On Being Self-Conscious at the Rec Center

The first time I walked into Cal Poly's super fancy Rec Center 4 years ago, I almost walked right back out. It was intimidating enough to enter my number code and have my hand scanned (to be honest I still don't know how that works). But when I walked up the stairs to the main exercise rooms, my self-esteem immediately dropped.

A few initial thoughts upon taking a slow lap around the indoor track: "How is everyone around me so fit? Wait whoa, that guy is doing a lot of push-ups. Can I do a push-up? I don't think I can do a push-up. Oh god, I'll look so weak in comparison to some of these people."


Being surrounded by active, driven people can be so overwhelming. It can seem like everyone is in The Zone™--and that Zone™ allows them to lift twice their body weight! Once the comparing starts, it's hard to stop. And it's harder to feel like you're making any progress when the person next to you on the elliptical is probably sprinting a marathon in her Lululemons.

It took me so long to get over these self-conscious habits. It slowly dawned on me that these habits were precisely the reason I wasn't seeing or feeling the results I wanted – I couldn't concentrate on myself, and I suffered for it. So a new approach was formed. I would focus on my workout, and my workout only, for as long as I could take the pain.

Okay, so my workout only lasted for maybe half an hour that day.

But my soreness the next day made me feel like I worked out twice as long . Plus, the pain that distracted me from what everyone else was doing in the gym also meant that I was that much closer to having hella ripped abs. Better, I was able to get into The Zone™.

Practice makes progress, but practice also requires a self-motivation that can be hard to come by when we live in a society where competing to be the best is an inherent value. But in reality, progress – at the gym or in life – is an individual growth. And with growth comes celebration! Maybe I'm not running a marathon like the girl next to me, but I ran an extra mile! I did 10 more push-ups than I did last week! Self-celebration and self-comparison don't mix, especially at the Rec Center.