Friday, January 14, 2011

They're not always thinking what we think they're thinking

As a gym newbie often surrounded by physically fit gym veterans, I’ve been spending a lot of time not making eye contact with people. It’s crazy to watch some of these buff and agile women in spandex climb up onto a machine without a lick of disdain on their faces, eager to get a good sweat going. (The look on my face before mounting the elliptical mirrors that of a contestant on “Fear Factor” about to eat a plate of worms.)

Like the other day a woman I recognized walked into the Life Center. She taught step aerobics classes I used to take four or five years ago. A few of the girls called her “Killer Beth” because we’d all be totally out of breath by break, let alone the end of the 45-minute workout. Killer Beth climbed up on an elliptical, cranked up the resistance, and went at it. It looked like she was cross-country skiing away from a polar bear for the better part of an hour, yet still able to keep up a conversation with her neighbor. (My resistance was set at 2, and I looked as if I was taking a leisurely stroll through the park.)

So, needless to say, I keep to myself. Always kind of a little self-conscious. (I’m so American, aren’t I? So sure that everyone in the room gives a crap what I’m doing.)

Then the other day, I’m in session No. 2 with my trainer, Jackie. And it’s going pretty well. But still, I was in the free weight room where mostly big, beefy boys hang out and get buff. And there are usually always a couple of muscley hunks buzzing around, pumping some major iron. That day was no different. There was a guy in there working out, and I couldn’t help but feel like he was snickering to himself watching me poorly handle my 5-pound dumbbells.

I was glad to move back to the Life Center for some other exercises, except I’d forgotten my purple Hannah Montana water bottle in the weight room. I ran back to retrieve it, and as I scooped it up, the guy smiled and said, “My daughter would be so jealous. She loves Hannah Montana.”

I thought, huh, maybe when we assume people are judging us, they’re actually thinking something totally different. Food for thought. Still, I don’t think I’ll be striking up any conversations with my elliptical neighbors. I couldn’t keep it up if I tried.

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