This is why I will never join a gym

Thirty five years ago at school I was bullied.


To the point where other than memories of the bullying I have no other memories of school.

Never physical, that would have been too easy I could have fought back, or shown my bruises to a teacher.   It was always verbal so there was no evidence.  But the evidence is very much there, even thirty five years later.

My peers bullied me by laughing at me.  Either behind my back, thinking I couldn’t hear, or setting me up to be the butt of the joke.

“here, we bought you a Lucozade” at the end of PE, for me to drink it and then be told “ha ha ha, we found it in the bin outside”

On the last day of term as we were all signing shirts, two of the girls thought it would be hilarious to write “bitch” across the back.  So I couldn’t see it but would know they had done something as they collapsed into fits of laughter.

Never being picked for the teams and hearing the groans as the team with the fewest members got lumbered with me.

Of the whole school laughing as did the final 400M of the 800M race on sports day on my own

I could go on but I am 48 this year and should probably let it all go.   But sadly it isn’t that easy.   Generally speaking I have but that feeling of not wanting to be laughed at is something I can’t get beyond and it means I go out of my way to avoid situations where it might happen.   Where people might point at me and say “what the hell is she doing?!”.

Or worse, where those people might share a photo to social media and invite their followers to join in the joke.

As happened to a lady at the gym this week.   If you have missed it, this is the photo that a bodybuilder called Diane Andrews shared to social media:

We have no idea why, and she has now apologised but its too late.  The apology means nothing because the damage is done.     And it is for this very reason that I refuse to join a gym.   God knows I should, but taunts from 35 years ago still haunt me and mean that I can’t bring myself to do it.  It is self preservation at its most fierce.

Why would I put myself in that position?  Best to just avoid it all together, right?  If I don’t join a gym this can’t happen to me.

Last year on holiday in Rome, Mr B got cross with me (rightly so I might add) because we all went off as a family to play crazy golf, and I refused to join in.    I said I wanted to take photos.  It was a press trip after all and wouldn’t it be nice to share photos of the golf course with my readers I reasonsed.  Mr B got cross because in his mind my just being there wasn’t the point, we should be playing as a family.   Not five playing, and me taking photos.   He was totally right of course and it had nothing to do with my wanting to take photos.    I am rubbish at golf, even the crazy kind and I didn’t want other families to be held up by an idiot mother in front who can’t hit a golf ball round a windmill.     Self preservation kicking in, and it’s pathetic, I know it is but those feelings run deep and they aren’t something you can just move on from when every fibre of your being screams “don’t put yourself in that position” but makes you come up with every excuse to keep you safe.   Even when it means your husband will get frustrated because you’ve never really talked about the real reason.

So when incidents like the one above happen those feelings all come rushing back and go a long way to support my stance on joining a gym.  Or rather on not joining a gym.   Because this sort of thing does happen, here is the proof.   It happened in LA last year too, and those are two that have hit the papers, I am sure this happens more regularly than we know.

Diana may have now apologised to the lady in the pic, the lady in the pic may have said “I couldn’t give a stuff” but what about the rest of us?

What about those of us that would love to join a gym but who saw that picture and said “This, this is the reason why I won’t”?

The women who would love to do our power walking during the day rather than in the dark when people can’t take photos?  What about us?

No apology is ever going to be enough to excuse the fact that the incident happened.

It doesn’t go away just because somebody then posts a few words and a heart emoji a few hours later.

It never goes away.

Photo of a gym courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • Christ T, I’m so sorry for the way you were treated, that’s really awful. I’m going through similar things with D at his school, and I can only hope he doesn’t carry it throughout his life as well. Just bloody awful. Especially when I’m running on the treadmill these days, with everything literally bouncing everywhere, I have an immediate ‘Christ, is anyone watching’ feeling, but for me, thankfully, it passes really quickly. I’m just so focused on my goals, I can cope – but then I wasn’t bullied at school. Having said that, I’m often called fat on dating sites, so y’know, it’s not been plain sailing. You are finding your way when it comes to exercise and that’s what it’s all about – the gym isn’t for everyone, regardless of their past, but it’s important to find what suits you, and you’re doing that, so that’s a massive achievement in itself. Maybe one day you’ll try out the gym – I’d always be happy to take you round mine, they’re not a bad bunch x

  • Oh gosh I have just hit submit on a post that echoes so much of yours. I totally get this. When I went to a gym snapchat was not even an idea on paper. I would worry about going now and being fat shamed. As my post I just shared says, I am not the measure of my size. Yet that is what people always see with me and feel they can comment on it. You are an inspiration to me.

  • I have a running machine in the house partly for convenience but also because the last time I ran outside I got abuse from passers by. Judging the fat woman for running.
    I should ignore it and let it go but I’m afraid I let it upset me and now I don’t do it. Used to go to a gym and in fairness never experienced it. Everyone I came across was happy to advise and was mostly interested in their own work out. I like to think that once I’ve lost a bit I will be confident enough to run outside again.

  • Nail on the head stuff.

    I suffer with social anxiety. Most of that is because of being bullied as a child. If I hear a group laugh in public, I worry that they’re laughing at me. I obsess over small things – like whether people were judging my hair or more commonly nowadays, my parenting.

    I dread the idea that I might pass these behaviours to my daughter. There is a still a part of me that is that 15 year old kid who is being bullied because her hair in mental and she was born in Germany. You can’t just shake those things off, because they shape how you live your life.

    • Really sorry you went through that too. I totally understand what you mean about those groups laughing, it gives me the cold sweats just thinking about it. Thank you for commenting.

  • I am so sorry to hear this T – but even worse how much it resonates with me. Even as young as 12 girls would say I had a “Joy belly” and looked 3 months pregnant. I was bullied and remember even in primary school being always picked last, getting out of sports day as much as I could and blaming my asthma. Telling myself I couldn’t do things so why bother trying. Worst still was when my class mates discovered my underarm hair that I knew nothing about – saying it was like I had a “gypo in a headlock” even now I am paranoid about any excess hair for fear of being laughed at. And I still avoid so well that I never even realised I do this with crazy golf (and I DO) until I read what you said and stop and thought about it. Slowly I am fighting this fear – I started walking in the dark and now can “run” in the day in bright leggings. I know I don’t look good in them but I no longer care – I am doing this for me.

    You are an amazing person T so I hope one day you can fully feel that the bullies were the ones with the problem and be set free. A very brave post which will help loads of people – like you always do so well. xxx

  • What a painful thing to share. Bullying once or twice is just mean, but ongoing bullying creates a sense that the bullies may be right–it’s a bit like gaslighting, where it attacks the very core of who you thought you were, making you questions your own judgements about any given situation. The dread of going into each of the unavoidable situations you described as a child is way too much pain and stress for a developing person to experience without some long term effects. No wonder you avoid taking those risks as an adult now that you have control over what you do and don’t do! ‘Facing our fears’ is good for us sometimes, such as crazy golf with the family (weighing up a more realistic risk/reward rather than the imagined risk/reward), but there’s no point at other times–you don’t have to go to the gym to get fit. And if you don’t like running in public, walk! A brisk 40 mn walk is also very healthy and better for the joints, so there 😉 xx