Bullied at the Gym – is this fourth grade, again?

Bullied is a term that has become so entrenched in our language, that sometimes we are really unaware of it’s effect.  So maybe I shouldn’t use it here, but to paint a certain picture, here is the actual (as I found it on Google) definition:


gerund or present participle: bullying
  1. 1.
    use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
    “a local man was bullied into helping them”

Now, I have had to deal with all sorts of bullies in my past – workplace harassment is something I mediated for years and I have seen all kinds of intimidation.  Feeling as though you have lost your power is a debilitating thing.  And this morning, I experienced it.

I am choosing to write this not because I quickly found strength in my experience and ‘fought’ back, but because this gut-wrenching feeling of being trapped or stuck is terrible.  It is in this that I find reason to write about my experience.  Because you, dear reader, may feel the same powerless feeling I felt this morning, whether at the gym, or even walking in the gym in consideration of joining, in your marriage, or in your job.  When power to make decisions and live life freely is robbed from you, you are left helpless and with regret.  I’m here to give you a little bit of that good stuff back.

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I was going to start by painting the picture of where I live, the stereotypes that lead to where I live and therefore, the reality of my every day experience here.  But I’m not going to.  Those who know me, will get what I’m talking about.  Those who don’t, well, just read on.

I think sometimes people approach circumstances with a sense of entitlement.   And I walk in the gym every time with that sense.  Maybe that was where this morning went wrong, but, I’m a paying client and do have expectations.  I expect cleanliness.  I expect that they operate in their hours they have posted.  I expect the sauna to be hot and the equipment to work.  I have expectations that I place on the staff and management of my gym.  I also expect every trainer to greet me with a smile and be courteous.  But, where things get kinda hairy when my sense of entitlement is tested with other clients.

I stick to myself at the gym.  I have talked to maybe two people.  The first was an older lady who claimed I had a very pretty face and continued by giving me tips in weight loss and form.  Thanks.  I’m good!  The second was one of my son’s friend’s mom.  That’s it.  I am polite if I speak.  I re-rack.  I wipe down. And I respect those around me, both in the gym and in the locker room.

This morning, however, my confidence was tested and I almost let that lady win.

I finished my squats, then my dead lifts, did some calf raises, worked on two machines for extensions and curls and then wanted to end my first round of lower body burn with weighted and elevated glute bridges.  I use the bench press because it’s the only piece of equipment that doesn’t slide when I put my feet up against it.  The head trainer was very cognizant of where I was and ensured I had enough room to do what I was doing, which I appreciated.

As I approached the bench, there was a bunch of stuff on it.  A Tim’s coffee cup, a pair of reading glasses, a stack of trash mags, and an iPod with head phones.  The weight area was packed this morning, so I looked around a bit to see if anyone saw me look at astonishment that this ONLY bench press in the gym was being used as a pseudo-locker.

My gut instantly sank when I saw her walk over.  Ugh.  Not her.  She said, “Did you need me to move my stuff”.  She was on like her gazillionth cable pull when she came over, having to stop her 10 minute conversation she was having with another “Jaw Day” client.

I took out one ear bud, politely said, “That would be grand, thank you” and she cleared off the bench.

I did my butt-busting exercise, finished with an amazing plank on the mat, and cleaned up my plate and mat just to the side of the bench to use in my intended next three sets.

I walked over to the squat rack to start up again.  But, this client grabbed her stack of personal belongings and put it back on the bench.

I do have to mention, she has done this before.  The cable machine.  She kept taking my straight bar off and putting on the ropes and didn’t bother returning my bar when she was done.  Was it me?  Maybe… was it her?  Possibly.  But I want you to focus on this moment.

I finished my machine work and walked over to the bench again to tighten my tush and, I was faced with trying to find her to remove her crap.  I was ready to leave.  I picked up my FitBook, my water, my pen and I started back to the locker room with only one out of the four intended sets done, and I was ready to turn it in.  You know that feeling?  When you feel defeated.

I could have attempted to use another free bench, or even the swiss ball or hell, maybe even the bosu, to get creative and finish my workout.  But I let the ignorance of someone else, someone who had their own sense of entitlement to dictate to me how my morning was going to fair.  I started to unlock my locker to pack and I said to myself, Fuck it.  I am just as entitled to a work out as anyone else.  I am just as permitted to workout freely than those who choose to talk THE ENTIRE TIME THEY’RE THERE, or those who leave their manners at the door and fling around their perfect tanned triceps, leaving some of us feeling a little less powerful.

I have been doing this journey work for sometime, so I know you can’t give anyone your power without your consent.  But, I have to say, in that moment, I felt like the overweight kid in grade school again and I had no voice – I recognize this circumstance is trivial and quite honestly a first world problem, but it’s the essence of the experience that is important here.

I walked back.  I walked back and put my shit down on where you’re SUPPOSE to put your shit down, and I walked over to her and politely requested she remove her social belongings until which time I was done.  She wasn’t at all impressed and turned her nose up quickly at me, but in that moment, I found my voice.  In that moment, I acted as if  I deserved… (thanks to a fellow blogger who posted this morning.  Acting AS IF if a kick-ass philosophy).

Is this silly?  Ya, sure, I wrote a lot of words to get to a fairly anticlimactically moment, but to me, it was important.  I didn’t let my lack of confidence win in this.   I assumed because I am still overweight, she had a greater sense of power in the gym then I did.  That’s bull shit.  I would encourage you to find your voice as well in any walk of life that gives you that knot in your gut feel.  We can all get kicked around sometimes – at home, at work or even in the gym.  It blows.  And while I am a fairly confident person, there are still certain situations that I will just leave to a stronger person.

Not today tanned bodied, gym-beauty.  Today, this weight-loss victor won her battle!





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