Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

Too embarrassed to exercise


Large size exerciserI was flipping around on the net tonight and a link on MSN with the title “Gym anxiety: are you too embarrassed to work out?” caught my eye.  How could it not?  Almost everyone I know who is dealing with weight issues has wrestled with this one.  We are told almost every day by almost every person who opens their mouth or writes a book or article that we have to exercise to make a difference in our weight loss and maintenance.

That’s pretty easy for skinny people to do.  They put on those cute workout clothes, go to the gym and know how to use the equipment and seem to already know all the choreography in a step class – and aren’t afraid to look at themselves in the mirror.  When those of us who are, er, larger come along, it’s hard not to be embarrassed.  My legs look like tree stumps and are lumpy with cellulite.  My clothes can never be described as “cute” and that’s not their purpose; they are there to cover me and not make me sweat just putting them on.

But the rest of it is baffling.  The equipment isn’t all that easy to use.  When I try to use some of the weight resistance machines, my body just doesn’t fit in the space allowed for it and getting stuck in the gym equipment isn’t conducive to a successful workout.  It makes me eat chocolate on the way home, not feel satisfied with progress.   Some of us, including me, have had joint injuries and can’t bend as easily as we would like – so even something as simple as the recumbent bike isn’t always possible.  We don’t know until we try.  And I feel stupid standing there trying to figure it out and to fit in the machine and make it work.  When it doesn’t, I pray no one is looking.

Going to the classes is another nightmare.  My gym, which is mildly size-aware, understands that not everyone can jump into an intermediate step class or do kickboxing.  We might want to but it’s physically difficult.  I feel intimidated when I do steel myself to try and go into a room lined with mirrors and populated by perky little skinny people with hair in ponytails who stand at the front and look at me as though I’m a kind of bug when I show up in the corner of their line of sight.

It’s not all like that.  But why can’t there be more classes for older, bigger people who are trying their best to get more active but just feel intimidated and embarrassed by the options now available?  As it is, I’ve given up on classes completely.  I don’t have the endurance (and now the knee stability) to do kickboxing or step aerobics, however wonderfully cardio they are.  I can’t do pilates or yoga because I can’t get down on the floor (because I can’t get UP if I do get down).

So I go and do my little treadmill and hope no one looks at me while I plod my way at what is to them a slow pace.  I know in my head that it’s not a comparison, that others are really just working to improve themselves and not to check out the competition. What kind of competition can there be if you’re all on treadmills?  Who can go faster?  Longer?  on a bigger incline?  That seems pretty pointless – but I watch them and feel inferior because I just can’t do what they can do.   The weight machines, except for the ones I avoid because I get stuck on them, are doable if I can manage the stairs.

Most of the gyms around here are co-ed and that was a total disaster for me.  There is No Way that I would try any of this in a gym with men watching me make such an ass of myself.  Even though the goal is to just take care of myself and get stronger and healthier, I don’t want men watching me.  It’s too vulnerable and exposed and I prefer to be as pretty as my large size can make me if strange men are going to see me.  The gym is not that place.

No wonder Curves has become so popular.  It’s fast, it’s manageable, and it’s for women only. Women who go feel supported and that leads to success which leads them to come back.

It’s going in the first place that’s the trick.

5 thoughts on “Too embarrassed to exercise

  1. You are the only person I know that will understand this.

    My IBS/youngest has her hardest time in the morning.

    I don’t know if it is a build up of stomach acid during the night or what.

    Her acid level and stomach “juices” have both been checked and are normal.

    But her feeling awful in the morning is something with which we really struggle.

    In the summer or vacation time – she can get up very slowly and be up for several hours before she even attempts to eat.

    During the school year, it is hard. At first glance someone might take this to mean that it is school anxiety – but it is not – it is just plain having to get up quickly and eat right away.

    we discovered, quite by accident, that if she gets up and gets in a warm tub right away – it is so much better. She gets in with her breakfast and a book for 45 minutes or so – makes all the difference in the world – and this is something she can do – easily – for life.

  2. I know you’ve heard this before, and you even alluded to it in your post. But trust me, no one at your gym thinks any less of you for being there. In fact, they probably are cheering you on in the minute or two that they’re not thinking about themselves.

    I’ve been where you are, and the best thing I did for myself was to hire a personal trainer, one session per week for one month. I then scheduled another session a month later just to make sure I was still doing everything right. My trainer showed me how to use free weights and Nautilus [I eventually only used the free weights], and even stood there talking with me while I did my cardio.

    Even when I wasn’t his client, he always greeted me and the other trainers did, too. I don’t know if it was just that gym’s policy or not, but I felt like the most important member in the club.

    It took a couple of months before I really started losing weight, and I was discouraged a lot, but having that personal connection made all the difference.

    Your progress will improve with time and consistency. Stick with it! I wish you well, my friend.

  3. I feel intimidated by the gym-bunnies a lot of the time. Especially in a college town, where everyone is not only thin and cute as a button, but 22.

    I’m glad to hear you’re back on the treadmill, hope the knee is feeling better. I liked the link you sent me yesterday 🙂

  4. Do I go to the only gym with all the old Grandma’s and Grandpa’s??? And, I don’t mean retirement old – I mean OLD.

    Maybe it is the times that I go – maybe it is the fact that my gym is surrounded by MILES of older neighborhoods.

    Debbi gave you really good advice – especially with your knee.

  5. Anne, believe me I have suffered the mental humiliation of being at the pool, learning to swim (one time with a big black rope attached to me too). I’m surrounded by gym-bunnies (love that expression Jen!) and really fit people who spin, bike, walk, climb stairs with rivers of sweat rolling off them.

    And you know what? Today at the pool, in the locker room, I had stripped down to my underwear, t-shirt and I had to pee. I wasn’t going to put on my pants, etc. so I walked to the bathroom (which is in the locker room) and walked back and finish putting on my bathing suit. I really didn’t give a flip if my big thighs jiggled all the way or if the gym-bunnies were frightened by excessive cellulite. I had to pee.

    I agree, no one is really looking at you unless you make weird noises (we had an older man on the treadmill who used to scream Hoo-Hah! every so often; the younger guy and I just exchanged looks). A trainer (or in my case, a private swim teacher) can make a big difference. I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now (not that anyone on the Australian Swim team is in any danger of losing a spot to me).

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