The Anti-Healthist Guide to Hitting the Gym

Yes, that’s right. Anti-healthist people go to gyms. I’m one of them. I also do physical activities outside the gym that I like. 

Should you? 

Maybe. This multi-step series should help you decide. 

First question is to determine: Is it okay to go to a place like that? 

Hold the phone…did I really just ask that? Believe it or not, yes, I did.

Lots of articles stress all the different ways to motivate us to go to the gym or a morning jog: listen to music, walk the dog, bring a friend, set up a routine, add your suggestion here. All good ideas except…they don’t start at the right place.

What people don’t understand is that if you’re fat, disabled, unathletic, anti-healthist, or just don’t fit the gym rat stereotype…there is a more fundamental attitude at work. A lot of us feel, subconsciously,that we don’t belong there and have no right to be there. We feel like we’re in the way, or that we’re bothering staff when we ask for assistance. We feel like we’re being judged. We feel like it won’t do any good, that we’ve been “too fat” or “physically unfit” our whole lives and that will never change. We’re afraid we just won’t be able to do the tasks, use the machines, follow the instructions or follow through with our work out time. We may be afraid we will get injured or something along those lines. If you are very fat, or disabled in some way, concerns about injury or not being able to use equipment may be a very real accessibility obstacle. Some of us, particularly the anti-healthist set, may have a defiant, comtrarian attitude straight out of an 80s high school cult classic. We’re not the vain, stick thin bimbos or the meat headed jocks. We don’t need no stinkin’ gym time! 

Those attitudes are more common than people realize and they are more hindering than people know. That’s why I start with challenging these attitudes. 

First step within a step: Remember that gyms are a public place and a service provided to paying customers. It’s not an elite country club. You pay the fee? You have a right to be there.

Second step: This is not gym class where you wait to be picked last and are forced to play games you suck at and have the rest of the team resent you. This also isn’t physical fitness testing where government entities are demanding that you do the impossible, overcome your genetic limitations and ace a bogus exam. When you’re at the gym, there are no standards but your own and you can spend as much time as you want doing what you want. You can spend an hour and a half doing yoga or 15 minutes walking on a treadmill. It’s your time and there are no grades. And unlike school, you don’t need to ask permission to take a break, use the bathroom, listen to music, or watch TV. Lots of gyms have TVs. Turn on closed caption, put on your earbuds, and work. Even if you have to take breaks every five minutes. At least you’re there and you’re doing it. Plus, as you get better at this routine…you may find you don’t need as many breaks. But you’ll never get to that milestone if you don’t persist, breaks and all. 

Step three: Don’t worry about the people. The staff will be relieved to talk to someone and make their shift go by faster doing something other than staring at the clock. As for other patrons…most people in general aren’t thinking about you as much as you might think. They’re wrapped up in their own thing, and even if they wanted to spoil for a fight, they don’t want to get kicked out. So take comfort in that. And take comfort in two other things: they might have a battle (say, exercise addiction) that you don’t know about. They might secretly be inspired by you. They might be really entertained by that shirt that says, “I hate running” or “Exercise? I thought you said extra fries!” Or perhaps “Bacon is a vegetable.” If they really are haters, the best revenge anyway is to force your fat and/or skinny unfit ass in their space. Mark your territory as this is a public place and…wait for it…it’s yours as much as it is theirs! 

Most people aren’t haters though. And you’re not obligated to hang out with them, even if they are.

And yes, feel free to have extra fries…before or after the workout. I don’t care. Because the anti-healthist fitness motto is this: Health isn’t a destination but a mode of travel…and in the end, all roads lead to your healthy, fit Rome destination, even if this healthy, fit Rome place has lots of neighborhoods that all look different from each other. Just make sure you’re on one of those roads. 

See you at the gym! Extra fries to follow! 



  1. Saye Bennett · December 16, 2016

    Thank you for this. I have never been someone who liked gyms, even when I was in my twenties/thirties and was an exercise fanatic (addict??): partially because I prefer to work out at home due to convenience, and partially because I am a total introvert…but also partially because I am a bit of a dork and therefore intimidated by going to the gym with all those fancy machines that I probably couldn’t figure out how to work, LOL! I like your practical approach, as well as the idea that exercise/health is NOT an all-or-nothing situation.

    • joannadeadwinter · December 16, 2016

      I get caught using machines incorrectly all the time. It’s pretty funny when you are able to relax and see the humor. Most importantly, keep going. Get back on the horse. Not only will you get better, but people are inspired by that. Lots f people have the same fear, they just don’t confront it.

  2. purplesagefem · December 16, 2016

    I used to use the gym in my early 20s and I was quite into it. I learned how to do the machines properly and work out properly. At some point life got me down and drained me of all energy, and I stopped going. These days if I have energy I just go for a long walk. I walk for about 45 minutes at a time, in all kinds of weather. This is the only thing I do anymore.

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