A Running Debate: Nakedness

Nakedness has been a topic of discussion between myself and several friends over the past few weeks. It turns out I have quite different views to (what seems like) most people. So I thought I’d open it up to be a bit of a debate. Me vs Steph. Let us know who’s corner of the changing room you’re in…

Lissy says…

I have a question. It’s been bugging me for a while. And then I started cycling to work and using the changing and showering facilities almost everyday in the basement of my building and now I really just don’t get it.

Why is being naked so awful?

Our changing room, like many others, is full of grown women of all shapes, sizes and ages, dashing from cubicle to cubicle, doing the ‘trying to put underwear on without dropping the towel’ dance and just generally avoiding eye contact like their life depended on it.

We have three showers that are in self-contained cubicles and four showers that are open plan. Every morning, there is a queue for the three closed off showers, whilst the four others stay unused. The same thing happened recently on my first visit to Cyclebeat. Eight showers – six open, two cubicles. And a queue which I was able to breeze straight past as long as I didn’t mind a couple of people seeing me shampooing. Fine by me.

I’m not suggesting we all need to wander round flaunting it in each other’s faces, but it makes me sad that we’re regressing to feeling like we are 14 again and changing after a PE lesson. Especially as these are all people who have just run or cycled into the office, or have just finished a workout in the gym or studio next door.

I asked my male colleagues what happens on their side of the wall. The shower set up is the same, and all of them get used. Apparently everyone is a lot more ‘matter of fact’ about it and they just get on with what they need to do. Need to put their towel down to get dressed? Done. Need to be at their desk in 20 minutes so don’t have time to faff around trying to cover up? So don’t bother.

For now, and until I have an answer, I’m just going to carry on being the only weird one that walks past the queue and uses the shower without a door.

Steph says…

I’d just completed a tough 45 minute work out, I was sweaty, tired and hungry and ready for a lovely shower. I walked into the ladies room, put my bag on a hook and looked around for the changing/ showering cubicles.

Then I heard the showers and realised that the other ladies by the six hooks were already stripping. Heat rose in me, bile started in the back of my throat and my head filled with stressful thoughts.

My dreams of a lovely shower were replaced by flashbacks of school, knowledge I would have to rush my shower and realisation that the complimentary towels barely covered by foof and boobs at once filled me with fear.

Don’t get me wrong I’m okay with getting changed in front of my friends, I’m not a complete prude. I just like my privacy, especially with strangers/acquaintances. A shrink would take me back to school where I had enough ammunition for the bullies that the possibility of my body looking different (it wasn’t) was enough to put me off PE and communal changing for life.

So far this has all been about me, but if there had only been me in the room I would have coped with open showers. Having to squeeze past others to get into/out of the showers, having to look at the floor whilst getting ready and having to put my contact lenses in/makeup on next to the lady that dries her hair naked in public made the whole the thing much worse.

I’ve never used the showers at a gym either, I always go home/to work and use a private shower. An added bonus is that I don’t have to lug all my stuff around.

Trying to rush, get my undies on under the towel and finding anywhere to put my things amongst the naked bodies in the under provisioned changing rooms resulted in me heading to work as a stressed, sweaty mess with wonky hair and clothes. I might as well have not showered at all.

Maybe it’s just me and my issues but when I am paying £16+ for a class I don’t want to have to go through a stressful experience every time. Places like Boomcycle have it right where there are beautiful big towels individual cubicles where you shower and get ready before facing the world. Because of these facilities I can enjoy my class and the rest of my day with no stress, well except for when I forget my bra, but that’s another story.

14 Comments

  1. November 24, 2014 / 8:19 am

    I can see the merit in both views. On one hand I usually face the wall, if with friends just get on with it, and block out any embarrassment I feel.

    On the other hand it takes me immediately back to trying not to catch the eye of any of the popular girls in the school gyms, in case they laugh or get some ammo to run with; takes me right back to obsessing over all the possible wrongs my body has done (excess body fat, spot on my bum?!); and takes me right back to changing in front of my mother and sucking in in case she had a comment to throw my way. Also to be honest I find properly cleaning my nooks and crannies awkward in front of strangers!

    • November 24, 2014 / 9:08 am

      I think a lot of my non-embarrassment must come from the fact I never had any traumatic school experiences! We didn’t shower after sports at my school (which is potentially a bit gross in hindsight!) so it was only ever just getting in and out of uniform.

      Agree about nooks and crannies though!

  2. November 24, 2014 / 8:27 am

    Interesting debate! I do not mind nudity at the gym and using open shower…when I do not know the people! I had no issue at my gym where I did not know anybody but I get very prude in front of colleagues or friends.

    • November 24, 2014 / 9:09 am

      I would’ve thought people were less prude in front of people they know! Interesting!

      • November 24, 2014 / 9:11 am

        I compare myself much more to my friends than strangers! I should perhaps consult about this lol!

  3. November 24, 2014 / 9:25 am

    Great debate ladies, something I have actually thought about – been trying to embrace being more nonchalant about it all especially since so many studios I’ve gone to in London have semi-open shower areas and when everyone is fighting for space and rushing to get to work there is no time to be shy. I have noticed that people in London generally seem to be much more comfortable and open about this than they are in the States.

  4. November 24, 2014 / 9:34 am

    I’m with Steph – If I’m paying that much for a class or a gym membership I want to feel comfortable getting changed & ready for work etc after working out. Total deal-breaker in whether I join a gym or not! I do WANT to agree with you though – Being naked SHOULDN’T be so awful!

  5. November 24, 2014 / 10:24 am

    I never had any traumatic school experiences and I come from a culture where families would have a weekly sauna together. Naked. I therefore have no problem being naked in changing rooms or saunas but I have a hard time exercising in just my sports bra – I feel “too naked” then 🙂

    PS. My mind boggles every time I see women who do not shower after Bikram yoga and just try to towel dry themselves and change in the toilet 😐

  6. November 24, 2014 / 1:54 pm

    I’m with Steph on this one, but for different reasons. I have no overwhelming lack of confidence or paranoia about my body or people looking at me, I just consider showering to be a private activity that you do alone. We have cubicles for toilets for the same reason, right? Why not break down the cubicle walls and take our morning dumps while complimenting co-workers on their choice of earrings… No? No takers?! That’s pretty much how I feel about taking a shower with a co-worker after a morning run commute. I’m sorry but there is no way I can look at you giving a presentation when I know your choice of pubic grooming.

    At school we didn’t have showers and every gym I’ve ever been a member of has had cubicles, so it’s literally been the last couple of years that I’ve encountered the group shower when I’ve been doing small races which have had Race HQ at local football clubs or rugby clubs. It doesn’t matter how wet or muddy I get whilst running, I’m not going to go and take a group shower with my friends and clubmates. Ever. If I’m having a shower with someone I know, it is because I’m about to have sex with them.

    I’ve only had to use a communal shower once and that was after my very first Bikram Yoga session where I was drenched in sweat, and putting clean clothes on to go to lunch after was an unsanitary impossibility. I didn’t know a soul there and within 30 seconds the changing room was full of naked women just hanging out and chatting whilst waiting for a free showerhead. I was so blissed out after the yoga I was like ‘ok, I’ll roll with this’ and it really wasn’t that bad – weird as hell, but not awful. If I’d been there with friends though I would have been mortified and probably would have waited until the changing room was empty.

    Great post – I look forward to reading further comments!

  7. November 24, 2014 / 7:57 pm

    When I was much skinnier, I had no problem stripping down and hopping in the hot tub at my all female gym back home. Everyone did it. It was very freeing.

    Now? There is no way in hell that I would get changed in front of anyone. I am not comfortable in my body and (while I am sure everyone who reads here isn’t of that mindset) I know what people say about fat women online. After some of the things I’ve seen lately, I won’t even take pictures of myself and post them online, let alone get naked in a gym changing room. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are comfortable in their skin, but I am not one of them, and unless I lost a ton of weight, I’m not getting naked anytime soon.

    As far as other people are concerned I don’t care what they do. As long as people put a towel down before sitting on a bench and don’t dry their bush with a hairdryer, I’m fine with it.

  8. November 25, 2014 / 6:18 am

    I have no problem with other people getting naked in the changing rooms but it is not something I would do. If there were no cubicle showers available in a place I would take my things and shower back at home. Or just not go there again! I think it is very much a matter of personal opinion and that gyms/studios should cater to the needs of every person that wishes to attend

  9. November 25, 2014 / 1:34 pm

    Haha and there’s me thinking this was a “naked run” debate as in going Garmin-less. But it is LITERALLY nakedness.
    Is it weird that I think getting naked in front of people you don’t know is easier than people you do know? I don’t care what a stranger thinks of me when I’m naked but I kind of don’t want my best friend to see me in the buff. Nor do I want to see her (or him!) naked. Each to their own I suppose!

  10. November 27, 2014 / 10:56 am

    I thought this post was about running without a GPS watch, LOL! I’ve always been uncomfortable showering/changing in front of people, but I guess I am getting more used to it now that I work in fitness. We have 2 cubicles and an open area, lots of people seem to not mind using the open area, but some people will queue for the cubicles. At the pool I go to with tri club, the changing rooms are so dirty and cold, I keep the towel around me when I’m changing just for a bit of extra warmth & try to get dressed as quick as possible to get out of the horrible changing room!

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