Brogan Maguire looks at why social media killed her love for the gym
Going to the gym has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, and over the year’s fitness has been quite a big part of my life. When I was at school, I hated sport and PE because I wasn’t very good at it – think total geek – but when we started having lessons in the fitness suite in year ten, I finally found the thing I enjoyed. I started looking forward to PE lessons to blow off steam and get rid of some of my pent-up exam stress, and seeing how my fitness was improving inspired me to do exercise at home too.
The issue came when my GCSEs were in full swing and I felt the pressure mounting on top of me. Exercise became a control method for me, as well as restricting what I ate, and in time it became an obsession. I couldn’t sit still because I felt like I always needed to be burning calories and my mental health really started to suffer.
A large reason for that? Social media.
Even at home, in the comfort of my bedroom, I couldn’t escape the pressure that I felt over my body and how I looked. There were so many accounts on Instagram promoting weight loss products, size 0 models and diet tips that it was impossible to switch off.
In the one place where you’re supposed to be safe, I felt like a prisoner.
When my obsession became too much and I couldn’t take any more, I knew I had to change something, so I deleted Instagram and tried to stay away from things that made my mindset worse. It took me a long time to get back into fitness and looking after myself because I was so scared that my illness would return. Compulsion is in my nature and I knew that if I wasn’t careful things could go wrong again.
When I was eighteen I re-joined the gym and gradually built up my strength, making sure I was only going when I felt like it and that it wasn’t taking over my life. Once I’d left college, I had a long summer in front of me so I started going to the gym nearly every day. Only because it made me feel good and I enjoyed working out, not because I felt like I had to.
Since then, I’ve kept up with my gym routine and found it a really useful tool for releasing stress and looking after myself.
Last year, I started to try some new things and really got into yoga. I loved the idea of mindfulness and tried to incorporate it into my daily routine. I also started doing more strength and resistance training rather than cardio, and even started lifting weights – something quite scary at the time!
I loved the endorphins that I felt from exercise and the positivity that yoga gave me. Yoga isn’t as easy as it looks, so I had to really train my arms and core to support myself in all the poses and build my flexibility. I’ve been keeping up with this routine for over a year now, but my love for the gym has slowly started to disappear.
Once again, social media is the culprit. These days, everyone is a fitness blogger. Girls spend hours on their makeup before the gym, then spend the entire session showing off in their Gymshark gear, taking selfies and posing.
It’s so frustrating!
All I want to do is get on with my own routine, but I can’t escape the constant bombardment of fitness images, celebrity workout routines and ‘influencers’ selling protein shakes.
I’m so bored of fitness being a craze.
Looking after your body is important for physical and mental health, but I know from experience that obsession is not.
Going to the gym is not about flaunting your new clothes and growing your social media following. Let’s all bear in mind that working out isn’t just about how you look, either. Sure, it’s great to feel good about yourself but it’s just as important to be comfortable in your own skin no matter your appearance.
So please, I beg of you, next time you’re at the gym, don’t focus on what everyone else will think. Take that time for you.