You'd think that working out is working out, plain and simple ‐ whether it be running on the treadmill at home, trying to drop your recently acquired college pounds or fooling yourself into thinking that you can keep them off at the lovely Richmond gym ‐ and you'd think that all workouts are created equal. Wrong.
While at home, I feel completely comfortable rocking my brother's XXL sleeveless T-shirt, and have absolutely no hesitation to sport my mom's old "80s for the ladies" sports bra. At Richmond, I find myself leaning toward cropped yoga pants, with insanely uncomfortable underwear, and sleek racerback tank tops in obnoxiously bright hues that make it slightly more difficult to breathe when I take my after-dinner trip to the Weinstein Center for some good ol' fashioned people-watching ... I mean, running.
I always told myself that you work out to look good, not look good to work out, but it's kind of impossible not to worry about your appearance when the football quarterback is running on the treadmill to your left, the club soccer players are walking by behind you with their impeccably chiseled calves, elliptical girl has been going for two hours straight and the chick who seems to walk up never-ending hills in her sports bra is to your right.
And, on days when you want to do some light-weight training, you have to look extra put-together because you know that in about 20 seconds, when you get to the second flight of stairs, 30 gigantic guys guzzling protein shakes are going to check you out and proceed to judge you while you struggle desperately to finish your third set of 15-pound bicep curls.
Working out is about so much more than fitness at the University of Richmond. How many conversations between you and your friends at D-Hall have started with, "OMG, guess who I saw at the gym today?"
If you're there, people notice, and you notice them noticing, and it makes you want to look hotter. Also, people, myself included, notice if you're a guy and you're on the elliptical trainer ...
I'm not all up in your space trying to bench my body weight and more, so please stay off the distinctly feminine cardio machines barring the need to do rehab while recovering from an injury. It would be embarrassing if I tried to bench press and I promise you it's embarrassing when you really sweat it out on the elliptical, especially because you really can't help swinging your hips a little.
Judgment is passed, and it's impossible to escape it. (Unless you're the guy with the tattoos around your biceps, you can spend all day on the elliptical if you want, no one is about to mess with you.)
There is something about the gym culture at Richmond that makes you want to see and be seen, and you want to look good (but not like you tried too hard) while you do it.
It's always on the days when you opt for the big baggy shirts that don't show off your boobs in the slightest, that your absurdly unattainable crush walks in the door and then you trip on the awkwardly uneven gym floors because your legs are too tired to pick themselves up all the way.
So, for all of the reasons mentioned above, this semester, I find myself waking up at 7 a.m. every morning to go to the gym where the majority of the people working out are cursing their slow, middle-aged metabolisms and not even bothering to notice my huge wedgie and bird's nest hair.
My workout is significantly more effective and less dangerous when I'm not looking all around me to scope out the scene. I occasionally go after dinner for the middle-of-the-week, people-watching pick-me-up, but I'm determined to change how I feel about the gym, because let's face it, with the library, Commons, Forum and D-Hall already being Richmond hot spots, there's gotta be a judge-free zone somewhere!