Five Things Every Gym Should Already Be Doing

Fitness comes in all sizes!

Nobody is ever obligated to go to the gym or work out.  But for fat people who want to go to the gym, it’s important to remember that it’s our gym too and we deserve for them to act like it.  Here are 5 things that they should already be doing

Asking about your goals and then training to them

If you work with a personal trainer at your gym, it is their job to either use their expertise to help you reach your stated goals, be honest that those goals are not realistic, and opt not to train you if necessary. That means that they should ask you for your goals, not make assumptions or impose their ideas on you.   If you ask to increase strength, stamina, and/or flexibility, and they talk about weight loss, they are out of line.  If they say that you have to lose weight before you can work on strength, stamina or flexibility, (this has happened to me) then they are either grossly incompetent or a liar.

Abolishing Fitness Myths

There is a ton of misinformation that floats around out there about fitness, your gym owes it to you to separate myth from fact.  There are no such things as lower abs.  You will not get “flat abs” by doing abdominal workouts. You can’t “melt away” fat.  Women are not going to “bulk up” by lifting weights.  There is no such thing as toning.  Fitness and health are not the same as body size. You do not have to workout hours and hours a day to get health benefits – the research shows that 30 minutes of movement a day 5 days a week provides tremendous health benefits.  If your gym buys into any of these myths or perpetuates them through signage, workshops, classes, or any other messaging then they have some explaining to do.

Put the Focus on Health

Research shows us that while movement is really bad at creating weight loss, it is really good at supporting health. Instead of selling people a cardio room and a bag of magic weight loss beans, your gym should be educating people about the actual possible benefits of exercise.  I would suggest starting by offering to measure things other than weight.  Offering tests like VO2 Max scores, blood panel, strength, stamina, flexibility etc.  People could choose the baseline tests they want at the beginning and then take them again three. six months in etc. to see if there are any changes.  That way people wouldn’t think that exercise is “failing” just because they aren’t losing weight.

Hire People of All Sizes

When we only see one body type represented as “fit” at the gym, it perpetuates the myth that “fitness” looks a certain way or is the same thing as body size, and the gym owes it to their clients to show the true diversity of people who are involved in fitness.  People of all sizes deserve to see themselves represented in the staff at the gym. People at the gym should have the opportunity to take classes form instructors of all sizes.

Create an Environment Free From Stigma and Shame

It is inappropriate to try motivate some gym members by suggesting that they should workout to try to avoid looking like other gym members. That creates a situation wherein the gym is encouraging shaming and stigma.  There should be no messaging that one body size or body type is better than another. The gym’s focus should be on encouraging personal goals, not on trying to look or not look like other members, or trying to stigmatize or shame a group of paying customers for the way that they look.

It’s your gym too – you pay the same membership fee as everyone else.  You deserve an environment that makes you comfortable and honors you goals and desires, and you have every right to demand it.

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Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 10:05 am  Comments (20)  

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is less relevant to weight but infuriating nonetheless:

    My local shopping strip has at least THREE gyms and every single one of them is up a flight of stairs with no alternative access. The fourth-closest is also up a flight of stairs with no alternative access.

    Every single one had people who stared at my wheelchair-using self blankly and looked thoroughly confused when I asked about alternative access.

    Did it never occur to them that not every single potential gym user is able to walk up a flight of stairs? People with disabilities are people too …

    So yes, #6: Cater to people of all ability levels!!!

    • So where do these numbnuts think paralympic athletes train?

      Sheesh!

    • Oh, for cryin’…. Wow. Turn them in for ADA violations.

  2. I am looking for work right now, and there are a couple area gyms that are advertising for fitness trainers. I thought “this might be a good opportunity to get to work out regularly as well as get the work I need” but I’ve never applied. I’m fat and I’m really afraid they’ll take one look at me and say “I’m sorry but we only want people who LOOK FIT working here.” I just… don’t expect gyms to know what “fitness” is, thanks to my experiences with them. It’s good to know there are some that do.

    • I know how hard it is to put yourself out there, but I really encourage you to try. *hugs*

  3. “You will not get “flat abs” by doing abdominal workouts. You can’t “melt away” fat. Women are not going to “bulk up” by lifting weights. There is no such thing as toning.”

    Thank you! Finally, someone put it out there in the open. Out of all people, personal trainers and fitness professionals should be individuals most against these sorts of myths, and yet I see them perpetuating them the most!

    On another note…

    I have a love-hate relationship with the gyms and the “fitness community”. On one hand, I enjoy lifting and working out and going to the gym, and I have found so much inspiration and ways to improve on bodybuilding/powerlifting websites. In fact, the only reason I started lifting was because I read about guys and gals lifting with “big” weights, and I thought “I want to do that!”

    On the other hand, the judgement in the community is so overwhelming sometimes. I’ve competed and won awards in my weight class, yet am still treated like a newbie or scoffed at because I do not look like a fitness model. And as one might aspect, the criticism is entirely gendered. The community is perfectly fine with a big man with muscles, but a big woman with muscles? “Ewwww….” As a woman, fat negates any other claims one has to being fit in any sense of the word.

  4. I am realizing how very very lucky I am to have joined the gym I joined early this fall… They matched every one of these “should be doings” and have an elevator to the upper levels. Yes. Every gym should have and do these things and be focused on health, not weight. I wish they did…

    • That is why I go to the Uni gym instead of the one at my college. Sure it costs me a ton more but they have a beautiful work out area, including indoor tracks, an Olympic size swimming pool, they have access to all areas for people who can’t take the stairs, and above all, they make no comments on body size or shape.

      The college, you get snarked at, made fun of, I have even been mooed at. And heaven help you if you can use stairs..

  5. You make me miss my gym again, which is my local Y branch. There are a lot of people focused on weight loss, but nobody looks at me like a moron when I say I’m not interested in losing weight, and THE best Zumba instructor there is easily 225 pounds. I’ve been to a lot of gyms in my life, and this one has the healthiest overall attitude, hands down. Now to get healthy in an entirely different way so I can exercise again! (Stupid brain, stupid messed up blood vessels. Stupid insurance company delaying critical testing by over a month! What does it freaking take to get my head examined around here?)

    • You must belong my Y. Our best Zumba instructor is a big girl. She’s like two or three times more popular than the others.

  6. A really good gym is Planet Fitness. They advertise a “Judgement Free Zone” in their gyms. My monthly cost is $10. So at my gym, I see old people in weird outfits (no fancy gym clothes), fat people, thin people, teens, and the whole gamut. I highly recommend as a place where overweight people can go and work on health and fitness, not weight loss.

  7. I needed this today. The “motivational message” yesterday at my gym (a little saying they hang by the check-in scanner) was “Sweat is just fat crying!”. Needless to say, it did not “motivate” me at all. I have been trying to figure out how to address this with them, and you’ve provided me with some great language to work with. Thanks!

    • Oh my freaking god, that is horrible. A friend of mine really digs that motto as well and it’s like “Really?! REALLY?!”

      I support you in bringing it up with them if you have the time and energy to.

  8. Love your five rules Ragen, as well as the added one on accessibility that Jeshyr raises. I’m going to add one: Just as there is a “no grunting” rule at The Purple Gym (which as a powerlifter I find kind of silly, but whatever), my gym is going to have a “no diet talk” rule. The membership agreement will include a promise to refrain from diet talk, and members will be advised that just because they see fat people in the gym is no reason to assume that they are 1) out of shape; or 2) there to lose weight.

  9. Is the no diet talk rule at the Purple Gym? I am thinking about joining, as all the other options in my new city frighten me.

  10. I joined a kickboxing gym last year and had no issues at all. Their members are people of all shapes and sizes and I was never made to feel like I was inferior.

    However, once upon a time I tried to hire a personal trainer. I called him on the phone. He wanted my measurements. When I told him what they were, he said he was sorry but he couldn’t work with me at that time. It was so obvious he had no desire to work with me based on my size.

  11. This is an awesome post. I definitely feel gyms should be more inclusive and supportive.

    I have recently started capoeira and I am the fattest person there. I was a bit nervous about it, but everyone was super nice and supportive and encouraging.

  12. I’m pretty lucky– I belong to a small, simple workplace gym and it’s chill. Not that I haven’t faced any wtfery at all– I have– but it’s muted because we all share a workplace (though a large one) and if you’re rude to someone, you might run into them again upstairs…

    The community’s really inclusive and nice, at least among the “morning ladies”. It seems like the later in the day I go, the more standoffish people get.

    The staff offer a “health assessment”– body composition, cardio evaluation, strength, etc– for free, but I’ve never taken them up on it, partly because of the weighing/body composition testing, and partly because I like to determine my progress myself; outside evaluation makes me weird.

  13. I joined a gym briefly with a Groupon and started my first session with a trainer by being shamed for my *gasp* “SO unhealthy” ~26% body fat composition. I was told I needed to lose 30 pounds of fat and put on 15 pounds of muscle, and that would be my goal with this gym. Yeah right . . . that didn’t last long. I’m back to outdoor running and at-home workouts as my preference, comfortably maintaining and exercising for its own enjoyment.


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