30 May 2017 — Journal
Coming to exercise as a bigger person presents its own challenges. All those new to exercise, or returning to exercise have some fears. Some of these are quite universal. Can I keep up with the others? What will everyone think of me? However, the larger exerciser does encounter some extra barriers that can make getting out there more difficult. This post isn’t trying to make assumptions that fat women are a homogenous group. This is a start, and feel free to add to it.
5 things that get in the way for woman of substance.
- Not having anything to wear.
So many times, I have seen in this forum and others, people keen to exercise are not being able to find reasonably priced, reasonably quality exercise wear. Regular sized people say, “go to The Warehouse, they have big sizes) but some of us have tried this and know that many of these stores “big” sizes leave us unable to move our arms, or even get them above our knees. There is the option of men’s wear, but we are women, and many of us want to wear women’s gear. Because its cut for us. It seems like society wants us to exercise, but not provide us the clothes to do so. Unless we have squillions of dollars, and want to order from overseas, the range can seem limited.
- It’s hard being the biggest people out there doing it
People laugh at larger people exercising. Someone once yelled at me when I was running and pointed a firearm at me. That was the worst. But in general, there’s that sinking feeling. Many people assume that you’re a beginner, whether you are or not. Or are patronising about your efforts. That’s not all the time but enough of the time to make people think twice about getting out there. Us with bigger bodies get told we’re an inspiration but really, we’re not. We’re just exercising our given right to move and shake with the best of them. We’re just seen as a rarity when we are giving zero hoots about what we look like.
- PT’s not being able to make modifications
Some PTs have no idea how to modify an exercise to make them work for larger bodies. They don’t appreciate that there is not space between the thighs, or in my case that there is so much meat on my hamstrings and calves that an ass to grass squat will never be possible. Or appreciate that when they put you on a swiss ball you're wondering if it will burst. Or, like me recently, when you’re doing a box squat and you don’t know whether that little plastic step stool is designed to take you and the 90kg that you have on your back. (The answer is no. I just googled it. The weight limit is 150kg. My fear of it disintegrating underneath me was justified).
- Gym equipment not fitting
A lot of the gym equipment is for narrower bodies. It's hard to get comfortable on the bench. Or fit into some of the machines. Or worse, get out of them. Kettlebells don’t swing neatly beneath our undercarriage.
- Scant Support
It is hard to get going when you think that there is no support for you to get this done. Some people are disparaging about our efforts, or actively sabotage us because it’s in their interests to have us stay as we are. When you don’t see people that look like you on the promotional material for your local fitness centre, or for activity groups that you like the look of. When your body type is only seen in media as a warning to others, it’s hard to believe that there are people out there moving and shaking and laughing their way to fitness.
There is an antidote though. A path through these barriers. For me it was a bloody mindedness and a sense of entitlement to the joys and benefits of exercise. I have always moved my body in a variety of ridiculous ways.
That, and having a tribe. I have a physiotherapist, an osteopath, and a PT who all understand that all bodies are good bodies for exercise. They keep me in reasonable shape to keep me doing what I do. The gym I choose for myself has a variety of bodies and the friendliest reception staff so that I never doubt that I am welcome there.
Vital though, is that on a day to day basis, I have a group of women at my back and by my side. Stopping me from doubting myself, passing on tips and inspiring the heck out of me to do more and be more.