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There are so many associations attached to the term “gym rat” that it is sometimes difficult to understand what it is supposed to mean. Of these associations, there are many that are negative or hold an unflattering stigma, which makes being called a gym rat insulting. I want to break down this stigma and reintroduce what a gym rat is to you!

As a former competitive gymnast, working out has always been a part of my life, so when I stopped training, going to the gym became my new focus. Being a self-proclaimed gym rat, I am here to make some confessions that will hopefully offer you an inside scoop on what it’s like to be a gym rat and why it is actually a really positive thing!

1. The Best Gym Buddies

My experience with other fellow gym rats is that they make the best gym buddies. Do you need help with spotting or heavy weights? Just ask. Are you confused about how to adjust a machine? We’ll teach you. Want to set in on a piece of equipment? Not a problem. Anything you could possibly need at the gym, I can speak from personal experience, they are there to help you out because they are genuinely happy to be there and the sweetest people. Being someone who is extremely experienced in a gym setting, gym rats understand that others may not be, so we are willing to lend a helping hand when needed. I am not trying to hype myself up, I promise, but I like to think I’m a good gym buddy!

2. We Mind Our Own Business

Gym rats are at the gym to hit their workouts, achieve the goal they have set for themselves and go home. There is no funny business in the workout plan! Many people are reluctant to go to the gym because they feel that they will be judged or watched by others in the gym. I can’t promise that no one will look at you, but I can say confidently that all the gym rats will be hard at work, focused on themselves. The reason I go to the gym is to take a break from the stress of my day and feel accomplished, which means focusing on myself, not those around me.

3. The Gym is Our Happy Place

There is a negative stigma around gym rats ‘living in the gym’ and ‘spending all their time there’. This stigma is because gym rats consistently workout between five and six times a week; this means you’ll most likely see the same people there each day. Speaking personally, this doesn’t mean that I am neglecting my other tasks or schoolwork because those aspects of my life are extremely important to me. It means that the gym is my version of self-care, just like a face mask or journaling is for others. The time that I spend in the gym is meant to be a break from stress and a way to unwind and get ready for the tasks I have to complete later. There have been so many days where I am overwhelmed with classes and work, but I go to the gym and leave an hour later feeling ready to take on the world.

4. We Are All Different

I want to break the stigma where body composition is a key indicator of being a gym rat because that is not accurate or respectful. Each gym rat is built differently based on how muscle is gained and what their goals are while working out, which creates variety within the gym community. Many people believe that gym rats are these huge, hulking people that eat protein powder dry and lift hundreds of pounds easily, which can be true, but not for all. Everyone is at a different stage in their fitness journey, so each person is unique. I cannot say this loud enough: how someone looks does not determine their motivation, drive or ability.

5. Gym Rat vs. Cross Fit

If you don’t know the differentiation between a gym rat and a cross-fit athlete, no worries! Gym rats are individuals that enjoy working out, frequently hit the gym, and work towards fitness goals they set for themselves. Cross-fit athletes also enjoy working out and frequently hit the gym; however, they are athletes who are supervised by a coach or trainer to assist in their journey to compete in competitions. One main difference is that cross-fit athletes’ sole goal is to build muscle to be able to lift heavy weights, whereas a gym rat may have goals other than lifting weight. As there is a fine line between the two types of gym-goers, there is the ability to transition back and forth between the two (e.g. a gym rat can become a cross-fit athlete and vice versa).

6. We Love to Help

Speaking from personal experience, one of my favourite things to hear from friends or family is “can I workout with you?” I love taking people through workouts with me, especially when they are new to working out and don’t know where to start. There are so many ways to make lifting weights and working out fun and exciting, so I am always open to putting together workouts for others. Hit me up for all your fitness plan needs!! When I first started going to the gym consistently, I found it difficult to mix things up enough to keep me motivated, so I got in touch with my gym rat buddies, who gave me ideas on new target areas and exercises. Gym rats can be one of the best resources, both for fellow gym rats and new gym-goers.

Obviously, this article is written from my own perspective so none of these claims are absolute or exclusive. I have such a passion for going to the gym and working out to make myself feel and be stronger both physically and mentally. I am a gym rat, and I love it. Next time you are at the gym or hear someone use the term, hopefully, you will have a new positive perspective on what it means to be a gym rat!

Megan Heck

Wilfrid Laurier '21

My name is Megan Heck, and I am an English and Communication Studies double major at Wilfrid Laurier University. I have always loved to read, which turned into a love for writing. I use writing as a creative outlet and have always been that person that always have a little notebook when ideas suddenly come to me.
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