The thought of running, playing sports or lifting weights in front of people used to be the most embarrassing thing imaginable. Now, I can hardly go a day without spending time at Ferris’ Student Recreation Center.
To use terms taught to me in high school and hated by my classmates, I have often been guilty of keeping a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. Anything that wasn’t on my list of strengths was automatically assumed to be an impossible task.
These impossible tasks ranged from Algebra to aerobics. Even if I knew I could eventually do them with enough effort, it wasn’t worth it. I was convinced I would never do them well enough to even try.
Aside from a few years of competitive gymnastics in high school, the last thing anyone could call me was athletic. I avoided gym class and school sports. I tried to stay home for my first “phys-ed Friday,” a full day dedicated to exercising with your classmates and making me feel as out-of-place as possible.
I believe all this comes from the stories we’re told about ourselves as kids. Growing up, my older sister was the athlete, and I was the performer. Our parents drove all around Michigan for her basketball games and my choir concerts.
People around me confirmed this binary narrative every time they laughed at my running form. I was almost certain I’d never enter a weight room again after my gym teacher dubbed me “Scooter,” a reference to my vehicle of choice for sitting out the mile run when I had a fractured ankle.
Fortunately, college is a place to restart without hometown reputations. It is also a great time to become well acquainted with exercise.
Before we get stuck in the rigid structure of a 9-5 job, we should make personalized exercise a habit. I go to the gym at whatever time works for me, wear an athleisure set that I love, play meticulously curated playlists and do whatever activity feels right for me in the moment. Not to mention the fact that I avoid a monthly gym membership by going to the Rec.
When I first began my work as editor in chief, I struggled to understand when I was ever off the clock. Much of this work can be done remotely, and journalism emergencies happen at all hours.
Working out became more desirable when I realized that any time I’m in the gym, I’m definitely not in the office. This thought alone made exercise feel like an indulgence.
I’ve gained a new kind of confidence and structure through this indulgence. I now spend a considerable amount of time out of the office, out of my main social setting and out of school to focus on myself at the Rec.
Even in a full gym, you can be alone with your body, your mind and your music. It’s believing that your individual self is still important regardless of the other things you could be doing. It’s choosing to feel proud about something.
When I’m frustrated with my own work and feel less than accomplished, I know I can reach some goals at the gym. I hope other people who have similar gym anxiety are able to turn it into a place for stress relief as well.