I put off publicly exercising for years (i.e. going to a gym or any sort of class) because I did not want to be the one jiggling and huffing and possibly puking with an audience. No way was I going to humiliate myself further by trying to move my excessive weight in front of “the pretty people.” (That was my term of endearment for the lean, skinny, fitness model, size 2 type people. Sorry, but when you’ve been fat most of your life this is how your brain works. And as I’ve said before, I really don’t think I’m alone here.) No way was I going to workout alongside the already fit people.
Having finally been desperate enough and/or ready enough to change my health, I dove headlong into a bootcamp class. I was miserably heavy and out of shape, but for whatever reason I put my head down and kept going despite feeling very overwhelmed and out of place. As I began to lose weight and gain strength, my head wasn’t always looking down so much, I began observing more. I watched lots of different people start bootcamp after me. Some of them heavy just like me, some of them skinny, and lots in between. As I watched, here is what I learned:
1. Just because people are skinny doesn’t mean they exercise regularly or are fit. I have seen many a skinny person sucking wind after a few reps. Skinny doesn’t equal fit.
2. Skinny people don’t inherently understand exercise like I thought they did. I’ve watched lots of skinny people who have no idea where to position his/her body or how to properly lift a weight.
3. There is an…how shall I say this tactfully…interesting type of skinny person who thinks because s/he does some type of exercise regularly that s/he is, in fact, an authority on being fit. And, more often than not, I found it is these same people who don’t listen to the person leading the class, don’t take form correction, don’t truly exert themselves but work hard at making it look as if they do, and also don’t talk to anyone in the class who is overweight.
4. Overweight people are strong. When you carry a lot of excess weight around you have muscles and a certain amount of muscle endurance. You may not see said muscles, but they are there. Think about it! Think about how strong those leg muscles have to be to haul around 50+ extra pounds or whatever daily…all day!
Here’s what I want to tell those of you reading who are overweight and won’t go to a gym or class because you are too embarrassed or don’t think you can keep up:
You will very likely not keep up and be winded…at first. And that is due as much to your inactivity as your extra weight. You will also encounter skinny people at those classes and at the gym who cannot keep up and get winded, too. And that is due to their inactivity, same as you! Do you see that in some regards you are on the same playing field as the skinny folks?? When you are inactive, no matter what your weight, exercise is a challenge.
Keep in mind you are strong! Once your body adjusts to moving, your cardiovascular endurance improves, and you shed some weight you will likely find you can push heavy weight. Don’t be afraid of that! Being strong is awesome! For me, it was a source of pride and confidence–something that kept me motivated. I like being able to sling weights. I like being able to haul a full wheelbarrow around in the summer. I like moving furniture around when I feel like it. I like that I’m not delicate and can hold my own if the situation calls for it. Strong is good–use that to your benefit at the start!
Everybody starts somewhere with exercise…even skinny people! Try to move past the fears and doubts and give it a shot!