Believe it or not, if you have ever been to a gym, you would have become a victim of the toxic gym culture where others used to directly or indirectly shame you for the amount of weight that you used to lift or the number of reps you used to do. All those people who used to offer you tips and advice, actually used to make you feel inferior and incapable. Instead of feeling motivated, you most likely used to feel dreadful while heading out for the gym.
The toxic gym culture and the desire to grow stronger and stronger in the shortest possible time so you can impress people around you, especially your social media contacts, has affected not just common people like you and us but also some renowned celebrities. Every now and then we keep hearing famous people losing their lives due to overexercising. Many others have put themselves on harsh diets and addictive supplements.
Why do you need to protect yourself from the toxic gym culture?
Because it's toxic!
Those eyes staring at you make you feel anxious instead of feeling motivated. And, you don’t want to workout in that kind of environment where you are constantly being judged instead of letting yourself be you.
You get roughly 45 minutes to work on yourself and you obviously want to make the most out of it. A negative, toxic environment can significantly affect your productivity. It can even make you feel negative about yourself! Don’t you think it makes sense to stay away from such an environment and such people?
You might end up hurting yourself
Gym injuries are pretty common because many people get negatively influenced enough to push their bodies to try something that is way beyond their limits. We all have lifted weights that were beyond what we could have comfortably controlled and we all have done reps that made us feel dizzy and breathless.
Going beyond your conventional boundary is OK but going too harsh too suddenly can cause accidents and severe injuries. It makes no sense to train heavy one day and then take a week off due to overexertion and burnout.
You may feel tempted enough to try fad diets and addictive supplements
Image Source: https://sites.psu.edu/
Fad diets are in trend these days because they promise (and deliver) faster weight loss than what you can achieve by being on your regular diet. These diets are too restrictive, especially in carbohydrates and fats.
Well, that’s a good thing but you will be shocked to know that the so-called ‘superfood diets’ lack many basic nutrients that your body needs daily.
Although there is no concrete evidence (till the time of writing this article), numerous health experts have stated that fad diets could cause eating disorders, nutritional deficiencies, infertility, impaired musculoskeletal and bone health, muscle loss, etc. (1) A few others have also stated that they could increase the risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. (2) (3)
The protein supplements are of no good either. Many of them are full of addictive substances and even toxic elements. (4)
If your trainer has been pushing you to buy a specific protein supplement, it's a trap. Don’t fall for it.
Don’t get us wrong; we are not against health supplements. We are warning you here so you don’t fall for the wrong product that a gym rat you know recommends.
Not all health supplements are bad. We have been using the Naked Nutrition protein powder for some months now and we are quite happy with our choice. It is made of 100% whey protein with no additives at all. We have also been using creatine to boost our overall stamina. It did give us creatine headaches but once we started staying hydrated, the headache subsided.
How can you protect yourself from the toxic gym culture?
Build your own home gym!
Image Source: Don Pedro
Instead of dragging yourself to a place that gives you negative vibes, it makes sense to build your own workout space where you can just be YOU.
A few years ago, home gym used to be a luxury that not many of us were able to afford. But, the covid pandemic changed it all. Almost everyone bought some or other home gym equipment during the many lockdowns we experienced and we are sure most of us realized that working out from home is actually much better than suffering from toxic gym culture.
You don’t need a huge space to build a home gym
We understand that space is a luxury in most homes. So, if you don’t have a spare room, don’t worry. You can build a home gym in a basement or a garage. You can even build a home gym on the second floor of your home! Yes, it's totally safe. You can set up a small home gym in a corner of any room.
By the way, you can even build a home gym in a shipping container!
You don’t need to be rich to build a home gym!
A few years ago, only a few companies used to sell home gym products, and those products used to be expensive. These days, a lot of small-time companies have started selling products that aren’t great but they are good enough for fitness enthusiasts like us. They are not just affordable but also compact enough for small spaces, like basements.
Our ‘Ultimate Guide to Building a Home Gym’ will help you find out which equipment you can/should buy depending upon the availability of space and your budget.
Remember that we exercise to stay healthy; not to impress people/compete with them
Everyone has a different fitness journey and it's unfair to compare them. Someone might be struggling with hormonal imbalance or someone may be suffering from a spine injury that restricts the number of reps he/she can do. So, don’t forget to respect your body’s limits.
It's OK to push yourself for a few more reps but don’t get obsessive about it. Don’t get obsessive about the results or your physical appearance. Just put your 100% effort; the result will follow sooner or later. And, if it doesn’t, it's still OK.
Remember that you are not in any kind of competition with your social media friends or your gym mates. You are not exercising to impress them or gain more social media likes. You are exercising to become stronger and healthier. If you are achieving that, nothing matters.
Create a home gym that makes you feel empowered.
Stop counting calories and enjoy whatever is there on your plate
Image Source: Quora
Restrictive eating is not only bad for physical health but also for mental wellbeing. It can set you off into a never-ending cycle of disappointment where you will be freaking out because you didn’t get your daily dose of protein or you will be feeling guilty for consuming an extra 100 calories because you could no longer resist the cravings for fries.
If you keep counting calories, you won’t be able to enjoy your food. And, that's not fair. Do not start fad diets by getting influenced by the toxic gym culture. Enjoy food but yes, be mindful of what you are eating. Do not blame yourself for eating fries. Rather, eat fries but in a very limited quantity!
Stay away from toxic people
If any person makes you feel guilty about being YOU, stop communicating with him/her immediately. Being in their company is not just unpleasant but also depressing.
Also, do not overconsume social media content from fitness bloggers/vloggers. Their posts are motivational but if you keep listening to them all the time, you could end up feeling depressed because you are not able to become like them even though you are working out as hard as they probably do.
Everyone’s body is different and so is everyone’s capability. Celebrate who you are and try hard to improve yourself but do not make this a burden.
Stand up against toxic gym culture
You should. We all should. It is high time to make the abusers realize that real men don’t judge or demean others. Rather, they encourage others to focus on their health first instead of becoming a part of an unwanted, unpleasant, and unethical competition.
Toxic gym culture can ruin our confidence. So, until gyms become inclusive places and the staff takes responsibility to ensure that no one gets body-shamed there, let's all try to workout on our own from our home gyms.
References and Citations:
- The Health Risks of Fad Diets– Oklahoma State University
- Weight loss and fad diets– BetterHealth
- Potential long-term consequences of fad diets on health, cancer, and longevity: lessons learned from model organism studies– National Library of Medicine
- The hidden dangers of protein powders– Harvard Medical School