One of the biggest reasons I don’t like going to the gym, besides actually having to go to the gym and do something other than sitting on a yoga mat, is that I don’t like being judged. The muscle-popping guys in the weight room always give me a side eye when I walk in, grab a pair of 10-pound barbells, and give them an almighty curl. They look at the nonexistent definition of my triceps muscles, then at me, with eye rolls and smirks, as if to say, “working out or hardly working?”
The answer I give, out loud, as I drop the weights close to their feet, is “none of your business.”
But the judgement doesn’t just end with how untoned I am or how my diet – of carbs and sugar – should be swapped out for protein powder and dry chicken; it extends to what I’m wearing when I’m at the gym.
Why are women expected to show up to the gym looking like they’re going to brunch? Why are they supposed to have their hair done, held back in a combed-out ponytail, with a full-face of makeup, and a coordinated and matching workout outfit that costs more than an entire month’s membership to that gym? Why do they have to wear sports bras that look like they could be worn to a nightclub and yoga pants that have the right amount of patterns on them to make their butts look good? Why can’t they just wear whatever they want, like the guys do?
Have you noticed how guys look when they go to the gym? Most of them look like they dug through their “please donate now” box of clothes, picked out a collection of the most-stained and wrinkled items, and tossed them off for a pump session at the gym. Their shorts are from 10 or more years ago with logos from their past schools or youth groups on them and t-shirts that look like they’d live a better afterlife as cleaning rags than as an item of clothing worn in public.
But nobody judges them ever. Nobody tells them that their leggings are too see-through to be worn when they are doing squats or that the baggy t-shirt they are wearing makes them look soooo not put together.
I, on the other hand, no longer care what the social norms are when it comes to picking out an outfit to go to the gym. Sometimes I wear a sports bra, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, when I haven’t done laundry in a long time, I wear a normal bra that makes my boobs bounce a little bit, and sometimes, when I’m lazy and going to the gym in my apartment building, I don’t wear a bra.
Sometimes I wear yoga pants, but oftentimes, I wear a baggy pair of shorts that I took from my boyfriend, because I’m not interested in having a trainer at the gym tell me that I need to do more squats so that my ass doesn’t look so saggy. Sometimes I wear the t-shirt I wore to work that day, and sometimes I wear an old crop top that I used to wear when I went out to clubs, but now I’m retired and use it to go out to the gym.
I’ll wear what I want to the gym, and I’ll laugh when you tell me that I look funny. Does the gym have a dress code? If so, I’ll gladly stop going and do bicep curls from my couch instead.