It's all a bit embarrassing......

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Level 7 Valued Member
Does anyone ever get embarrassed about being strong? I know, sounds daft, maybe it's my reserved Britishness or something. I went to a gym the other day with the only aim of using the elliptical/Nordic training thing. I tweaked my knee a couple of weeks ago doing something stupid again and thought a 20 minute easy aerobic session for rehab, as not running, would be fine.....which it was. I had to wait to get one so looked around at all the shiney machines and didn't fancy any of them and then the lat pull down machine caught my eye. There was no pull up bar, so yes, not a proper gym!, so I dismantled the seat and put the max weight up and hung off the bars. The bars were narrow with funny bits and angles,so figured I'd do some hanging leg raises and some l-sit pull ups. I was immediately conscious of people watching and felt very awkward, so much so that I did a couple and walked away. The gym was really busy too and it struck me that probably no one has ever seen a) someone do a pull up not sitting on their arse and b) a hanging leg raise c) both a and b were done by a guy in his 50s. Most of the guys were young and skinny or very overweight. The women were all overweight. Then once I got on the elliptical I watched a personal trainer go through an instruction with a middle aged lady on the lat pull down machine that I just adapted to do proper pull ups! It really struck me how mainstream health 'gyms' have got lost. It shouldn't be that a middle aged guy feels embarrassed doing strength exercises in a gym! Just wandered if anyone else feels the same way.


Level 3 Valued Member
I wouldn't say embarrassed, but I can tell I sometimes get some odd looks and extra attention. What surprises me the most is that this often happens amongst guys that should know better.

Most recent example: At a large Army National Guard base I was in the gym and was doing a few TGU with a dumbbell. Nearly everyone in there, mostly soldiers, was starting to stare and talk to each other. I finished the ten singles I had planned on doing, but still it surprised me that military guys in a gym would not see that on a regular basis. I don't think it would have been seen as much of an oddity in a USMC base gym though. They usually have KBs and bumper plates these days.


Level 7 Valued Member
Before i left commercial gyms forever and started to exclusively train with KBs i did a routine with Zercher Squats and Floor Presses.
The stares and the amount of people asking me what i was doing and which muscles the movements train was ridiculous.


Level 3 Valued Member
Yesterday I accompanied my girlfriend to a boxing class, so in the mean time I did a "bootcamp" class at the same gym.

The "trainer" had us do:

3 barbell cleans + 5 burpees
3 barbell cleans + 6 burpees
3 barbell cleans + 7 burpess
3 barbell cleans + 15 burpess

Followed by

10 barbell push press + 50 push ups
8 barbell push press + 40 push ups
6 barbell push press + 30 push ups
4 barbell push press + 20 push ups
2 barbell push press + 10 push ups


The training world has gone mad.


Level 5 Valued Member
Alistair, to be honest, I'd find a guy in his 50's doing hanging leg raises from a lat pull down machine pretty eye catching as well.

Best thing about kettlebells - I get to work out in the garage or garden away from the poison of the crowd....

Daniel Holtz

Level 5 Valued Member
In graduate school I would train at the university's fitness center. The other guys in there looked at me like I had two heads when I would routinely bench press 300+ lbs for reps (respectable, but not unbelievable numbers). Hell, they were impressed when anyone could bench >200 lbs. It struck me that most people have never truly seen legitimate strength. They have never seen it and don't know how to react to it. Especially if it is in a form that is foreign to them, like L-sit pullups or TGUs.

That's why the youtube video I linked to here is so impressive, especially to casual folks, the numbers seem unbelievable. Take a moment out of your day and watch this new hype video for my Arkansas Razorbacks and see some legit strength.


Level 3 Valued Member
I still go to the gym to use the elliptical with my wife (best machine ever).

But I am to embarrassed to make eye contact with anyone when doing stregth moves or stretches most people are unfamiliar with.

Also, I am somewhat mortified when people see me crawling outside (never done this at the gym).

I used to be a trainer in a gym, and was more comfortable doing things people thought were strange back then. Now I just hope no one makes a viral video, mocking me for what they don't understand.


Level 4 Valued Member
Embarrassed about being strong is a new one on me. When I first starting going to Gyms (over 30 years ago) I always felt embarrassed because I couldn't do half the stuff other guys were doing.

These days I feel embarrassed for some of the bodybuilders at the gym that can't pull their own weight or safely handle free weights.

The first time I went to the local gym (a flashy new age franchise type of gym) when I moved here, I went to the pullup bar and did one super slow rep and when I was about half way up one of the resident bodybuilders said "he's not going to make it" and started laughing.

I finished the rep and held the top position for about three seconds and then I did three muscle ups. After that I put my belt on and started doing weighted ladders up to 40 kgs. He's never had the nerve to look me in the eye since.

I live in a rough neighborhood, so being seen as strong speaks more than words around here.


Level 2 Valued Member
I have started using a gym for treadmills to run on (I know, I know...) and am appalled at how I see the users swing kettlebells. I have seen about 5 people doing them, and they are all doing them the same: squatty and the 'lift' being done (relative to HS/GS) slow and clearly with the arms providing at least half of the force to lift the bell, rather than simply being the attachment to the body.

Next time I am going to get a bell and swing it properly in front of them because, as being as so many do them like this, it must be an instruction problem from the gym.

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Does anyone ever get embarrassed about being strong?
No. Perhaps because I have experience as a performer in the world of music and also teaching (teaching is performing, too), I'm used to it. It gets old, though. People staring at you is a distraction; find another place to lift.

And I also try to remember that it's only in those kinds of gyms that people think I'm strong - people in places like StrongFirst know what truly exceptional strength is and that thought should keep all of us humble, whenever we are.



Level 7 Valued Member
It probably comes down to context and expectations, or the norm, whatever that is. In all my years of ducking and diving with all things sporty I've never really felt put out by awkward embarrassment. I do genuinely feel very fortunate to be able to do some of the stuff I do at my age, blessed even but I don't consider myself strong in the context of strongfirst strong. There is a huge gap between the pursuit of strength and vitality with the principles of strongfirst, martial arts, gymnastics and performance sport to that of the health club fitness spa shiney machines context. Maybe it is more about aesthetics, marketing and looking the part rather than being, or something. I use a gymnastic gym too from time to time and never feel awkward there in any way, well maybe an age thing, as most are a lot younger than me but it is a very inclusive feel where there is a sense of shared values. When I'm out and about crawling around or on the monkey bars in the local park I think it funny if I get comments or looks and kind of enjoy it as a bit of banter. I would never have thought I would feel awkward in a gym though, of all places. So, yes, I've sacked it! I prefer my garden anyway.

Harald Motz

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Yep, Alistair. I feel with is my anecdote:
I was in a commercial gym for almost two years three years ago. I was in it on a suggestion to get into contact to people I think the modern term for it is to "socialize". That does not mean that I am asocial in any way, but I am maybe distinct, peculiar not really "mainstream", only not possessing a TV-Set for many years, and like reading.
I was into the prescribed machineroutine two or three times. Then I let myself go and did splits, handstands, bridges, the flag on a little bouldering wall, ran on the treadmill foreward turned myself around at will running backward sometimes juggling with three balls on it. The first positive responses came by the mother in law audience, the great amount of the younger ladies watched me with interest, but were suddenly proudly engaged in their machineroutine when I looked back. The younger guys were I would describe it a little bit envious, but totally engaged in the famous benchnbiceproutine, full of weight gainer, bcaa-z, crealkalyne, supertribulusterestris alpha-omega-alanine in their brain, headphones in their ears, always training in groups with more than one performer pushing each other. The Trainers and gym owner seemed not to know whether to kick me out of their club or not, but hey they think of their wallet. To come into conversation easily were the more experienced population and the women behind the bar. But I really liked it there, hey, yes, I did Zumba many times...oh, the good old times, all the memories come to my mind again. I get sentimental, or I get old....

But a few times the spapolice came to restore law and order; when:
- doing farmer walks on the treadmill with the dumbbells
- going upstairs to take one or two dumbbells to go downstairs to do get-ups on the mat or sorts of farmers in the empty Zumba class room (I was in there frequently alone, doing my moves, and often people liked to watch through the glass door or window)
- I took my 24k with me to be on vwc (oh, no, no: so horrible for the back!!!)
- I wanted to develop some equilibrium skills on the spinning bike trying to pedal standing without my hands on the steering wheel (I would damage the bike doing so. The only thing I damaged, was a little trampoline which was not build to...jump on it)
I never complained or argued, I am a peacefull guy, I did as they told (but not with my KB).

When more than two people comming together there seem two possibilities to me: something great is happening, or I think a little bit more than 50% maximized dumbness, unfortunately.
And the most annoying thing is: a great bunch of the men and women where "TRAINER" is written on the back of their T-Shirts (I am still referring to commercial gyms) do not know that they do know nothing.

A side- anecdote: last year I accompanied a good friend in his com. gym. As usual in such a setting I do my own stuff...then happened the following: a young lady with a lightly loaded barbell in front of her. You know, when the plates are small, the bar is deep. She grabbed the bar with her back in the lumbar region round like O when that is not shuddering enough she was performing a curl-grip-deadlift, while watching herself in the side mirror, when I remember correctly she was chatting with her girl friend while doing so. The guy with the letters "TRAINER" on his back was only five meters away from her. I thought to myself: when she stops her set, I quickly put on my imaginery "LIFTINGPOLICE" T-shirt, to give her a thing or two to think about. And the crown on the top was, that she seemed to be on the 20reproundedbacksnatchcurlgripdeadliftroutine. When she got her breath back, she explained that "TRAINER" showed it to her. Sad, but it was true, or just comedy, who knows it.

And then was the point I knew the gig is up for me on "planet fitness":
"Harald, we don't want to see your cocaine in our club anymore. It took a little time by me to know that he meant my magnesia!" enough said.
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Level 7 Valued Member
Harald, backward running on a treadmill whilst juggling? You should market that one, take it out there:
jugging, or something. Could be the next craze in planet fitness! Makes my l-sits look very tame.

Harald Motz

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
It is said that juggling per se is good for brain development. I am still hoping for great results. I like to say: if I was not so dumb, I would be smarter. Maybe with marketing:. Why not to pay someone who does all the hazardous exercices and Tabatas for you? To get rid of unpleasent things is a sign of progress when I am not wrong.

Harald Motz

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
When somoene in all his happieness is smiling, the whole world is a little bit happier. By the way, I can't deny to be a little bit amused by myself. And would it be not so serious I could laugh about it. But it is, like it is.


Level 1 Valued Member
All. The. Time. But then I'm a woman and in some ways the world is still not OK with women being physically strong. (And I am a weakling compared to the SFG women!) Women are in some ways and for some people, still expected to be... delicate? There's definitely some awesome stuff happening with trainers encouraging women to be strong. But I think for every female powerlifter, girya or xfit athlete, there are 10 more women going to a trainer saying 'I don't want to get muscle-y, I just want to look toned.'

Just last night, I was singled-out at a town meeting. I volunteer on an ambulance squad. I'm one of the few people strong/fit enough to load a normal size patient on a stretcher in the ambulance by myself. We just got a new power stretcher that can load a patient up to 700 pounds with just a button. We were explaining this expenditure to the town board and not that it was an important thing to mention, but for some reason, the officer giving the presentation needed to point that I can accomplish this without the lift assist. It was embarrassing to be singled-out like I'm sort of mutant Amazon she-beast.


Level 4 Valued Member
It's a sad reflection on society when it has a need for a device that can load a 700 pound patient.
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