Poll: Do Mirrors Help or Hurt Your Exercise Efforts?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I almost never look at myself in a mirror. (If you saw my hair today, you'd agree that this must be true.) When I'm brushing my hair in the morning, I look at my hair for a moment, but don't notice or pay attention to any other part of me, or my body looks like as a whole. When I brush my teeth, I walk around the house or look at my teeth, but don't notice anything else. When I use the restroom during the day, I don't even glance at the reflection right in front of me when I'm washing my hands. Once every few weeks, my own reflection catches—sometimes when I'm walking past a large window or if I'm trying on new clothes in the store. When it happens, I'm always surprised. "Oh, so is what I look like!"
If your weight has had ups and downs (especially lots of ups), or if you've struggled (as I have) with body hatred or a negative self-image, sometimes it's easier to just ignore your reflection than to face it—and the hurtful silent comments that come with it. I no longer hate looking at myself, and I no longer say bad things about what I see. But I still general ignore mirrors—I think out of habit.
Recently, I started workout out at a new studio that has mirrors in the Spinning room. You could either pick a bike that directly faced the mirror or one that faced the other direction (with the mirror to your side, out of your direct line of sight). I chose the bike in front of the mirror, unsure whether it would help or hurt my exercise efforts.
I actually loved facing the mirror. And when I returned to class the next week and the week after that, I picked the same bike every time. Watching myself work out was a distraction (in a boredom-busting way), and it somehow motivated me to push myself harder. I suppose whether you like what you see ("Look at me go! I'm a machine!") or you don't ("Burn, baby, burn that fat!"), I could see it being beneficial.
Last winter, I watched myself running on a treadmill at the gym to pass the time and inspire myself to work harder—and it worked. (Check out my five other tips to take the dread out of the treadmill.) Watching myself exercise, I've learned, makes me feel empowered, which inspires me to keep working hard.
I would always encourage people to use the mirrors as a feedback tool, especially when it comes to strength training, because it can help you with your form. This is especially true if you aren't super coordinated (you know who you are!) or don't have a good sense of how your body is moving in space if you're not able to see it.
Whether mirrors motivate or not depends on the person. And research is mixed in that area, too. Although some research shows that watching yourself in a mirror while working out can sap your motivation, other studies show that it can be a boon to your form and performance.
If you're the type of person who ignores mirrors—or avoids them at all costs—I would encourage you to try exercising in front of a mirror just to see how it affects your form, motivation and willingness to work hard—no matter how you feel about yourself or the appearance of your body. When you see it moving, doing positive things, performing or getting stronger it just may help you to appreciate what an amazing machine it truly is, no matter how that machine really looks to you (or others).

So tell me: Do mirrors help you (in any way) during your workouts or not? Do you simply avoid them at all costs?

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DINKER0798 6/5/2017
I teach for the Y..one of my facilities has mirrors, one does not. I like teaching using mirros becasue I can keep my back to the class (easier for class to follow) and for the participants to check their own form. I have many older participants and no matter how many times you correct them, without mirrors they cannot see what they are doing wrong. Mirrors keep you accountable! Report
Looking mirror in gym doesn't work it's really distract your attention please try to avoid seeing mirror while doing any gym activity and as a result it really works.Want to share a website along with my comment hope you will love it. Report
I like mirrors for aerobics classes that require following footwork (eg, step, Zumba, any other dance-based aerobics), and for lifting free weights so I can check my form. Since I started working out at home, I don't have mirrors available to show me what I'm doing and I really have to concentrate more on the motions I'm making while lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises that require proper form (especially squats). Having a mirror in front of a treadmill or other cardio machine doesn't matter; I'm usually too concentrated on watching the clock or maintaining my pace. Report
Not good for me. They moved the weight machines in front of the mirrors and I haven't touched weights since. I only look at my face in a mirror and only when I have to (combing hair, putting on makeup). Report
It makes me feel weird looking into a mirror while I exercise. I don't like it if I see my belly bulging, but I do like the speed at which my body can move. Report
I use mirrors to make sure my form is correct. Report
Yuck, I hate looking in mirrors. I agree that mirrors at the gym help with good form but then I get distracted at everyone else looking at themselves in the mirror and lose my balance. So, I have to say I choose NOT to look in them when possible. Report
Yes, I like working out in front of a mirror because it helps me keep my form and posture in line, and I can see if I need to correct the way I'm doing the exercise. I do strength training with free weights and the machines at my Y, as well as yoga and tai chi. I have a bad back, so if I don't do my core exercises properly it can do more harm than good. Report
I don't particularly like looking at myself in the mirror while exercising, however that might change once I reach my fitness goals! Report
I don't mind working out in front of a mirror, it's working out in front of people--truly fit and trim people. I use the mirror to check my form. I also use the mirror to check out the progress that I have made. I find that it is a good motivational tool. Report
i'm neutral. i could do with or without mirrors. i'm just happy to be at the gym. period. Report
I really appreciate working out with the ability to see my reflection. It gives me a sense of confidence, while at the same time helping me check my form. I wish I had that same check when I was doing my runs outside, it is always good to make sure you are using correct form. Report
I don't like to look in the mirror when I Zumba, because it distracts me. I just like to feel the music and groove to the beat. There are no mirrors when I swim, work on the elliptical machine, and work on the circuit machines at the gym, which is fine with me because I look at myself enough everyday when I get dressed in front of my full-length mirror. Report
At the Gym I don't use mirrors during cardio sessions, as I would need to wear my glasses to see myself. For strength exercises I like to check on a regular base if I still follow the rules about how to do the exercises - but then I follow your comments on focusing on the technical aspect not my body as a representation of myself. After a real dislike of my body in the past I found it very healthy to go to the spa and realize that most of the people have problems with their shape. That didn’t meant that I stop the effort to reach a healthier life but it reduces the pressure of the glossy perfect people on TV and magazines (which were “photoshoped” nearly 100%, but also can be found at numerous SP member pages for motivation).
Nowadays I look at the mirror at least once in the morning and every time I pass one, not because I’m kind of a narcissist, but I like to check if I still transport the right feeling. If not, I make a joke to myself to get back the smile. And life is always better with a smile on the face :-) Report
Normally I don't like to look in the mirror but I was at Zumba last night and glanced at myself in the mirror. Now I know why I don't look in the mirror. I thought I was doing well with the moves but when I looked at myself I didn't look good at all. It's much easier on my motivation to not see what I'm looking like. I'm a perfectionist so if it doesn't look good enough to me, then my mind starts telling me I'm not doing good enough (even if I'm doing my best). Report
I used to dance jazz and tap for 10 years. The studio had them everywhere. Certain times you look at them others you don't. Then I started gaining weight and usually avoid them as much as I can at this point. Report
I hate it, but they definitely do help with form. At the gym there isn't a mirror while on the treadmill or elliptical, but on the stairmaster there is, and I've corrected my form after glancing over. Cardio...I'd rather not have mirrors...I'll be happy in my delusion that I'm graceful. That would be discouraging to me. Report
The mirror is awesome for proving best form and is very encouraging. I don't focus on body shape as much as exercise form, breathing, and smiling to give myself encouragement. Report
It definitely helps - I can make sure I'm keeping the right form, which is so important to me. I dread getting injured again. Report
The first thing we installed in our home gym was a wall of large mirrors - they are vital to maintaining proper form when lifting weights or performing other types of exercise. Report
Since I lost 30 pounds I once again like looking at myself in the mirror when wearing clothes. I do a lot when doing Zumba. I don't like looking in the mirror when i am naked and hoping when I get to goal weight that will change. Report
Use Mirror when working out with weights all the time for form and technique. Report
I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror, but I do it often because the mirror tells me things that I need to know, even if I would rather not be reminded.

The mirror reminds me that years of scrunching over a computer keyboard has caused my posture to deteriorate. Rounded shoulders only make us look old and feeble. Whenever I see my silhouette in a mirror, I immediately pull my shoulders back and straighten my spine, and then I walk forward looking much more confident and fit.

When lifting weights, the mirror will tell me if I’m not using proper form, and this helps me to avoid injury.

The hardest part of mirror-gazing is that it reminds me about the passage of time, and but there is a benefit to this because it forces me to be aware that I will not have forever to change my life into what I want it to be.
I have tried Zumba and a kickboxing class where there are mirrors. I hate it--that person looks too old to be me cause, in my head, I am not in my 50s--mayabe my mid-30s! I don't like to see my working out but I do like to see me in the AM--I have ribs and a waist and hip bones! Report
I have experimented with this in the past as we have a full length mirror on a stand at home. I tried putting it in front of me while on the treadmill. I have always been my worst critic when it comes to my body and while I know I should do something about this and I may try the mirror again at some point I haven't been ready for the mirror yet: I just keep bashing away at myself! Ugh!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals. Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
I always look in the mirror when working out. I use them to make sure I have proper form and to see the benefits of my hard work. Report
Depends on the exercise. Treadmill, bike, elliptical - there's not a whole lot you can see from there. Weight-lifting? Definitely helps to correct and refine form. Group cardio? Helps some, makes others self-conscious, can actually give the wrong cues if a person is watching the reversed move and goes the opposite way they should. Report
This article is very timely. I do look in the mirrors at home, but they reflect from the waist up. Actually the reflection must be flattering. My Hubby is in a Nursing home for recuperation and therapy. Last night I went to therapy with him and the wall is a mirror. I looked at myself once and couldn't look again. The reflection was not flattering for sure. DH and I are both old and Diabetic. He has been for nearly 30 yrs; mine just came on. So NOW is the time to change or we will have to order an extra size coffin for me! Report
At Golds Gym we have mirror in the GGX ( Gold's Group Exercise)
Class room on the walls in front so whoever is in the front row or middle row
can look and check out our form when we are exercising. It helps to know
if we are getting our form right when exercising. Report
Most of my exercise is through bellydance. For that, its definitely better to have a mirror to check that my posture and alignment stays correct when I moving. It also helps remind me to keep my head up and see what my potential future audience sees. I don't belong to a gym, so don't use workout equipment. My guess would be mirrors would serve the same purpose there -- to check that I'm using proper form and don't start to slouch. Report
I prefer exercise without the mirrors. Report
i hate looking in the mirror, i know i am fat, and do not need 20 mirrors to remind me Report
As in a ballet studio working out on a bar....it is very beneficial to me to be able to see myself while working out, in a mirror. It is well known that FORM is so important. This helps remind me. Report
LOL I avoid mirrors at all cost! I just look like I am carrying more weight than I actually have. Report
Never used a mirror,
I even had to stop and visualize the weight room to think if there was a mirror. Yes there is one over by the free weights. And I know there are no mirrors in the pool area where I do 90% of my exercise. Report
not so much a mirror fan. Report
I prefer to work out with a mirror and watch that I am maintaining correct form. Report
I VERY much recommend working out in the mirror. Yes, I see the parts I'd like to change one day, BUT I can see my form. I can exercise and "feel" like I have a certain form, but when I see it, its NOT at all what I thought. so i recommend it EVERY TIME!!!!! Report
I love to do yoga, with a mirror, it helps me getting into the right position for the exercise. When I was younger and used to skip rope, I always did it, in front of a mirror. It seemed to keep me motivated, and I could go on, until the time alotted was over. When I ride my ex. bike, I watch TV. lol. Report
I love it - it helps me to see how hard I am pushing myself; also boost my self confidence whne I can see my physique that had changed so much from doing the class. Mirrors are motivational tools for me Report
I like having a mirror, but honestly I forget it is there most of the time and if I glance up and see myself in it and think, "ugh". I look like crap when I go to the gym and within five minutes of starting any workout I look even worse and by the end I am a total wreck of sweat and disgustingness. But really, that is the whole point. It shows I have worked hard and did what I set out to do. Outside of the gym, mirrors are my friend, I don't always think "ugh" and I am just vain enough to think there are times when I look really good in certain outfits. I learned from a very early age to dress the body I have,not the body I want and how to look my best in clothes no matter what my size. Mirrors do not judge, they merely reflect. If you want to change what you see in the mirror change your inner dialogue and watch the reflection transform. Report
I hate them but have to admit they motivates me. Report
It helps me a lot when i am working with weighs. Report
Love/hate looking at mirrors - when I feel like I'm making progress and still don't like what I see, it saps my motivation. But when I DO like what I see - which I'm starting to do now - it makes me remember one of the reasons I'm doing this. At the gym though - I never like what I see - I think it's because I wear baggy clothes because I'm too self-conscious to wear tighter clothes right now. But I still make myself look in the mirror when lifting weights to watch my form. Report
I like mirrors for weight lifting, so I can check my form. Otherwise, I find them distracting - I keep seeing movement, and it makes me think someone is walking (or whatever) in front of me, and I look up. Just a weird feeling. Report
I HATE THE MIRRORS AT THE GYM!! I actually do NOT feel motivated at all, if anything I get so distracted at the way I look, I don't work out as well. Maybe if you are thin and in great shape, and like the way you look when you move, that would be fine. But, I am a fluffy girl trying to become fit, and when it all jiggles I become embarrassed and self conscious and won't go back... Report
I can not watch myself at Zumba. All I see is me, very round, looking terribly uncomfortable in my skin. No mirrors, and I'm a moving grooving machine. Report
I love working out in front of my mirrors my favorite benefit is that they always remind me of my posture and force me to keep good form...but I also know that if im on a cardio machine in front of a mirror i not only remember my posture but there's something about watching my steps i guess that makes me push myself harder Report
I use the mirrors to check my form while using dumb bells, I like to see some of the muscles that are developing, especially in my arms. I don't 'love' the mirror, but I need it to make sure I'm not getting hurt. Report
When I was in great shape, I did not mind looking at the mirror to check my form. Now that I am not, I usually check only when I'm not sure. There is a mirror near the seated leg press. I am so embarassed at how I look on it (i.e. how my stomach keeps ramming into my chest when I move down on it), I only use the equipment when no else can see me. If I didn't realize how awful this looked, I would not have those reservations about using the equipment. Report
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