Gym advertising sells a lie - and it's not the lie you're immediately thinking of. This isn’t about svelte bodies pelting away on treadmills or friends sharing a snack at the juice bar - those unrealistic expectations are something we all know is a lie. No, the lie I am talking about is far more pernicious: everyone is smiling.
Go ahead, go and look at any gym advertisement or billboard. Everyone is smiling. Running along to nowhere - smiling. Doing sit ups in a fitness class - smiling. Attending a weight loss class with a teacher preaching good health - every single student smiling.
It's unrealistic, because, for most of us, we don't smile at the gym. In fact, we're far more likely to have our faces twisted with exertion than be bubbling over with endorphins. We're sweating; our faces are red from effort - and from embarrassment.
It's the latter that is worth focusing on for awhile. The gym may be the natural ground for some people - most of whom will become gym instructors - but for others, it's embarrassing. You're exposing yourself - so to speak - in public, when you are at your weakest. How many of us would show up to a house party out of breath, dripping with sweat and wearing the nearest clothes we could lay our hands on? Not many.
The Gym People
The problem is made worse by "The Gym People". These are the ones who makes the posters look at least somewhat realistic. They have, without fail, shiny teeth and hair. When they sweat, it's more of a perspiring, gently mopped away with the latest technology in towels.
And they're friendly. If there's a row full of empty treadmills, you bet one of The Gym People is going to pick the one next to yours. So now you have an audience - in an otherwise empty gym! - to your moans of despair as you push your aching body to go another minute. All of it avoidable for normal people, but for Gym People? They just give you a thumbs up.
How Do You Deal With It?
For a lot of us, the embarrassment that the gym provides is a solid reason not to go. And let's face it, this is not an activity that many of us need to scratch our heads to find an excuse not to do.
So... Don't Go To The Gym
If you have found the general discomfort of public exercising so severe you can remember dodging more than three sessions, then it might be time to look for an alternative. Why keep putting yourself through the misery, especially when home gym equipment is better than it has ever been? Now your grunts of exertion and beads of sweat on your hairline are all yours.
Become one of them. If you can't beat them, join them - so get your teeth whitened, your hair deep conditioned and your small talk at the ready. You, too, can become a Gym Person. It's suspected that all Gym People were nervous, embarrassed wrecks once and that there is a mythical originator of the behavior they have since all copied from…
Or work out at home. Your call.