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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Opinion: Why did being healthy become cringe?

Communication+junior+Sean+Starnes+lifts+at+the+Southside+REC+on+Thursday%2C+April+6%2C+2023.
Photo by A Nguyen

Communication junior Sean Starnes lifts at the Southside REC on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

As most good anecdotes begin, I was eavesdropping. Sitting right next to me were two girls, snickering and shushing each other as they were reviewing applications to some organization.

“Oh my god, he’s talking about how he likes to go to the gym and how it’s helping him feel better about himself … cringe.”

“Girl, bye! Literally a big red flag.” 

The conversation then ended with more giggling. 

You heard it here first … It’s “cringe” to do things that help you feel better about yourself, and if you don’t want to be toxic, just don’t go to the gym!

If you can’t understand how ridiculous that sounds, you need to evaluate why exercising is considered a “red flag” and why there are so many negative stigmas surrounding personal fitness. 

Frequent gym attendees are often known as “gym rats,” and the stereotype portrays them as egomaniacs obsessed with selfies, overpriced gym clothes and judging people’s appearances. 

Like most activities, stereotypes are assigned to its participants. There are the “mean girl” cheerleaders, “white trash” fishers and “snowflake” artists. 

Toxic members of any community create harmful narratives, and people who then ridicule all associated with the community perpetuate them. The gym particularly falls victim to this phenomenon, with non-gym members now calling anyone who likes going to the gym a narcissistic man who wants “big muscles to get pretty girls.”

I don’t know when lifting a barbell became the equivalent of Andrew Tate saying only hot women deserve CPR, but stupidity finds a way! 

Last time I checked, wanting to be mentally and physically healthy is — you guessed it — healthy! I’m not saying it will fix your life, but it certainly improves it. 

As a chronic gym goer myself, I have met some of the most positive, supportive people there. It’s an environment that values self-improvement, having different goals and discipline. One of the gym’s most important lessons is that progress is valuable, no matter how big or small.

It’s not about lifting an enormous weight, but rather making changes that are an improvement from where you started off. Any gym rat knows that even lifting a pound heavier or just having more motivation than you did before is an accomplishment. As long as you’re making either a mental or physical improvement, it counts as a win. 

This self-improvement goes hand in hand with discipline. The gym is a great place to practice holding yourself to a certain, individual standard. Taking the time to get to the gym, waking up early, even changing your diet or adding a new exercise are great enough achievements. It’s not about lifting enormous weights or changing your appearance completely. 

You don’t need to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a gym rat because the gym isn’t about looking good — it’s about feeling good.                       

The gym is not about looking any certain way; it’s an inclusive environment with a variety of people going for a variety of reasons. It is not a finance bro in a napkin-thin tank top who wants a Bugatti, babes and biceps. It can be anyone of any gender who wants to improve their mental health, lose weight, gain weight or go for fun. 

Personally, I’ve been having a great time daydreaming while jamming out on the treadmill, while for some of my friends, the gym is for breaking personal records. 

Both are valid. 

Believe it or not, people are multifaceted and exercise for more than one reason. So, when people demean fitness to just wanting women, it completely devalues what so many others work for. 

It all goes back to people thinking that the worst qualities of an activity define the activity itself. The only things these stereotypes accomplish is stopping people from doing what makes them happy out of fear they will be called “mean,” “white trash” or, in this case, “toxic.” 

If you think making fun of a stereotype makes you smart, it’s not. It’s being gullible and judgmental enough to think it’s true. In fact, it’s “literally, a big red flag.” 

Lilia Elizondo is an English senior and opinion writer for The Battalion

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