Fitting In At The Gym
Images of health clubs as the exclusive domain of the young and the fit turn most people off. In reality, the best clubs can provide a supportive environment for the not-yet-fit.
“I feel like I’m being judged.” “I can’t bench press that much weight; I don’t want to embarrass myself by lifting next to those guys.” Often, the anxiety of being seen at a health club keeps those who need a fitness regimen the most from using one.
It’s hard to blame anyone who’s not in the best shape of their lives for being apprehensive about joining a health club, especially when these health clubs are selling a “finished product” image. Most health club advertisements feature stock images of ultra-fit models or celebrities; they never seem to feature real people from the communities who the clubs serve. Let’s face it; in the (815), there are a lot more soft midsections than hard bodies, especially after the holidays. And even with dedicated exercise, most of us will never reach the ideal that these clubs are selling.
Health clubs can be supportive environments for the overweight and obese, say numerous fitness experts and psychologists. Depending on the club, most members are there to get through their workouts and work on living a healthier lifestyle, not to judge others. Still, the perception of the health club as an unsupportive, even humiliating environment persists. Nationally, the best clubs work incredibly hard to dispel these myths. Locally, it’s at the core of what FitMe Wellness is about.
“In my experience at FitMe, the reality is that most members who see an out-of-shape person in the gym have feelings of respect, admiration, and encouragement,” says Rachel Carlson, Certified Personal Trainer at FitMe Wellness. Gyms in Rockford need to be especially supportive. “It’s common knowledge that our community as a whole is unhealthy, that to be in a club environment that is so wellness conscious, there’s a high value placed on anyone trying to get fit,” she says.
“The people here at FitMe get to know each other and really develop a sense of camaraderie,” says Pat Johnson, a staff member at FitMe Wellness. “If members see you staying consistent with your workouts, they’ll cheer you on and compliment your effort.”
Some gyms are more accommodating than others to an out-ofshape member’s plight. FitMe Wellness has small personal training studio rooms for people who want a more secluded environment. At FitMe, our wellness coaches and MotivateMe sidekicks have even taken a group exercise class with our members, just to give them extra support and motivation.
“I think that someone who’s heavy often thinks about being stared at or judged, not just when they go into a health club, but when they get on a plane or go into a grocery store,” says Greg Georgis, FitMe Wellness’ owner and founder. “But it really comes to a head in this situation,” he adds, when the atmosphere can include ubiquitous mirrors and fitness clothing that shows parts of the body people normally would keep covered.
Marketing bolsters the myth that gyms are the territory of the young and the fit. Recognizing the rise in the rate of obesity in the area, there is a concerted effort to try a different approach to woo members.
“The fitness industry created this environment where some people felt as if they had to lose weight before they went to the gym,” says Georgis. “But when you’re dealing with nearly 75% of the Rockford area being overweight or obese, we clearly need to show people that fitness is worth the investment in time, that it can be empowering, and that there is no judging involved.”