Letters from the dorm: don't let your fear of being judged keep you from your #gymlife

By Hilary Lok, Durham University

Stop thinking that people are judging you at the gym. They’re all too busy staring at their own reflections – and soon enough, you will be too

By Hilary Lok, Durham University |

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Ever since I left Hong Kong for university, each visit home has been punctuated by the same sort of comments from my friends and family about my weight. They range from “Wow! You’ve, uh … put on some weight …” to “I see the freshmen 15 isn’t just for freshers, hey?” to a flat-out “Oh, you got fat!” All of this, by the way, while someone is pinching my face, or poking my arms.

I don’t mind these comments too much – I fit into most of my clothes, and I (kind of) do sport, when it’s not too cold outside. However, since realising that I would be graduating very soon, and that I’m not likely to get fit once I find an office job, I decided my last year at uni might be my last chance to get fit.

That’s why this year I decided it was worth getting a gym membership.

The thing about the gym – especially university ones – is that they’re usually full of gym lads. Every hour of the day. It can be very intimidating, especially if you’re a girl standing at 1.6 metres like me, to walk into a place where a bunch of sweaty guys are trying to outdo each other with their gym grunts.

Some people will head to the treadmills to avoid annoying anyone – but don’t let the lads stop you from trying weightlifting. They’ll usually be too busy staring at their own reflections, and egging their friends on, to notice you anyway.

Sure, at first you’ll feel out of place, but you have to constantly remind yourself that nobody’s really looking at you. After a while, you’ll find yourself staring at your own reflection as well. This is a sign that you are making very good progress towards becoming a gym lad yourself (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, no?). I’ve genuinely stopped caring about guys at the gym now, and I’ve started caring about the powerlifters that hog the squat rack instead.

Since starting my journey towards ultimate gym ladness, I can genuinely say that I enjoy going to the gym. I don’t think I can even begin to describe the genuine excitement I feel when I see a free rack. If you’re thinking about joining a gym, stop thinking and start doing; bite the bullet and buy a membership.

I’ll probably never become a “proper gym lad”, but if there’s one squat rack left and we’re both eyeing it up? Sorry, but you’re not getting it.

Edited by Ginny Wong