“Do heavyset women take those classes?”

Considering my teaching schedule this week, I figured it was a good time to address a question I received last week during one of the classes I subbed. When I finished promoting the Seaport Sweat classes for November and December, one female came up to me after class for additional details. After I finished giving her the information, she asked me the following question “Do heavyset women take those classes?”, which, I’ll admit, kind of threw me off guard. And made me feel a little sad.

If she’s asking me a questions like this, it made me wonder how many others might have similar feelings or question, yet are not in a situation where they can ask the question, or worse, are too afraid to ask the question. How many others are avoiding group exercise classes- or even the gym all together- because they’re afraid of what others are going to think about them? Or the looks they may get. Or because they don’t know where anything is. Or because they don’t know what they’re doing or what to expect.

And the thing is, I get it! I get that the gym can be a scary place- whether it’s because you don’t know where things are, don’t know what to expect, or don’t know where to start once you do get there. Even as a fitness instructor, a former avid class goer and someone who goes to the gym all the time, when I’m placed in a new environment I, too, get those feelings. I don’t like not knowing where the equipment is or where the locker room is or what to expect out of the other members. But, sometimes you just have to give it a try because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that no one else is looking at you as much as you think they might be. They don’t care about your size or how much you can lift or whether or not you know how to work a machine. They’re usually too busy checking themselves out  😉

So, my response to this girl wasn’t “of course they are!”, because that would suggest that I was agreeing with the label she gave herself. Instead, I told her that everyone is welcomed and encouraged to come to the classes and that no matter your shape, size, age, fitness ability, etc., you can make the class work for you and leave the class feeling proud of all you’ve done. No jumping? No worries- we can take the plyometric piece of the exercise out. Lunges hurt your knees? We can do glute bridges or something else that doesn’t hurt you. Afraid of using a step (this used to be me!), ditch it- just do the exercises without it. There are always ways around things that don’t work or feel good for you and as fitness instructors, it’s our job to show you this. To make you feel comfortable, included and proud of yourself for all you accomplish, rather than worried about your size.

I hope next time you find yourself making up excuses for why you “can’t” do something or “can’t” attend a class, I urge you to think about why you’re feeling this way. And once you do that, try and think of a few things you can do to make yourself feel better and like you CAN do something or CAN go to a class. Here are some of my suggestions for this:

  1. Talk to a friend who goes to the gym or classes often and ask them for tips on what to expect, where to find the equipment you’ll need, where the locker room is, etc.
  2. Buy a new workout top or pants- this always helps make me feel better!
  3. Find something that really interests YOU, rather than something that you think you should do. In other words, if you hate spinning, don’t go to a spin class! If you don’t like cardio, maybe pick a weights-focused class instead of a cardio-focused class. If cross-fit intimidates you, choose something else! You get the idea….
  4. Go to the gym and peek in on a class that you’d like to try so you can see what it looks like.
  5. Talk to the instructor, explain that you’re new and let him or her know about your current fitness abilities so they know when to offer variations for you.

If you want to read more tips on how what to expect for your first group exercise class, I suggest checking out this post I wrote a few years ago: 10 tips for your first group exercise class. And more than anything- know that you should never let your shape, size, age, fitness abilities, etc. deter you from trying out something that sounds interesting to you!

Questions for you: Have you ever let something about your physical abilities stop you from trying something new? Have you ever felt nervous going to the gym or to a new class? What do you do to help make yourself try new things?