The Unexpected Things I Learned About Fashion, Health And Self Love When I Joined The Gym

I’m a strong believer in wearing your outfits as armor. It’s so much easier to deal with the end of the world when you’re wearing red lipstick, thigh-high boots and your bangs are looking banging. That’s why, when faced with the prospect of joining a gym, my biggest fear wasn’t letting loose a fart in front of a class, or even just being too unfit to do the class. My biggest fear was: What do I wear?

When walking into The Gym (so Meta), you enter through a "pod," in which you have to type your unique and stupidly long passcode to get in and out of. The pods are made of clear glass, much to the delight of claustrophobics (they really remind me of the subway traveling system in Futurama). During my first time in the pod, I couldn't help but stare at all the impossibly shiny and beautiful people milling around in front of me. Surely there had been a mistake: My makeup-less, jiggly self definitely wouldn’t be accepted in this crowd of Super People. Once the glass slid past me and I was allowed to enter the gym (after probably being sprayed with some illuminati mind washing spray), I realized the shine was just sweat. And scanning the Olympiads in front of me, I noticed some similarly chubby, red-faced athletes. Still, they were athletes without anxiety issues or really patchy eyebrows (when not expertly drawn on).

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(How are you meant to keep your makeup perfect as every drop of sweat in your body runs down your face?)

My induction was led by a woman who had spent years honing her health, and in my patterned leggings and Ramones t-shirt-cut-into-a-vest (from my embarrassing teenage years, when showing your bra under your armpit was indescribably cool), I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. As she made me, my friend and the stranger who was booked into the same induction as us practice the machines we asked her to show us, I couldn’t help but think that she knew I was allowed to walk the end of year mile run in high school because my gym teacher gave up all hope for me a long time ago. It was as if — as this woman adjusted my hand position on the weights equipment — my teacher was leaning over me in disbelief that I was willingly exercising. It’s times like this one that I wish I had the entirety of my high school staff on Snapchat, so I could send them proof that I wasn’t failing at adulthood as they’d all expected.

Afterwards, I really wanted to run back to the shops and try to find an outfit that sucked everything in, kept everything in place and also adhered to my own standards of style (I don't think I'll ever be able to wear or understand "health goth"). I also needed to run home to research a really good setting spray so I could continue my new-founded exercise career with a full face of contouring. Overall, I was impressed with my desire to run anywhere.

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(Literally nobody in the gym looks this good.)

Before coming to the revolutionary realization that makeup wipes exist, I had to sit through a university class bare faced before my first "real" gym session. Although I often can’t be arsed to do a full face of makeup — usually when I’m horrifically hungover or when I just woke up late — the feeling that I had no choice but to be makeup-less was deeply upsetting. That said, the loss of inch-thick foundation didn’t mean that I stopped being a gobby shit, and I continued voicing my (always right) opinions on what we were studying. Arriving at the gym, it wasn’t getting changed in front of strangers that bothered me — I was immediately confronted by a bare ass emblazoned with a Playboy bunny tattoo and I knew nobody would be arsed (hah) about my own stretch marks and embarrassing vagina tattoo. It was how I looked in my cheap version of "gym gear." The only thing I could find to like about myself was just how adorable my bob looks in pigtails.

The shtick you hear time and time again in the #cleaneating tags of Instagram and from the gym geeks whose exercise routine is their entire life about exercise = endorphins is true. That's not to say that eating a whole tub of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough has stopped filling me with joy. Yet the thrill of exercising was one that shocked me, and looking at my sweaty, red, round head after an hour of "working about" (pissing about on fancy gym equipment), I felt a sense of pride in my appearance. A pride that I never feel unless I’m wearing something extremely low-cut or an exceptional amount of gold eye shadow.

What I’d never realized until this gym membership was that I can be proud of my body without any alterations. My body can manage exercise (something that I never thought possible) and my mind can be proud of my body for exercising (something that was definitely impossible in my teenage years). My new-found confidence in my "natural" self is revolutionary, especially when I’m wearing an old, embarrassing Ramones tee and leggings as trousers (that old carnal sin). This doesn’t mean that I’m going to become one of those hippy dippy types, and eight times out of 10 I’m going to wear as much makeup as I can possibly fit on my face. But it means I can look in a mirror without all that makeup and still be vaguely confident.

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("Think of all the girls who could become top athletes but quit sports because they’re afraid of having too many defined muscles and being made fun of or called unattractive." — Serena Williams)

However, my pride doesn't stem just from this self-made discovery of my own body. It also comes from the shock that literally nobody at the gym gives a shit that my butt cheeks can make a clapping noise sometimes, and I could probably get a black eye without wearing two sports bras. Everyone there is there to make themselves proud, not to judge me as I’m making myself proud. Still, I’m completely here for the girl I saw last week running with a full smoky eye. I hope one day I get to the pinnacle of health where you can spend 30 minutes on the cross trainer without ruining your eye liner. And I really hope "glamour gym" is the next fashion trend and that one day I can find a gold sports bra for cheap on the high street.

Images: Fotolia; Getty