Friday, March 23, 2012

Body Acceptance, The Gym, And Naked People

Before I started going to Healthworks in Boston, I'd never been to a gym with a naked-place culture.  From my first day at Healthworks though, I noticed that women of all shapes changed out in the open, wandered to the showers nude, and used the hot tub, dry sauna, and steam room naked.  It was the first time in real life I'd seen that much nudity, and even though I wasn't looking, I still managed to realize that there was a LOT of variability in what women were shaped like, and that what someone looks like naked has very little to do with what they look like clothed-- clothes can enhance or detract from someone's appearance, altering it in subtle and major ways, and while I knew that, it was never so obvious as when you see someone strip down in front of you outside of a sexual context.  The naked-place aspect of the locker room isn't something I'd seen a lot of before or since-- maybe it's that people in Boston care less about nudity than those in Ohio or Oklahoma, or maybe it had something to do with the spirit of Healthworks itself.

Healthworks was a lot more body positive in general than many gyms are.  Instead of targeting fat busting or weight loss, their class descriptions talked about strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health.  Their fitness trainers ranged from the typical hot young stereotype of what a female fitness instructor looks like to buff older women who looked like they'd do well in a fight.  And they put in the idea that that you go to the gym for health, but also for fun.

A lot of women--and some men, but more women-- I know have issues with body acceptance.  The ideas behind why people have body image issues are discussed ALL OVER the place, but I think one small thing that could go a long way towards getting people comfortable and happy in their own bodies is to just see the range of shapes others come in, and see that in a neutral, non-sexual context where the body is just there, valueless.  Even if a gym like Healthworks, you can't get completely away from value aspects, since there ARE issues of strength and weakness and muscle, but hell, it's a step in the right direction at least.  Plus, going to the gym generally involves some form of exercise, which tends to get people more in touch with their body and all the awesome things it can do-- whether its yoga, cardio, or lifting, it's hard to hate a body that produces awesome endorphins.

Even though I don't currently go to the gym on a regular basis, it inadvertently cemented a lot of ideas about body acceptance in my head.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's funny how big of differences you will see in locker rooms from one gym to another, or from one school to another, or one state to another.

I changed high schools in the middle of my freshman year. At the school that I went to the first half of my freshman year, only a few girls were brave enough to choose to shower in the open group showers in the girls locker room. The rest of us skipped taking showers. Then I had to transfer to another high school in the middle of the year that was in the exact same city and school system, and it was the exact opposite. At the second school, all but a couple of girls always chose to shower after gym class.

Neither school had a rule that you had to shower after gym class, but you were allowed to at both schools, and the locker rooms were designed exactly the same, open group showers. But the girls were polar opposites of each other at the two schools when it came to barring all in the locker room.

I've seen the exact same thing at different health clubs in my area. At one, all of the women act like prudes, and at the other, all of the women act like nudists.

I think that most women and girls look to see how other women and girls are in the locker room? If they see that everyone else is covered up, then they themselves will stay covered up. If they see that most of the other women or girls are comfortable being nude, then they themselves are willing to go nude too.