Last updated: Dec 22, 2009
Sharon Schuster

Please dont watch me work out. No, Im not talking about the hot guys at my gym. (I should be so lucky!) They dont give me a second look (or even a first), probably because Im makeup-less and as sweaty as Tom Jones after an encore of “Sex Bomb”—and Ive got a nasty game face on.

No, the people who stare are usually other women and old guys. And it drives me bonkers. I mean, its not like Im some überathlete whose mad kettlebell skills stop people in their tracks. OK, so Ive tried just about every class and accumulated what some would consider kooky moves. One of my favorite classes is Budokon, where we crawl across the floor like panthers, crabs, and monkeys. But please dont gape as I practice my move du jour. Im sensitive when Im in monkey mode.

Even though Im in decent shape, I still feel exposed at the gym, and not just because I walk around hardly clothed. Theres something very vulnerable about exerting yourself in public. The gym is kind of like the Loehmanns communal dressing room: youre all there to achieve individual goals—Find a great dress! Work on your core!—but, collectively, youre standing around pretty much naked. Really, your workout face is kind of inti­mate … like your orgasm face. And I prefer to cherry-pick the people who see that.

So, recently, I decided to retire to an empty workout room to do all my crazy moves. I was blessedly free of witnesses until some dude walked in, and I groaned inside. But he launched into some dope breakdancing, oblivious to me. Then a woman came and shadow boxed like she meant it. We all flew our freak fitness flags high.

But I know I cant hide out forever. And, to be honest, I dont want to, because—lets face it—its these strangers who show up day after day with me who help keep me motivated to work out.

I guess we all look at each other. Its how we learn. Its how we motivate. Its how we get perspective on our own bodies, for better or worse. I mean, the stunning actress Joan Allen goes to my gym, and if I could follow her and copy her every move, like some exer-stalker, I would. So maybe theres a lesson in all this for me: whoever is checking me out is probably judging me a lot less harshly than I judge myself.

And maybe I should take the staring as a sign of encouragement. Truth be told, an audience does make me lift a little more, punch a little harder, kick a little higher. So I really should thank them … but no hugs. Im too sweaty for that.