The big commercial gym I used to be a member of was much like every other big commercial gym, mirrors everywhere. I have a streak of vanity. After all, I was working out not just to be healthy but because I wanted to look good. Put me in front of a mirror or a dark reflective window and I’m going to check myself out, every time. I just can’t help it.
Running on the treadmill at the big commercial gym I would glance over and notice how I looked while I was running. It wasn’t pretty. I’d tug and rearrange my clothes trying to look ‘cute’ as I ran. Which is impossible, I’m not a cute runner. In the middle of a lift I’d catch a glance of my hair and become distracted. Between sets I’d have to fix my hair several times. If I happened to catch a glimpse of my lifting faces, that was never good. There was a good chance I’d fail a lift trying not to laugh at myself. Then there was the woman who took a photo of her behind in the mirror every single day. I’m sure she ended up with quite the collection of gym mirror behind photos. Or the guy doing bicep curls in front of the mirror who fixed his hair more than I did.
Once I made the change to a CrossFit box, that only had mirrors in the bathrooms and one very very small section of a wall in the front of the box, how was I supposed to know if my behind looked cute that day? How was I supposed to keep track of what I looked like when I was lifting? What if I made a funny lifting face and missed it? Because come on we all know those mirrors aren’t really there to check on your form. They are there to make the commercial gym look bigger and for the members to check themselves out constantly.
Without a hall of mirrors there to distract myself, I stopped caring what I looked like mid-workout. I stopped tugging at my clothes and fixing my hair. My focus changed to be where it should have been all along, on my workout. I don’t need a mirror to know if my form is suffering or wrong. My coach will tell me. I started to be able to FEEL when my form was wrong. I know when my back isn’t flat, I didn’t go below parallel, or my shoulders were to far back. Being able to feel and recognize my form improved it greatly. I don’t need to see it, because I can feel it.
Of course, now I get the lovely shock of my post work out red sweaty face, clothes amiss, and crazy frizzy hair post workout. And I love it since it means I put all of myself into it! I no longer care about how I look when I workout. I care about my form, the reps, and the weight. I get a laugh at seeing photos of myself mid lift with my crazy lifting faces, without stopping to laugh mid lift. If you took out all the mirrors at the big commercial gyms what would people do without being able to see every single thing they did? What would that woman do without the opportunity to publicly take a picture of her behind every day? How terrible would it be for bicep curl man to have a single hair out-of-place?
Really, it’s okay not to see what you look like when you workout. It’s probably even better not to see what you look like. It takes away the vanity portion so you can focus on what really matters in the moment, form. A funny thing then happens. You end up looking better outside the gym because you are performing well in the gym. Mirrors at the gym are only bad when they draw more focus to how you look than how you perform. Don’t go smashing mirrors at commercial gyms now, just try not to look.