I hate the gym. The gym is one of the most heinous places on the planet. I hate everything about the gym and what it stands for. I hate public bathrooms, I hate sweating in public, I hate exercise. I hate the gym. However, I have been going to the gym near my house for the last few years. Recently I’ve been making a point to go three to four times a week. And it has yet to get any better. But while public showers and sweat are terrible, they aren’t the top of my hate list. The top of my list is the prep it takes to go to the gym and the staring.
Unlike women who don’t wear khimars/hijabs when they work out, I can’t just leave and go to the gym. My prep for the gym feels like exercise in and of itself. I have to find my sweats, and then either a long sleeve shirt, or a short sleeve long sleeve combo. All of which has to match. All of this that then has to have a matching scarf. And it can’t be one of my good scarves. I have to find a matching, “this scarf has seen better days; but it isn’t too bad that I can’t be seen in public” scarves. Which also means I am probably going to have to iron said scarf. Not to mention I also have to find, pack, and iron what I am wearing to work that day. Which also includes a scarf. Which probably, almost always, needs to be ironed. By this point I’m already too through and I haven’t left the house.
Then comes the staring. Every. Single. Time. I go to the gym people feel the need to stare. The constant angry, or curious gazes I get from everyone in the gym when I walk in exhaust me. The only person who doesn’t stare at me is the gentleman at the front desk who looks like he hates his job and could care less who comes in or out as long as the little scanner beeps. People will follow my whole walk through the gym to watch me work out. I’ve literally had to stop working out to ask people if they’re lost. It’s as if they have never seen a woman in a long sleeve shirt work out before.
It’s hard enough when you’re weight conscious to work out; especially in front of other people. Many Muslim women opt to work out at home just so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of putting on layers and hijab before going to the gym. They also don’t want to have to deal with the questions, comments, or the staring. Unfortunately, working out at home just isn’t helpful to me. For one, my house looks like a Toys R Us bomb went off, and I don’t have all the cool equipment that my gym does. Instead, I work out there where I feel I get more done and hate it. When I am out at the gym, or the store, or anywhere else I am not here to be your zoo exhibit. I am not here to answer questions, or talk about your thoughts on Islam. I am not some alien coming to figure out what a bunch press is and take it to my leader. I don’t need to justify my clothing options. I am here to sweat and look ugly, like everyone else. So please, keep your eyes on your treadmill and don’t worry about me. I will be over on the elliptical praying to my Lord to keep me from dying.