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.
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.
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.