Never Fear Another Workout, No Matter How Fit (or Fat) You Are

By , SparkPeople Blogger

I think as a society we’ve done ourselves a disservice with this customer-friendly question: How are you today? 

Recently I was going through a drive thru picking up something for my son when the young girl opened the window, smiled, and asked me how I was. 

Really?  I don’t know you and you’ve got 30 seconds to give me the food and send me on my way.  Am I really going to tell you how I am?  So I gave her the standard “fine, thank you” answer, even though that wasn’t really the truth that day.

What would have happened the first time I met my personal trainer two years ago if I had answered that question honestly?  It would have gone something like this:
  • Hi, I’m Mitchell.  How are you today?
  • Hi Mitchell.  I’m Michelene and I’m nervous, scared, embarrassed and angry!  I’m freaking out about stepping on the scale in front of you.  I think I may throw up!  I’m afraid that I won’t do the exercises right and you’ll judge me.  You’re probably judging me already because I need to lose 50 pounds.  Is everyone staring at me?  I feel like they are staring.  I don’t know if I even belong here.  Can I close my eyes while you measure my thighs? 
Can you imagine his response to that?  I could go on, but I think you get my drift.  Do you relate to having any of those feelings about being in the gym?

Part of my mission as a blogger here on the dailySpark is to share what's it feels like to maintain a large weight loss.  One of the reasons I feel like I am successful at maintaining is because exercise has been a routine part of my life the last three years.  Is it part of yours?

The first time I stepped foot in my local gym three years ago, I was honestly hoping that no one would notice me.  That’s kind of hard since I’m just shy of six feet tall, but mentally I was trying to be invisible.  Uncomfortable with my weight, my clothes, my appearance, and overwhelmed with anxiety, embarrassment and frustration, it was hard to even go.  For a year I avoided classes that might showcase my physical inabilities due to weight.  After I lost half of my weight my husband bought me a gift certificate for sessions with a personal trainer.  Mitchell, or Mr. Squat Police as I fondly call him, has now put up with me for two years.  He’s helped me through the other half of my weight loss, the recovery after shoulder surgery, and training for my first half marathon.  It was a very happy day when he put my picture and story up on his wall of success.  I’ve threatened to buy him a shirt that says “stop complaining, you pay me to do this!” and to write a blog called "Stupid Pet Tricks" (also known as things my trainer makes me do)!  He just laughs and gives me another variation of the squat!  After all the harassment I give him, I do want to publicly say: Thanks, Mitchell, for all you do!

What I wish for you is that you could skip over the "embarrassed to be at the gym" part and go right to enjoying all the options available to you there.  When I finally got the nerve to try Zumba, I was thoroughly encouraged by another woman in my class.  She was at the beginning of her weight-loss journey and she was not intimidated at all by the petite women with cute sporty outfits. She danced her heart out, and sang out loud even though the song was in Spanish and she didn’t know the words.  She got her sweat on and had a blast doing it.  When things got too challenging for her in the class, she just made up her own moves and kept right on grooving.  I think we should all copy that behavior and love working out no matter what stage of the healthy lifestyle journey we are on.

So where are you with your exercise program?  If working out in front of others is a challenge for you right now, try some of Coach Nicole’s workout videos or her new DVD.  You can do those in the comfort of your own home.  Consider joining Chris "SparkGuy" Downie's 10-Minute Fitness Club and get a streak going. It only takes 10 minutes a day! Give yourself grace to make mistakes, sweat a lot, get out of breath, look weird with gym hair, and realize that most people are so busy with their workout and their music that they aren’t even aware you are there.

Do you avoid the gym or participating in classes due to your weight?  Are you worried about doing it right and therefore don’t even try?  What step will you take now after reading this blog to help you move on from your fear?

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As one of the people you are talking about - thanks for the post !! It was fun to read how you have been able to keep up your weight loss and still have a great sense of humor about your trainer!! Report
I have an irrational fear of Zumba class. I see the cute girls in there and I'm afraid (1) I won't be able to keep up and (2) that I'll look silly. But you're right...I need to suck it up and do it. Because I've been wanting to try a Zumba class for a couple years. Report
That sounds exactly like me, every time I go into the gym. Intellectually, I know that most people are involved in what they're doing, and have no interest in staring at the fish-belly pale fat chick who just walked in/is sweating her brains out on the recumbent bike/is waiting for the weight machine that they're looking so svelte using. But emotionally, it feels like every fit, healthy person in there is looking at me like an out-of-shape interloper on their fitness territory.
I have had one session with a personal trainer, and it was exactly like that. Ultimately, it was so much like that, that coupled with the fact that the trainer wasn't a good fit for me (he was about 12... OK, probably 22, but it felt like he was 12... and built like a Mack truck. Nice kid, but I had trouble believing he could relate to a 36 year old out-of-shape woman with chronic pain issues), that i never went back.
I do my workout DVDs & Wii games at home, and I'm OK with that. I keep the gym membership in case I have a sudden burst of ambition, but so far... not so much with that. Fortunately, it's a cheap membership. ;-) Report
Like VKKESU I have a smaller frame and am saddened by the judgement that means we are in better shape. I began my health journey with yoga and loved it. I encourage everyone to try it, even if only on DVD at home. My trainer is Jim the Lung/Push up King, he can dream up more tortures than the average mind can process.

I am so glad to hear you had good experiences in class but I beg you to cut the petite ladies a break, we are just as intimidated by the steps, endurance needed, etc. Report
I loved this blog and I can so relate.

I decided that this year I was going to really, finally, actually get myself into healthy shape. (Can you tell I needed to convince myself?) A big part of that was going to be joining the fitness center at work. I work on a college campus and the fitness center is open to everyone here...students, faculty & staff. I have to admit that part of me was (and sometimes still is) intimidated at the thought of walking in there and seeing all those kids running on the treadmills and the ellipticals.

But then I get a grip, get on my treadmill, put on my headphones and walk. Whether they are looking at me or not, this is about ME. It's MY life. It's MY health. Maybe those teeny-boppers and whippersnappers will learn a thing or two from me.

;) Report
It makes me sad when I see and hear about stuff like this. I'm one of those "smaller women" in classes. Anytime I notice a heavier person I admire them and actually look up to them for doing something and wish my obese brother would do the same. I'm also usually a bit envious too because their cardio endurance is almost always better than mine.

I say we ALWAYS judge ourselves more than others judge us. Keep up the good work and so glad you've maintained it ! That I think is the hardest part for me. Too easy to fall into the old me. You've made me realize again, that it is something I have to continually do......never a quick fix and we do it for ourselves and no one else. Great Job !!

I've pulled more people into Zumba classes because they are fun !!

I really never had a problem working out in front of people. but I did have a fear of group work out, but since I just joined a boot camp class at my gym and do that 3 days a week, I am having no problem and I love my trainer he is the "rope" police..