I was reading a blog last week that brought up an issue that i’ve seen a cart load of times on various healthy living and weight loss blogs: “I worry about working out because I’m afraid of other people seeing me.”
This particular blog was addressing an US Weekly article that Runner’s World Magazine posted on Facebook about a chubby KFed going for a run. The article touched a sore point for a lot of people, who are afraid of being judged and ridiculed if they step foot outside to exercise. If US Weekly can make fun of Kevin Federline, then probably everyone else is making fun of you, too, right?
In response to the article and the resulting flack that RW got for posting it, Ben basically says that the fear that other people are judging you is “nearly 100% in your head.”
I just had to say that I really disagree.
Maybe I am on the supreme court of judgmentalism, but I always notice people, including those people working out. My eyeballs are open. And I know what overweight looks like. Or what morbidly obese looks like. Which is not to say that I can calculate your BMI just by looking. I’m not the Rainman of fatness here. But given the miracle of sight, I do see people working out and I notice if they’re overweight.
I notice people’s clothing. Their hair. Their makeup. If they can walk in their high heel shoes. And to some degree, these things say something. Like you have a corporate job. You like wearing all black. You spend time getting your hair done. Maybe I will guess that you are a tourist from Belarus.
I make observations in the gym and out running, as well.
If you’re in my line of vision and you’re chubby, I will notice.
But the same goes if you’ve got an incredible body.
And if you’re exceptionally, boringly normal, I will probably see you, too. But you might not spark enough cogitation in my brain mechanism to warrant a fully formed thought.
Instead, I will have a fleeting notice of the guy with the really big arms and I will make the assumption that he probably works out a lot.
The really thin girl who is frantically pedaling away on the elliptical? I will notice her and I’ll wonder about her.
The chick on the treadmill next to me in the terry track suit walking at 1.5 mph (for reals) pace while she farts around on her phone at 6 am… I am definitely wondering about her, too.
If I saw a guy like Kevin Federline running around my lake, I would think in my head that he was fat and I’d wonder why he chose to run without a shirt. But I tend to wonder the same thing about fitter guys, too. Are they just really warm? Do they think they look awesome? Are they actually trying to show off their bodies in a kinda douchey way? Or do they just like the way it feels?
I don’t think I’m special. I think I’m pretty normal really. And that means that most likely, people other than me are looking at you when you exercise. You’re not invisible. Surprise!
And people are going to notice if you’re overweight. Which doesn’t mean that they’re thinking that you’re gross or that you don’t belong or that you suck. But for most of us, our overweightness is not a secret. It’s not like I’ve squirreled away an extra 50 pounds that I’ve discreetly hidden away in one foot. You can see it, no matter what I’m wearing or what I’m doing. It’s not a judgement. It’s an observation.
If you are new to working out and you’re feeling nervous about all the *other people,* I do have some actual recommendations other than the above pontificated “get over it.”
Wear clothes. KFed chose to go out without a shirt. He knows he’s chubby. He’ knows that there are paparazzi. Obviously, he’s not worried about people seeing the fatness. If you are, put a shirt on.
Get a good sports bra. If your gazongas are bouncing around with wild abandon, people ARE going to notice. I love the Moving Comfort Fiona bra. Skinnie Emmie loves Enell. There are tons of options. Just get one that says it’s appropriate for the type of activity for your cup size.
Similarly, wear clothes that fit. I don’t think it really matters if you were loose things or clingy things, although I’d recommend experimenting to see what you like if you are new to this. But it’s really important for your workout clothes to fit well. I know from personal, unfortunate experience that a too small top is going to ride up, exposing your tummy – be it perfectly flat and rippled or blobby and bulgy. If you’re oozing out of your clothes in ways that the clothing was not designed for, other people are probably going to notice this, and not in a nice way. If your clothes are specifically designed to expose oozing flesh, then by all means.
I was always worried that people were going to see me stop running and slowing to a walk and that they’d *know* that I was out of shape and couldn’t keep running. Which was true, I was out of shape and I had to stop. Looking back, I’d say that there are two things that would have helped here: 1) using the couch to 5k program (which I did use and complete at a later time). Having something else that is specifically telling you “it’s time to stop” is helpful. You’re not wussing out. You’re following instructions. Don’t feel bad. 2) slow down and pace yourself. There’s a difference between having to walk because you’re completely out of breath after going too fast and walking in between intervals of running as you build up endurance.
Do it with a friend. Having a pal makes everyone feel less self conscious.
Take off the Five Fingers. Seriously. They look weird. They’re all gonna laugh at you and maybe throw tampons in the shower.
Ask for help. If your gym doesn’t automatically give you a proper tour when you sign up, ask for one. It helps to know where stuff is and how to use it. And if you want to do the workout that you saw in last month’s Shape magazine, but you don’t where the stuff is that you need, just ask. Those beautiful people at the front desk who joke around with all the regulars? They can be totally helpful and in my experience, I’ve never sniffed an iota of judgement from one of them ever.
And finally, even if you are out there, jogging way too fast, with your boobs flying, your tummy flopping, all by yourself… what’s more important? That you’re out there getting one step closer to being better, fitter faster? Or that people are looking at you?