All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want YOU in their Classes and Clubs
Back in the early days of the fitness industry — yes, we mean the 1980’s, and yes, we were there — we as an industry made an achy breaky big mistakey. We geared ourselves to get the fit more fit. And that worked…. Just not for the unfit. Overweight, unfit, larger, older, “uncoordinated” people felt totally left out and threatened by gyms seemingly full of taut, toned, tight hard bodies flaunting their lean stuff. We know; we flaunted. But we never taunted, and that is an important point to keep in mind.
Fitness professionals and our beloved industry have changed. And not just out of tight-fitting lycra and midriff-baring spandex. We’ve changed to embrace, welcome, nay, even beg all sizes, shapes, ages, fitness levels to take part in an active world that genuinely cares about the health and happiness of everyone. You included!
We want YOU in our classes. We teach group classes because the people in them are the ginchiest and grooviest. And after more than 30 years of teaching, we can definitely say that almost everyone walks in to the exercise room for the first time with one thought in mind: “This is freakin’ scary!” How can we possibly know that? Because new students always come up and tell us. Not in those words. More like, “I haven’t worked out before. I can’t keep up with all these people. I don’t see anyone who looks like me. I don’t think I’ll last the entire time. I’m not coordinated.” These are the most common, but they all mean essentially the same thing.
I want THIS lady in my classes. She makes me feel happy!
People who teach group fitness do so because they love working with people. You are that person! When you’re in the group fitness room, all you need is a willing attitude and desire to try your best. So take a deep breath, remind yourself that the people in the club were once just as scared as you, and step into the light with these tips in mind:
- Start in a class! Why try to go it alone? Get thee to a group exercise workout that looks do-able and a good point of entry for your likes and goals. You will be surrounded by like-minded people, guided by a caring instructor, taught to move safely, and encouraged to find success at your pace;
- Introduce yourself to the teacher as a newbie or returnee or nervous Nelly. You will get suggestions, reassurance, insights on what to expect, modifications at no extra cost to your wallet or ego! Such a deal!;
- After class, have the instructor go over the group class schedule with you to recommend workouts right for you, your goals, your comfort level. We instructors love being asked for advice. Who knows the classes and types of people in them better than those who teach them? So take advantage of us as a resource and leave with your class schedule circled and underlined with options just right for you. Hint – if the class says “Kick Butt KickBox” you might want to leave that for later. Words like “Gentle,” or “Self-paced” or “Intro” may call your name.
- Attend with a friend, which will offer you immediate community, a shared experience, and boosted adherence (like our pithy slogan: attend with a friend. Quote us.) Every study ever done in the entire history of the world forever and ever shows that exercising with a friend increases success and happiness.
- Strike up a conversation with other class participants. These are your future friends and support group. They have been where you’ve been and are going where you are going. So why travel alone and anonymously?
Be aware that we (by “we” we mean all humans) tend to see what we are looking for. If you think you are going to hit the front desk and be whumped upside the eyeballs by “perfect bodies,” that is exactly what you will notice. If you can take a deep, yogic or aerobic breath and look again, you will notice something fabulous — “regular” people actually inhabit gyms. All ages, all sizes, all shapes, all kinds of fashion statements, all levels of everything. What they ALL have in common is a desire to avoid embarrassment; a desire to be healthier; to be more energetic; to be loved; to have friends; to have a low stress life; to enjoy their bodies more each day.
We leave you with a true and somewhat humorous story — in our 20s we taught at a small studio. The owner was one of those “ideal” bodies. And she was also beautiful and kind. Genetic Freak! A potential member came in to the studio to inquire about the classes. She took one look at the owner and remarked, “Oh, I could never look like that.” Then she spotted us. You wouldn’t run screaming from us, but we aren’t perfect. We are fun! Anyway, the woman pointed over toward us and said to the girl at the front desk, “But I could look like that.” So we have called ourselves the Attainable Goals ever since. We hope you’ll come be an attainable goal with us!
Readers: If you are new to exercise, what would it take to get you into the group fitness room? If you’re a regular exerciser, what could you do to make a new person feel included?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA