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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bucknell chapter.

The gym and I have a love-hate relationship. After overcoming an eating disorder a few years ago, I struggled to find the courage to go back and work out regularly. The equipment can be intimidating if you don’t know how to use it, and the focus of gyms on weight and appearance can be overwhelming for someone who has previously struggled with controlling their body image. Here are my 5 tips for anyone who is trying to face their fears and hit the gym: 

1. Embrace- and face- your insecurities 

There are insecurities that you can embrace and insecurities that you can face. I never got any healthier by hating myself. I’ve learned to embrace the things that make me unique, like my Slavic nose or crooked teeth. It is important to love your body at every weight and stage of growth, because it takes care of you and allows you to do the things you want to do.

Instead, face the insecurities that are holding you back. I used to turn down cool opportunities like mountain hiking or horse trekking because I worried I would embarrass myself by not being athletic enough to do these activities. This can be a fantastic motivation for exercise; use it as a tool that will lead you to new experiences and newfound confidence in yourself. 

2. Judge food by quality, not calories 

One of the hardest habits to break from my eating disorder was counting calories. It is easy to become obsessed with controlling food intake and to fall into a cycle of restrictive eating. These cycles are incredibly unhealthy and will prevent you from reaching your fitness goals or learning to love your body. If you are someone who still wants to track your food intake, consider charting your nutrients instead. Focus on eating healthy, whole foods and getting enough of key nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, and fiber to make sure that your body can function properly and recover after your workouts. 

3. Do workouts you love 

Working out will become so much less of a chore once you find forms of exercise that you love to do. Some people love HIIT workouts; and that person is not me. I discovered that once I focused on moving in ways that energized and empowered me, I didn’t dread working out. Now I look forward all day to lifting weights, boxing, or taking a Bison Ride class at the gym. Walking on the treadmill and listening to a podcast has become my favorite way to clear my head. Whether you learn that you love rock climbing or “hot girl walks,” discovering what you enjoy doing is the key to consistency.

4. Listen to your body 

It can be easy once you start working out again to become really enthusiastic about going to the gym, and forget to slow down. It’s important to listen to your body and prioritize your long-term health. Taking a rest day once in a while is critical to letting your muscles recover and to preventing injuries. Don’t be scared if you come into the gym and can’t immediately lift your goal weight or your max weight from a couple years ago. Be gentle and patient with yourself; you’re doing something amazing just by showing up, and you’ll reach your goals in time.

5. Make performance goals- not appearance goals

A lot of gym influencers post videos of their washboard abs with workout routines that seem to promise the same results for anyone who does them. These videos can be extremely damaging. Everyone’s body is different, and the same workout won’t give the same results to every person. Instead of striving to look like Kendall Jenner, aim to be the best version of yourself. Give yourself personal goals that encourage you to be healthier, rather than skinnier. It’s easy to lose motivation and fall into unhealthy habits when your only aim is to be 20 lbs lighter or to get more toned legs. If you strive to run farther, lift more weights, or to climb the stairs from the Gateways without running out of breath, you will constantly be pushing yourself. You’ll find new reasons to feel proud and create new goals that you want to achieve.

Susie Williams

Bucknell '23

Susie is a junior at Bucknell, majoring in Literary Studies and Russian. She believes in living fearlessly; well, almost fearlessly. Ceiling tiles and basketballs make her nervous. Susie plans to pursue a career in International Law.