Sweat, Vanity and a Dose of No Confidence.


The number of people I saw in the gym this week that did not break a single bead of sweat was annoying, to say the least. Not just because of the fact that when I go to the gym it’s a tidal wave of sweat, tears and misery all rolled into one. It is because of the unwelcome, growing feeling that one’s appearance must now be immaculate.

Image by Marta Beltowska.

The gym is an odd entity. From the outside, it appears harmless; a tool to be used when you want to raise your confidence and get a better quality of life. Many go through life having had quite pleasant outcomes from exercising in such establishments. However, since joining the gym at university, I have come to realise just how vain and shallow gyms can be.

Since the refurbishment at the Jubilee Sports Centre in Southampton, not only have cardio machines moved to right in front of the weights section, but more mirrors have also appeared. Now personally, I don’t want to look at a puffy, red faced version of myself whilst I fail at the cross-trainer. But perhaps this is the reason that so many find gyms intimidating.

Students who regularly use the gym had this to say:

Do you find people attractive at the gym?

Second year Politics student,  Male: “Most of the time, I don’t find them attractive. I’d prefer to see a girl actually using the gym properly than just strutting about.”

Second year History student, Female: “I always wait to tie my hair up after I’ve got on the machine and take it down after before going back to the changing room, in an attempt to look a tiny bit more attractive”

Should women find the need to wear make-up at the gym?

Third year History student, Male: “Sweat lines and runny mascara have got to be two of the least attractive things a man can see. Its far better to go fresh faced and concentrate on yourself, not anyone else.”

Second year Nursing student, Female : “I wouldn’t wear a lot of make-up as it’s only going to come off in the shower afterwards anyway, but I wouldn’t go without any on.”

Is there a pressure to look good at the gym?

Second year Biomedical Sciences student, Male: “Yes there is, you want to look awesome in front of someone you find attractive. Plus it’s also a masculinity thing – “I’m stronger than you” kind of thing.”

Second year Nursing student,  Female: “I feel conscious when working out that I’m sweating too much and that guys will think it’s really unattractive.”

Third year History student,  Male: “It’s easy to feel intimidated, especially as a guy, working in the weights section. But to be honest everyone is friendlier than you expect. You just have to get over that initial apprehension.”


Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come: that the gym will become a place of sweat and red faces once more.



Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    Enough gym bashing, WS !! The mirrors are there because being able to see yourself is a huge help for technique when doing both weights and cardio machines with a more specificied technique like the rowing machines. And if your technique goes wrong when you’re heavylifting that could result in an irreversible injury.. So they play a far greater purpose than just for people who like looking at themselves. x


    Well, actually a lot of free weight exercises are performed worse when you look yourself in the mirror and to be working out at a gym with no mirrors is preferred. If you want to check your form then bring a camera or a workout buddy!

    Bridget Clay

    Taking a camera to the gym? What on earth are you on about? Would you really pause to pose in the middle of a stroke on the rowing machine, or while lifting a heavy weight?! The reason they have mirrors especialy in the weights area is so that people can make sure their technique is right, which reduces the risk of injury.. it’s a fact.. (it also makes it seem bigger and hence less claustrophobic and sweaty). to brush off the increase in mirrors as ‘vanity’ shows ignorance and a sweeping stereotype of all those who use the gym – some people actually train for fitness classes and sports clubs ..

  2. avatar

    This is so true.. far too many steroid pumped lads in the gym and fake looking vixen girls in tiny shorts. There are better and cheaper gyms in the city that aren’t full of posers.

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