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How I Changed my Relationship with the Gym

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

With university starting back up, the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) has become a main attraction on campus again. However, going to the gym can sometimes be much easier said than done.

For some people, including myself, exercising can actually be rather difficult. I used to get spurts of motivation to work out, and would convince myself that this time would be different from the last in that I would finally be consistent. The issue is that I would train to the breaking point every day and would give myself almost no time to recover. After a few weeks of consistency, I found it difficult to simply get out of the house. I was trapped in a cycle of going from 0-100, getting burnt out quickly, taking time off for a few months, and then getting a burst of motivation again. Each time my fitness journey restarted, I wondered why I could never stay consistent – which made me angry and disappointed in myself. I would get frustrated when I missed a day of working out, when I felt like I didn’t push my limits, and I would talk negatively about my body when it didn’t look better immediately after my workout. It also didn’t help that I constantly saw fitness influencers on social media and compared my progress to theirs. My relationship with exercise was toxic, and I didn’t think that I could salvage it. 

Fortunately, over the past few years, I have managed to rebuild my relationship with the gym and have begun enjoying exercise again. These are some of the things I’ve learned that can hopefully help you too.


Have you ever been to the gym and seen someone else doing a more complex workout than you? Does it ever make you feel badly about yourself because it feels as though your workout isn’t as good as what they are doing? 

It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that all exercises are valid exercises, no matter how complex. One person might be going to a boxing class, while another might be riding a bike — it’s all still exercise! Everyone has different goals, whether it be improving endurance, balance, flexibility or strength, and different exercises can help achieve these goals. Your ways of exercise are still exercise, no matter what other people are doing.

2. Fall in love with the journey rather than the results

Having goals in exercise is important, as they allow us to focus on what we want to accomplish and keep us motivated. Goals come in many forms: to get stronger, to get leaner, to feel good about yourself, and the list continues. However, fitness goals shouldn’t stem from self-judgment, and shouldn’t spark feelings of shame about your body’s current state. It’s important to appreciate your body for the ways it serves you, and to not resent it for looking a certain way. Focusing on the process of exercising rather than the outcome can help fuel this appreciation, and once your perspective changes, the results will come. Remember that you won’t see a drastic difference after one workout, so there’s no need to put so much pressure on that.

Another way to fall in love with the journey is to change things up. Exercising is supposed to be fun, not a punishment. Don’t do workouts that push you too hard or you aren’t having fun doing. Stop when you need to, rest when you need to, and most importantly, listen to your body. If you are just starting out in your fitness journey, make sure that you aren’t going from 0-100, and instead ease into building exercise as a habit. 

3. Comparison will kill you

Don’t compare yourself to others and what they’re doing. Everyone is on their own fitness journey, at varying levels. Being envious of a body type that isn’t yours can make you feel insecure about yourself and could lead to mental and physical illness. However, it’s a lot easier said than done to train your mind to stop comparing yourself to other people – I’m sometimes still guilty of looking in the mirror after a workout and wondering if I look any different than the day before. Something that has helped me shift away from a comparison mindset is making a list of gratitude. When I am listing reasons why I am grateful for my body, it helps bring my attention back to reality, and I find that I am not pointing out my flaws anymore. 

4. Change your mindset

To change the way you think is to change the way you feel. If you’re going to the gym for the wrong reasons, it becomes more difficult to maintain a good relationship with exercise. Setting unrealistic goals and expecting yourself to achieve them will only make you feel less confident in your abilities. It is more beneficial to set smaller goals that can be achieved more quickly.

I used to view the gym as a place to change who I am; as a tool to create an aesthetic physical body. When I failed to meet my lofty goals, it took a toll on my mental health and discouraged me from staying consistent. Now, I view the gym as a place where I can feel good about myself and my health. One thing that helped me change my mindset was not creating a set routine for the gym. Rather than getting frustrated over missing my Tuesday leg day for an appointment or my Thursday arm day for feeling too sore, I now only exercise on the days that I feel like it. This has allowed me to actually go more often than I expected. 

One YouTuber who has helped me to have a positive attitude toward exercise is Linda Sun. Her channel focuses on body positivity and how exercise can be used as an asset rather than a punishment. Linda speaks about her own fitness journey and also records her eating habits throughout the day. If you are looking for suggestions on these topics, her videos can be really helpful. However, it is always important to speak to a licensed nutritionist when looking to change your diet, as every one has different needs.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a scary thing to do. There are so many amazing benefits that come from exercising that help our health and wellbeing. Even if your relationship with exercise isn’t the best right now, I hope that this article has helped you think of new ways to see the beauty in physical activity. 

Sabrina Bernard

Queen's U '25

Sabrina Bernard is a writer Her Campus' National Program. She writes lifestyle content on the site, including entertainment, news, and experiences. Beyond Her Campus, Sabrina is heavily involved at her university, where she is an Orientation Coordinator for the largest not-for-profit orientation in Canada, she is the Co-President of the English Department Student Council, and models for her university's Sustainable Fashion club. She also volunteers at the local Animal Shelter when she goes home. Sabrina is currently a junior at Queen's University, majoring in English Literature with a certificate in French. She has also been a panelist at several literary conferences for her works. In her free time, Sabrina enjoys reading, playing with her cat Poppy, and petting every cat she can find on the streets. She's also a huge Modern Family fan and has rewatched the series multiple times.