hate the gym.

You can call it a spirit. You can call it energy. Whatever the name, there are some bad vibes going on at the gym, and it’s evident on everyone’s face.

If put in the right context, competition is quite healthy and can push you to be your best. However, it’s easy to take it the wrong way and turn it into discouragement. That leads to a poor attitude that can make your workouts less effective… not to mention kill your motivation to come back.

So, before your next workout, keep a few things in mind:

Be realistic. The girl in a sports bra with the flat stomach may have the perfect body from your view, but I can guarantee you that she suffers from the same insecurities that we all do. And she’s probably looking at you, envying your hair or your eyes. Be happy with yourself, where you are at and where you’re headed.

Focus. While you stretch, take a moment to breathe in deep and focus on your goals. Why are you working out today? What do you hope to accomplish? If you don’t have a goal, dedicate your workout to someone special. Do it for your grandmother or for a friend. If you keep your eyes on what’s important, you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked.

Take a buddy. As Jack Johnson sings, “It’s always better when we’re together.” Make fitness a family activity or grab a girlfriend and hit the track. You can encourage each other and keep the negative vibes away.

Get a theme song (or songs). Music and fitness is a no-brainer combination, but the music you listen to should be upbeat, positive and motivating. For me, I can run that extra mile when I've got Superchick's "One-Girl Revolution" in my ears. So get pumped the smart way. Skip the break-up songs and the slow jams. Whether it's Christian or secular, just make sure that your workout playlist includes songs that lift you up emotionally and boost your energy.

Pray. Keep a running dialogue with God. Ask for peace when you feel yourself succumbing to jealousy. Allow the Lord to remind you how much He loves you and values you just the way you are.

I believe that gyms can be great. They can provide variety and inspiration for your workout routine and promote healthiness. It’s a gift for the people who need it. I also know that the enemy would like nothing more than to take that gift and twist it into striving for perfection and placing a misguided premium on image. So don’t let it get to you. Be a light and let the world to see that health and contentment come from knowing who you really are, not how much you weigh.


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About The Author


Jennifer E. Jones writes witty musings on spiritual life, health and pop culture. She has interviewed many musicians, authors and actors, yet still considers being nearly hit by a water bottle at a TobyMac concert as her closest brush with fame.