Creating a Size Friendly Gym

IMG_1846[1]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. If they say that they can help you achieve long term weight loss, they are promising you something with no evidence to back it up.

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 is no such things as lower abs.  You cannot spot reduce. You can’t “melt away” fat. Fitness and health are not the same as body size. You do not have to workout for hours and hours a day, or do things that you hate, to get 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.

Use Assessments and Measurements that are Helpul

Instead of putting people on a scale, calculating their BMI and selling them a cardio room and a bag of magic weight loss beans, your gym should be e offering to measure things other than weight.  Offering tests like VO2 Max scores, blood panel, strength, stamina, flexibility etc.  People should be able to 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.  They should also support those who aren’t into assessments and evaluations and just want to show up and work out. Regardless, people shouldn’t be misinformed to believe that the only “good” or “correct” outcome of going to the gym is manipulation of body size.

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 body and your goals.

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Published in: on March 5, 2016 at 9:51 am  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This column about “It’s Your Gym, Too” is absolutely brilliant. It is goddamned brilliant. What an important statement about being a conscientious consumer, a person who takes responsibility for their part of the capitalist system. They say that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I guess the price of capitalism is that consumers take their role seriously. Don’t buy and pay for inferior goods or services. I love the people who talk about taking this attitude to their visits to doctors as consumers of medical care. It’s the same with clothing and furniture. What you are talking about in this fine brilliant column is refusing to settle for inferior services and products. It is a consumer bill of rights. It’s good for all our dealings with the world. Mostly we don’t buy the goods and services of gyms. We know they’ll take our money but we’ll be so unhappy there that even if we do buy memberships, we don’t go. Better than boycotting is demanding our payments buy us what we are paying for and not what someone else thinks is the best we can get or deserve.

  2. I’d love to find a gym like that.
    In Germany there are three big trends right now: 1. Big gyms with low monthly fees 2. Gyms with very specialized kind of workout that promises big results with less effort and less time spent in the gym (I assume they’re targeting people with more disposable income and less free time) 3. Women only gyms.
    The number of gyms has gone up a lot in the last years.

    Women only gym would be very interesting but they all couple workout with weight loss plans and diets (usually called “healthy eating” but it’s a diet). Sometimes weight loss is even their main selling point. I find this frustrating because the assumption is always that women will only go to the gym to loose weight. Women only gyms could be such a nice and safe space but I haven’t found one yet that actually is.

  3. Wouldn’t it also be great if the cardio machines didn’t display “calories burned” at all?

    • Especially since the number they display is generally complete nonsense?

    • First buttons I ask to be shown are the ones that make sure cals never appear on the screen🙂 I’ve had all sorts of weird looks from it but it allows me to enjoy moving my body as it wants to be moved without stressing about bloody calories!

    • At the least, they should have to display a disclaimer that those calculations reflect an outdated and unsupported view of human metabolic activity.

      • Unfortunately fitness equipment companies can over inflate this number as a marketing tool – thus they are wildly inaccurate. And these numbers encourage a diet mentality that backfires terribly for most people.

  4. For the first time in my life, I belong to a gym that doesn’t have their hands in my pockets at every turn, hasn’t decorated the walls with pictures of sweaty hotties, and has trainers that know their jobs. Do you know what else I have for the first time in my life? A gym I enjoy going to… This article is brilliant. You rock so hard, Ragen,

  5. Ugh. The assessments. I recently joined a gym next to my office, because I am on public transportation for a while, and this gym is easier to get to than the one I was going to before I got rid of my car.

    The wouldn’t come right out and *say* that the assessment was mandatory, even when I asked point blank. But they insinuated it and pushed hard for me to schedule one when I signed up. The intro is bodyfat percentage done with calipers, weight/bmi, and a meeting with a trainer to “determine your goals/plan. I don’t need any of that. If I want to know my approximate body fat percentage, I have an impedence scale. I will gladly forgo some accuracy to avoid having the caliper test done, particularly by a thin person. Frankly, I consider that test to be a form of hazing. BMI is useless, for weight–again, I have a scale, and there are scales at the gym I can use on my own. For goals/plan, I already have one that works for me, and I have no desire to have it audited by their gym staff.

    I begged off scheduling it when I signed up “I’ll have to check my calendar and schedule it later.” I haven’t been challenged on it, but no one has been at the desk when I’ve shown up.

  6. The last time I was at a gym I was laughed at, stared at, and even given dirty sneers. ..I work out at home now.

  7. This is GREAT. I had a 4 month trial membership at a gym for $60 total and I loved the way I felt when I had more strength and stamina. Then I got really sick. And now that I’m improving, I want to go back to the gym. Not THAT gym though. I was fat-shamed by other members on more than one occasion, and management were so disinterested in me (not much money to be made from me and my ultra-concession membership) that I couldn’t even get them to return phone calls about extending my membership. Me and my money are going elsewhere!

    I think I have a gym that suits, but I will check it out and ask questions before hand. As well as ‘Are your toilets gendered?’ (I’m trans.) I’m adding questions like ‘How do you measure change without using BMI?’ and ‘How will you help me achieve my goals that do not include weight loss?’ because damn it, I am paying good money for this and my fat person money is just the same as anyone else’s. And if they have fat-shaming motivational posters on the walls, they’ll have a few things explained to them about why that is an awful thing to do.

    Thank you Ragen, you’re awesome!

  8. Thanks for blogging about this, very informative!

  9. Every once in a while I try to find a gym. And I’m reminded every time that I can’t go to a gym without wanting to stab someone in the eye.

  10. Planet Fitness is AWESOME!!!! It is a judgement free zone. People of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels!! I love it!!!!


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