What do you think it’s like being the fattest person in the gym?
It sucks. I know.
When my son was 1 1/2 years old, I desperately wanted to lose weight. I screwed up the courage to join a gym and set out to make myself healthy. I would show up, put my baby in child care, and go try and figure out how to use the machines. This gym was full of muscled guys showing off to each other, and thin women in full makeup working out with their perfect hair as they chatted. They didn’t sweat, they glistened. I felt like a second class citizen. I was a fat lady, and I was different. No one ever asked me if I needed help,or even acknowledge me. I would stand and wait to ask a question, and no one seemed to be available to help me. I never joined a class, as I wasn’t invited. I would still show up. I tried, despite the snickering as I walked past and the looks that they didn’t know I could see in the mirrors. But the morning I overheard a trainer and a client talking about me in the locker room broke my heart and confidence. “You’d better work hard and give it your all, or you’ll end up like the BLOB in purple” (insert laughs here).Purple was my favorite color. It made me happy. I wore it often. I ran past them, grabbed my baby, and left the gym. I never went back. I stopped wearing purple.
I tried to lose weight on my own for a while. My oncologist recommended that I lose weight to keep cancer at bay. I did Weight Watchers, South Beach, exercise tapes at home. I would always lose a few pounds, but gain it back. I didn’t have the support I needed. My husband always supported me, but I needed more. I knew I needed to exercise more. I just didn’t know what I needed to do to succeed. I was embarrassed and afraid to ask for help.
It took me nearly 8 years later to come up with the determination that I needed to get serious about losing weight. I had been thinking about a program I had heard about at a new local gym, Phys-Ed. They were offering an 8 week program that sounded like it would get me started on my way to getting healthy again. I screwed up my courage and signed up.
The first time I walked into Phys-Ed to work out, I was scared to death. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and I thought I was going to throw up. I practically ignored the woman at the counter as I got on the treadmill and worked out for 30 minutes. I looked around the gym as I walked. No one really paid attention to me as I sweated away. I left for the day, feeling pretty proud of myself.
The next day, the woman at the desk said hello and encouraged me to ask for help if I needed it. She reminded me that anyone in a Phys-Ed shirt would be happy to help. She was so right. From that moment on, the staff at Phys-Ed has worked at helping me make this journey to becoming healthy. What makes them different? The gym is full of brand new equipment. It’s spotless. They offer something like 49 classes a week, and a monthly program of into classes and all kind of cool classes to lean things. But their most important asset: PEOPLE.
I honestly feel that the staff at Phys-Ed care about the members. They are so supportive. Whenever I’m dragging, someone walks by to encourage me. When I lost my first 5 pounds, every person I passed congratulated me. From the first hello, to the “see you tomorrow, right?” on my way out, they show they are committed to making their gym a place that is safe, comfortable, and encouraging.
My personal trainer, Jamie Bennett, is one of the reasons I can’t imagine going anywhere else. Jamie acknowledged my fears, and then set me up to succeed. She challenges me, she encourages me, and she pushed me (holy CROW am I sore after working out with her!) I’m not just a client to her. She makes me feel like she’s my friend. When I was having an off day, she asked me to come back another day. ( I was glad I did) She encouraged me to try Spin class.. I also tried Yoga, and Zumba.
She helps me face my fears. One of my biggest fears was the Weight Floor. The free weight floor is the main floor of the gym. It’s visible to anyone in the gym. I often watch people working out there and wonder how in the heck they can do half the stuff they do. Jamie had me working on those weight machine- she had me doing crunches on the mats, and eventually I was so hot and sweaty and working that I stopped caring about what other people see. She made me realize that what people saw was not a fat person struggling on the floor, but a person with value, and worth and that was working hard at getting fit and healthy.
Phys-Ed is everything that a gym needed to be to make me have faith in myself again. The environment couldn’t be more supportive and encouraging. That kind of environment encourages a supportive membership. I’ve been helped many times by other people working out beside me. I’ve never felt a bit uncomfortable in the gym. The staff simply would not allow any kind of bullying. I tried to figure out what the difference between my first gym, and Phys-Ed was. It’s pretty easy to see. Phys-Ed is committed to helping people meet their goals. They keep their gym in tip-top shape and provide training to their staff to keep them knowledgeable in the latest in fitness. (I have to admit a teeny bit of smugness at how sore Jamie was after attending a weekend Zumba training). But most of all, they provide compassion and encouragement to whomever needs it. They promise to HELP you get to where you need to be, and then they do it. If only every gym would model themselves after Phys-Ed, there would so any more healthy people around!
I love going to the gym now. I love how accomplished I feel, how proud I am of myself for trying hard and committing to myself. I’m proud of myself for facing my gym fears and finding one that is a perfect fit for me.In fact. I think I’m going to go out and get a new gym outfit. In purple.