13 pieces of plus sized gym advice for newbies

July 24 | Guest post by Lisa Birch
Everything hurts and I'm dying plus sized gym top by Etsy seller HelloCurvyClothing

I didn't know anyone who went to gym before I started going myself, based on the advice of my boyfriend, who decided I needed to get fit. Now, that relationship only last a month more after this conversation, but my love for going to gym has been ongoing. I have had membership at nine gyms in 11 years, and currently train at a family-owned and operated club where I had had success in the past. When I was there I lost a lot of weight, and coming back six years later, I have put it all back on, doubled.

It has been hard coming back, but I had a long list of tricks up my sleeve to get through as a plus sized newbie at the gym…

1. Shop around

Find a gym that will suit you. Lots of places off a trial visit and try it out at the times you will be going. Weekly membership rates vary a lot, and it's okay to ask for prices upfront.

Some important things for me are: classes on offer at times that suit me, an extensive weights/strength training area, a crèche for my daughter, decent music, and an atmosphere that feels welcoming.

2. Be courageous

Some people think they will exercise best with a friends. I don't. I get distracted, and I much prefer being in my own space. Gyms are a great place for introverts.

My gym has a motto, "if it's going to be then it's up to me." Don't use your lack of gym buddy as an excuse. Just try going along by yourself, most people do anyway.

3. Fancy footwork

The very first thing you should do is buy some decent shoes. Also, it's well worth buying socks that are designed for impact. These little babies will set you back a pretty penny, but they are worth it.

4. Dress to impress

Buy clothes you will feel comfortable in. I wear thick leggings or 3/4 length track pants.

On the top half I usually wear a good bra and a longer-but-stretchy t-shirt that conforms to my body shape. If you really don't want to show off your skin accidentally, try wearing a long singlet, and then throw your t-shirt over the top.

You'll hate doing exercise if you spend the entire time readjusting your clothes. I always have a minimum of two gym "outfits" — one that can be washed and one that can be worn.

Gym and Tonic Tank Top by SpunkyPineappleCo

5. Go along to the first consultation appointment/fitness assessment/program set up

Seriously, do this, it is so worth it!

Often a trainer will take your measurements, talk with you about your goals and will show you how to do some exercises. Be super honest – the first time I did this I told the trainer I was brand new and he showed me how to use all of the cardio machines as well as the strength training ones. It was an absolute godsend for someone who had no idea what to actually do.

6. They're not excuses until you're looking for them

Even if you train in a gym that proclaims "no excuses," you need to weigh up what an excuse looks like for you. For me, weather, family commitments, injury and illness and the big four reasons I avoid gym, but to be honest, I hardly ever play these cards.

7. Try new things

It's hard going to gym. You have to make the time to get there, and then… well, what do you actually do?
For me, doing Spin classes was a lifesaver! I only did them because the brochure said they were perfect for beginners to group fitness. That wasn't a lie. For six months I did Spin three times a week minimum, and really loved it.

Since then I have tried a lot of different stuff. I have done the entire range of Les Mills classes on offer, personal training sessions, group training sessions, and even training for a fun run. I actually hate running, and it brings back all sorts of miserable memories of primary school. All the same, I got a lot out of it.

8. It will take time to see results

When I started going to gym three or four times a week, it took a good six months for people to start telling me my body looked different. I didn't really see a lot had changed, but I certainly felt a lot different and certainly a lot more fit. Don't hang out for the results, just keep plodding along.

9. If you feel uncomfortable, talk to someone about it

Maybe someone was rude to you, you felt uncomfortable in a class, an instructor didn't listen to you when you shared your limitations or they're just not engaging in good practice. Speak up to a staff member you respect who will help pass along the feedback.

10. If you're injured, tell your instructor or trainer every single time

Dude, some of the gym staff deal with dozens, hundred even, of people a week. They might not remember your specific injury. Always take "a lower option" if you need it or if it isn't offered, do something you know is safe.

11. Accept compliments

I have attracted all kinds of compliments like "Wow, well done on your first class" (when I have done the same class for months). Today lots of the girls in my group training were really lovely and gave me some great feedback that was specific. The thing is, people really do usually mean well, even if it comes out sounding weird, so if you feel strange about it, just say "thanks" and ask them how they found the class today.

Boss Babe Fuel reusable water bottle by TheGoldenType

12. People won't understand your journey. That's fine, it's not for them.

I get it, people are skeptical, especially if you're like me and you have lost weight, put it back on, and so on, for most of your adult life. People who don't get it don't need any further elaboration unless it's really needed. Reach out to people who get it, or have experienced similar things.

13. Do it for you

Don't do it for a dumb boyfriend you had at the age of nineteen, or because someone has suggested the gym might be good for you. Don't do it to "earn" a particular food, or to balance out for calories. Don't do it because a friend is scared to go to a gym without you by their side.

Do it because you want to. And if you have other reasons to go along, so be it, but your own desire is the driving force.

It is hard being the fat girl at gym sometimes. Some things I do to help cope, include reminding myself I'm not the only bigger person there, coming up with a goal for my session, focusing on other things, wearing clothes I love, and keeping up as much as I can. As someone who has been up and down on the scales, it's also important not to focus on who I used to be and how I used to look. Compete against your current self, not the one you remember from the glory years.

Happy training!

Join our community!

  1. I loved your line about "They're not excuses until you're looking for them"! I always feel bad about missing a workout for any reason, but you're right that sometimes it's unavoidable.

    I'll add to the list with a plug for proper fuel. New muscles require more protein, so try to have a protein shake (I love Muscle Milk) or a low calorie Greek yogurt after your workout. And drink lots of water! Your trainer or gym staff can recommend other supplements if you need them. But be careful not to overdo your refueling after your workout. If you know a yogurt won't be enough, time your workout so you can have a regular meal afterward.

    3 agree
  2. I love, love, love your point number 12: "People won't understand your journey. That's fine, it's not for them." This is true in fitness. And it's also true in every other aspect of life I can think of. Take your journey, and own it. Don't worry too much if other people don't get it. They're all on journeys of their own.

    4 agree
  3. As a fat gym rat, I would like to add that you should really give the co-ed side a shot. A lot of ladies say that they feel self conscious working out with dude's around, but in my experience, the ladies only sides tend to have the judgey bitches and crappier machines. The co-ed side seems to have more people taking shit seriously. Not just sitting on equipment and chatting. On the co-ed side, I've never felt judged or even really noticed. Dudes are all too focused on themselves to give any craps about the fat chick dying on the elliptical.

    6 agree
    • I go to a coed gym, and I think the guys are more encouraging. They were slow to welcome me (probably assuming I would be gone quickly or was only there to pick up dates or something), but as it's become clear that I'm there to learn and to work hard, they've become some of my biggest advocates. The women aren't bitchy, but they are a little more aloof. I definitely agree with stepping into the coed side of the gym!

      1 agrees
  4. I am not a gym person by design but I have become an avid walker. Mostly because I got a dog who requires long walks (part of the reason I got the dog – getting him to stop whining for a walk is a good motivator to get my butt outside). I need to invest in another good pair of shoes because I have wore out my last pair and when I do he and I are going to start training to run a 5k. The goal is to be ready to jog/run in a race in November.

    1 agrees
  5. I have to totally disagree with the "go along with the free trainer appointment" advice. My experience at big box gyms is that appointment is usually about fat shaming and trying to sell you products– more training, magic diet drinks, etc. IF you take that appointment, set some clear boundaries with the trainer, make sure they know YOUR goals and what you need. And if they don't channel your fuck off fairy and find someone who can actually help you!

    1 agrees
    • Yes, I agree totally! Some of those PTs are the worst, and I hate the upselling which I think being plus sized (or not what the PT thinks the ideal body shape should be anyway) can sometimes lead to this type of behavior. It's really upsetting, and sometimes it's hard to see who will be kind and who thinks they are being cruel to be kind (of rich).

  6. I'll add in "don't ignore physical issues" I've always had weird toe/ feet issues. Unfortunately, after buying a new pair of shoes I KNEW i shouldn't have continued to use I did anyway. Now I have a gd hammer toe. Once I noticed it I did go to a podiatrist but unfortunately the only thing I can do is wear a splint, that I swear does just about nothing, or get surgery. Oh, or I can wear 90 year old woman diabetic shoes. Sorry, I already wear expensive good for your feet shoes I'm not going to go to that extreme. Anyway, if you don't like the way something feels don't ignore it just because you spent $$$ (like I did) and don't not go to the dr! This only happened because I decided I needed "real" running shoes since I was spending so much more time exercising.

  7. Love your last line "Compete against your current self, not the one you remember from the glory years." I think it is exactly what I needed to hear to get the stamina to go back to working out after having a kid (and all the extra commitments and perfect excuses that come with that).

  8. Thank you for this article. Gym for me has been a journey, same as you. Over the years I have lost weight, gained it, maintained it – became obsessed with going to the gym , then became resentful of going – what I try focus on is just how it makes me feel overall in terms of endorphins and strength. And if I dont go for a month for whatever reason, it does not make me a terrible person and there is nothing wrong with going back.

    And I have to get that tank top!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.