Why I Stopped Judging People at the Gym

George started preschool this week. Would you believe me cold-hearted to say that I didn’t shed a tear? It wasn’t that I was so ready to have time away from him. I just know that he’ll be fine. It’s OK and good for him to grow a bit on his own, away from me, and especially away from our TV. I tend to be a pushover when he asks for a little more TV time.

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I mean, I had to take at least one first-day photo! (Olivia’s hand was “dirty”.)

Last year, my husband took George to school every Tuesday and Thursday morning, but with his new job, I’m now in charge of drop off. Basically, this means I have to get it together (and force both children into clothing and breakfasting) before 8:15 in the morning.

Yes, yes, if you have a “real” job, 8:15 probably doesn’t sound all that early. However, it’s a bit of a struggle in my world.

To rectify this situation, I’ve decided that Olivia and I should visit the gym after drop off on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This way, I only have to pull on some spandex, throw the bedhead into a pony, slide into the running shoes, and hit the door. I’ve even considered sleeping in my gym clothes, but that seemed a bit much.

My gym routine is always the same: Listen to The Greatest Showman soundtrack while slogging along to the Couch-to-5k app and watching close-captioned episodes of HGTV shows. I then lift a few weights, stretch, and pick up my daughter with shaky, sweaty arms.

As I look around the gym at the other exercise participants, I’ve started to realize something.

We’re all doing exactly the same thing.

OK, that’s probably not the most exciting epiphany, but I think it’s true. We all bring the one thing we have to offer at the gym: our bodies. Whatever shape they’re in, we all have the same thing bring with us, and we’re all there with generally the same goal. Even if you’re the gorgeous, size-2 21-year-old prancing along on the treadmill, you’re still trying to improve your body or your health, right?

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OK, this is me a little bit too.

There are two types of people I love seeing at the gym (or, at least, they really stand out to me). I always mentally congratulate elderly, grandma-types with defined muscles and people in wheelchairs. I’ve seen little, old men in wheelchairs wheel over, carefully lift themselves onto a weight machine, and pump some iron. If they’re doing that, what excuse could I possibly have?

Also, whenever I see a larger woman working her hardest on an elliptical, I struggle not to run over and shout, “Yes, girl! You’re doing great!” And I do mean that in the most genuine way possible.

And here’s why:

It’s hard to convince yourself to go to the gym. There are beautifully toned people there, and it’s difficult to join in the flow. Admittedly, when choosing a treadmill, I choose the one between the two old men, and I avoid the one next to the pretty blonde (male or female) prancing along at 9.5 pace.

But, we all show up anyway. I’m not convinced I’ll ever have a justifiable thigh gap, but I’m working toward one anyway! It’s not worth getting all critical about someone else’s body when I’m there working on mine.

I always think of that cliche, “You’re lapping anyone sitting on the couch,” when I worry about how slow I’m trudging through my cardio time. No one is looking. The only one who cares is me. And, goshdurnit, I’m getting a teensy bit faster with each visit.

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