I’m never going to stop going to the gym and that’s a problem - Alexander Brown
Now I don’t mention this to tell you that I’m in delicious nick, and why yes I work out, please follow my Instagram.
Instead, it’s to share the conversations I and my gym friends have in private.
It’s not about girls, it’s certainly not about what other people are lifting, it’s entirely ourselves.
I have worked out since I was 17, when I weighed approximately 10 stone and was so skinny my friends thought I had an eating disorder.
Since then, I have exercised at least four times a week every week whether in a gym or at home without fail.
Lifting in the mornings through rain and shine gives me a sense of purpose, knowing I’ve achieved something in the day no matter what happens.
I’ve gone through everything Reddit’s fitness page has to offer and every kind of supplement.
If I don’t work out, it is not an exaggeration to say I feel disgusting, low, and a colossal failure.
But it’s more than that. I will feel fat. Now this is absurd, I know this is absurd. I do not expect sympathy or pity for lamenting how I feel when the reality is by any standard, quite good.
It is not so much a casual pursuit as an addiction, one that infects so many aspects of my life.
Going to the gym is a rush and validation I cannot get rid of. I’ve gone on 10 hour flights to Canada, arrived at the hotel and gone straight to the gym so it’s dealt with.
I have had partners who have seen me in various states of undress, but still feel obliged to cover up after a big meal.
And I’m not alone. Muscle Dysmorphia; a type of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, is a problem amongst almost all my male friends who lift.
It’s most prevalent among men in their mid-20s to mid-30s, with 10 per cent of gym goers said to suffer from it.
I have numerous friends who have taken anabolic steroids, developed eating disorders, or ended relationships because their partners couldn’t take them eating six small meals a day.
Much of the discussion around this now points to Love Island and Instagram offering unrealistic goals for men’s bodies, but that’s not the case, it’s just my generation given a platform.
These fears were exacerbated in lockdown. My lifting friends would message each other constantly, asking for diet tips, home workouts, or even sharing pictures to ask if they’d lost muscle mass.
We all know this is ridiculous, we know it’s all in our heads. But to stop risks losing our sense of self, a dedicated discipline that to rest for just a month can see all gains go.
In lockdown, I annoyingly got in better shape, having time to do nothing but exercise and control my diet. Despite the indicator the gym was a con, I was there before 7am the day of reopenings.
I have made progress. I no longer count calories, don’t eat two chicken breasts with every meal, and will happily knock back pints like they’re going out of fashion. I am generally happy with myself.
Whether these are gains I also need to worry about remains to be seen.
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