Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Really Regret that Workout

I've seen this meme going around that says:

"Wow, I really regret that workout" - Said no one ever.

I'd just like to inform everyone that this is not true. I am someone, and I have regretted working out on numerous occasions.

A lot of times, people regret spending their time a particular way. Maybe you spent all night watching TV and you wish you had called your friend. Maybe you spent all day running errands and you wish you had done something fun. This is a very common human experience. I have certain things that I never regret doing, such as writing or spending time with friends, but working out just does not fall into that category for me. Working out is not something I love so much that it's immune to all feelings of regret. There have been times that I went to the gym and later wished that I have left myself more time to do something else instead. A minor regret, but a regret all the same. To claim that no one ever regrets a workout is to say that everyone shares the same priorities as you.

But more importantly than that, this statement also implies that working out is always a good thing, that nothing negative could ever happen as a result of working out. That is not true. Here is an excerpt of my essay about Colby from sophomore year, when I went to the campus gym:

**When I entered the gym, I felt like I had walked into an advanced calculus class without having taken pre-cal. I felt really self-conscious because I wasn’t serious or athletic like everyone else. I couldn’t daydream in the gym because there was music playing and a lot of noise, and daydreaming was my only reason for wanting to exercise in the first place. In the gym, was hyper-aware of not belonging at Colby, and my mind would ruminate about that as soon as I got on the equipment. There was no harm in my trying the gym. The problem was that I continued going back knowing that it made me feel bad. When I talked about these feelings with other people, they told me that going to the gym was a good thing, that I “should” be able to daydream with the music playing, and the endorphin would make me feel better.  Maybe, but the endorphin would not counter-act everything that entered my mind as a result of going to the gym. My friends pushed their own priorities on me, ignoring me when I told them that I had no interest in workout goals, that this was just for fun, that I didn’t want any pressure to go regularly, and that I absolutely, positively did NOT want a gym buddy.  I explained that anyone who “motivated” me to work out when I didn’t want to would not stay my friend very long, and people still tried to be gym buddies for their own motivation.  Sometimes when I got on the elliptical machine at the gym, I would imagine pushing myself until I collapsed, then getting up and doing it again and collapsing again until I couldn’t get back up at all. And when I had to go to the hospital and someone asked me why I did it, I would say that I was just trying to be a Colby student.**

Going to the gym at Colby made me feel really, really bad about myself. Every time I exercised on purpose at Colby (meaning that I did it to get the exercise, not like walking to go somewhere), I felt horrible afterwards. I don't care what studies tell you about exercise curing depression - going to the gym made me feel so much worse than I did before I was going. It literally amplified every bad feeling that I already had and just created another thing for everyone to pressure me about.

I'm not alone here - there are plenty of people who have experienced body-shaming in gym environments. The claim that no one ever regrets a workout is bullshit and is offensive to those of us who have suffered negative consequences of exercising. No one listened to me about how bad it was. Everyone encouraged me to keep going back. I desperately needed just ONE friend to tell me, "You should stop going to the gym if it makes you feel bad." But no one would say that. Because they all believed the lie that no one ever regrets a workout.

If you personally never regret a workout, that's fine. If you want to write, "I never regret a workout" in your own personal space as a motivation for yourself, that's cool. But don't think for a second that this applies to everyone. I am someone, and I regret working out.

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