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The Most Intimidating Place on Campus: The Gym

I think it is pretty safe to say that whether you prefer Rolfs or the Rock, the gym has the potential to be a very scary place. In my time at Notre Dame, I think I have willingly gone to the gym a total of five times (and that is being generous). However, this is not due to the fact that I am lazy or simply because I do not value my physical health. It is because I find the gym to be the most intimidating place on campus.

As a freshman, I have experienced a plethora of awkward encounters in which my naiveté has inevitably shown through. Therefore, I have, out of necessity, grown to be one who asks questions and acts boldly. However, it seems that my newfound confidence does not apply in the gym atmosphere. This is mainly because I have become overwhelmed by my extreme level of ignorance.

As I walk into the Rolf’s weight room (if that is even the right term), my ears are met with the clanging of weights, the endless drone of the treadmills, and the breathlessness of the brave. Looking around, I see machines of every shape and size – each built for the sole purpose of instilling fear and anxiety in the ignorant. In order to forgo embarrassment, I head straight to the treadmill. This simple machine has become my best friend over the years because regardless of where I am, the treadmill remains the same. Plus, it’s impossible to mess up cardio, right?

Wrong.

It has recently been brought to my attention that one does not simply use the Rolfs treadmills, but must sign up for one ahead of time. How do I know this? It is not because it was announced during orientation, or that a kind individual explained it to me ahead of time. It is because I experienced the extreme annoyance of a regular gym-goer whose treadmill I had evidently stolen. Now, I understand that this occurrence in itself is not reason enough to forgo going to the gym completely, but the complicated treadmill process has inevitably exiled me to the track.

Now, if the use of machines is not enough to make you shy away from the gym, maybe the sight of the physically fit will be. It is true that we should not compare ourselves to one another, nor should we allow another’s success to stunt our own. However, it is even difficult for the best of us to walk into a room of beautiful people and not feel slightly inadequate. I have had conversations with friends in the past who have said that they cannot go to the gym because they are not fit. They believe that in order to work out in public, they must already have the body that they are aspiring to achieve. It is this backwards way of thinking that allows the gym to become more intimidating and less accessible to the everyday individual.

In order to remedy this fear, I decided to enroll in a weight training class – this being one of the best decisions of my life. This class has liberated me from the chains of anxiety that I have experienced for so long and has slowly built up my confidence within the gym atmosphere.

I believe that it is important for individuals to realize that their fears are valid and that the discomfort of the gym is experienced by many. However, these fears should not inhibit your self-betterment. I encourage those who have realized the intimidating nature of the gym to look beyond the costs of discomfort to the infinite amount of benefits, and realize that there are resources that can help. The first step to overcoming this fear is to get educated, and always remember: you have to want it more than you’re afraid of it.

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Erin Rose Howard is a sophomore Business and English major at the University of Notre Dame. Hailing from the beautiful state of New Mexico, you can find her around campus attempting to bring some of her NM sunshine to ND. She is a strong promoter of the four main food groups: coffee, Diet Coke, chocolate, and pizza. Erin Rose's interests include: food, fashion, family, and friends. You can find the rarely updated story of her life on Instagram @erin_rose_howard or on Twitter @erhoward96. 
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