I am a junior transfer student here at James Madison University. Therefore, switching from a community college to a university…calls for quite the culture shock overall. As someone who enjoys the gym 24/7, you could call me a “gym enthusiast” if you will. In this blog post, I will be discussing my personal experience as a gym enthusiast regarding gym culture, and how gender tends to define the gym.

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I have always relied on the gym as a way to maintain my mental health by improving my mood and relieving stress to improving my physical strength and stamina. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love a couple of rest days here and there. In the past, I would tend to do most workouts at home just to stay inside of my comfort zone. However, once I transferred to JMU, I was thrown outside of my comfort zone considering I was no longer living at home. For my first semester at JMU, I explored my townhouse community gym which is the size of about two master bathrooms combined. If there are more than just a couple of people in this gym including myself…I’d consider it absolutely packed. Some days here and there, I would have the gym all to myself. I was very content being alone at the gym as there was no one to judge my workouts I might have been doing “wrong”, even though I am no gym professional.

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It wasn’t until I further explored the social media app, Tik Tok; that gave me a boost of confidence to try new, beneficial workouts and not be afraid to work out in front of others by watching the “gym fanatics” that I look up to. I saw these popular figures doing workouts beneficial for women and also taking videos of themselves doing their workouts in a public gym space. Therefore, I decided to work out in a more public setting on my own. This spring semester, I had been hearing more and more about JMU’s recreation center, popularly known as UREC. I decided to give UREC a try at 6:00 am on a Monday morning, right when they had opened. I was first intimidated by the size of the building and then I was intimidated by the thought of the number of students I’d be working out with. As I walked in, there were directories pointing where exactly to go and lockers to put my belongings in. I instantly felt a sense of comfort in a place outside of my comfort zone…again, outside of my COMFORT ZONE.

As someone who was new to UREC this spring semester, I took note in my head of the things I observed within such a well-populated gym. Specifically, in the weight areas, I noticed there was a significant number of men…and not so many women. On Tik Tok, I remember watching videos about these women receiving unsolicited advice from males surrounding them. Additionally, a lot of women in these videos would state how they lacked confidence in the gym, but it took them going more often to build their confidence in such a male-dominated space. The more that I have gone to UREC this semester on my own, the more confidence I have built to work out there consistently. I also have enjoyed working out with students of both genders around my age, with similar mindsets on gym culture. Every single person has their own fitness journey and seeing everyone working on their personal goals together is nothing short of inspiring. It is safe to say that reaching outside of your comfort zone can teach you a lot about yourself and what you are capable of accomplishing…which is a lot more than you would think. A new place or idea can sound very intimidating at first however, it can eventually feel like home…even in the midst of gym culture shock and gender gaps. I’m a gym enthusiast who’s trying to be consistent, please send motivation. Okay?

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