More behind the story we feature in our first episode of The Locker Podcast
It is an undisputed fact that working out makes you feel good. Really good. That buzz you get right after a spin class, that high you feel when you leave the gym - that’s the endorphins flowing through your veins and making you feel invincible.
Countless studies have shown that fitness and being active is hugely beneficial for both your physical and mental health, but how you work out and the relationship you have with gym culture is so important. Being fit, strong and healthy is meant to bolster your confidence and make you feel amazing, so why is it that gym culture is causing so many people to feel bad about themselves?
Gyms can be hostile places, which means many people miss out on the benefits of being active because they just feel too intimidated. Sometimes it feels like gyms have actually been designed to be intimidating spaces. All those mirrors, the lack of clear instructions about how to use the machines, the segregation of the weights area, all of which can make you feel unwelcome.
In fact, according to Sport England, 39% of women aren’t getting enough physical activity, and a fear of being judged is one of the key reasons why. This is no surprise when you consider that the fitness industry focuses so heavily on body shape, what you’re wearing to the gym, and the pictures you’re posting on Instagram.
Another element of gym culture that can have a negative impact on confidence is the lack of a clear goal. If you’re going to the gym because you feel like you have to, or because you see working out as a ‘punishment’ for eating certain foods, fitness will never become a sustainable part of your life, and you won’t enjoy it.
Building the perfect body
Modern gym culture tends to focus on the aesthetic – on changing how your body looks to fit a certain ideal. Whether that’s doing endless squats to try to get a ‘bubble butt’, or crunches to get abs and a flat stomach. However, when the end goal is superficial, the positive benefits are only ever going to be superficial too. Working towards an unrealistic body ideal will never build long-lasting confidence – to do that, your goals need to be sustainable and driven by health, strength and functionality, rather than just how you look. You also need to find something you truly enjoy doing.
On the first episode of ‘The Locker’ podcast, Army soldier Ella explains how her successful career in boxing – both in the Army and outside of it – has given her an incredible sense of confidence in her physical capabilities and in her ability to lead and train others, even in a traditionally male environment. She also says that the physical elements of her Army training has helped to build long-term confidence. Challenging herself and encouraging the people around her to endure the demands of Army training has been a huge boost for her self-esteem, and taught her the true value of physical health. This is an attitude that easily translates to gym culture.
What we need is a cultural reset and a careful evaluation of our goals every time we work out. As soon as fitness becomes about how your body works, rather than how it looks, that’s where we can build confidence that will last for a lifetime.