I think the absolute worst part of middle school was gym class. And I had a lot of bad times in middle school. I’m sure it’s every fat kid’s nightmare to be forced to run the mile, wearing skimpy shorts and t-shirts, while your classmates lapped you, teased you, maybe even gawked at you. I really honestly blame my middle school experiences in gym classes for my hatred of going to the gym today. They really did make it a race; we were forced to do all of these terribly stupid things, that really did not improve my physical fitness one bit. And worst of all, we were forced to do them in front of our peers.
I think that middle school institutionalized self-objectification. It built us into observers of each other in our physical exertions. It was, of course, the ideal location in which one could observe those individuals to which he or she was attracted. And for me, it was pure hell.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed some aspects of gym. Swimming, for example. I was among the best in my class because I actually swam on the swim team. I have almost no fear when wearing swimsuits for this reason. Basketball, too. I loved it so much, I even went to basketball camps. I would’ve tried out for the team if my gym teacher hadn’t told me I couldn’t because I didn’t have a physical on file (although, she let five other girls on the team without physicals. I still to this day think I experienced sizeism that day for the first time). I also loved Shot Put. They tried to get me on the track team to do shot put, but I refused.
What I hated about gym, though, was the feeling of always being watched. They would shout out our times when we finished the mile. And everyone would sit around the finish line when you were done to cheer you on. Sometimes, if you took longer than 14 minutes, everyone else went inside, and you had to cross the finish line alone. We show up at the end, and the Mrs. Shaffner would be standing at the end, shaking her head, and ushering us quickly inside to change and move on to our next class. It was like we were something to be hushed up, something they were embarrassed by. It was my biggest failure back then. That effing mile run as my peers stood on the sidelines, watching me jog to the end, red-faced, and close to tears.
Now-a-days I go into a gym, and I feel exceptionally self conscious. My college requires five gym classes for graduation. I have two left. Right now, I’m taking a course called “Individual Fitness” which just requires me to do a weightlifting routine with cardio at least 3 times a week, and journal on two other health-related areas (I’ve chosen to do a food diary, and a time-management journal). The problem is that lately, I’ve felt like I’m constantly being judged and watched at the gym. Yes, this is normal to feel that way, but gosh is it hard to overcome.
I’ve been trying, lately, to channel it into a positive-attention, rather than ignore my paranoia. I know that people probably aren’t looking, but just in case they are, I try to focus myself on having the best workout ever. Like, having the best form when running. Or having the most control with my higher weight sets. I try to look like I know what I’m doing, and I try to do everything to the T.
Thus far, I think it’s a good thing. I know it’s not good to think like that, but I can’t get rid of it. I honestly think it’s left over from that middle school long ago. Maybe it’s because I feel like I have something to prove to everyone around me: the fat girl can lift weights, can actually jog on a treadmill, can bench press, and she can be damn confident when doing it. Maybe it’s just a projection of my own feelings of inadequacy. But for now, I’m just going to use it as therapy. It’s my time for me. It’s my time to expel those feelings of inadequacy, and it’s my time to banish my stupid middle-school nightmare to the depths. I’m activating. I’m motivating. And I am moving forward.