Recently, there has been a lot of chatter online and on news outlets talking about gyms that are banning thin members to help create a comfortable atmosphere for heavier individuals who void gyms because they feel intimidated or out of place (here's an example of one). Having been over 450 pounds at one point, I completely know what that fear and intimidation feels like. That being said, now that I'm smaller (yet still heavy), anytime I enter a new workout environment the fear still exists. Perhaps there is less anxiety, but it's still nerve-wracking. I would imagine that the anxiety exists for many people, regardless of what clothing size they are. It's an opportunity to be judged, and no one likes to put themselves in that situation (unless you're a beauty queen, perhaps.)
Regardless of your size or if you think a plus-size-only-gym is positive or negative move, there are a few ways that you can reduce your anxiety when it comes to new workout situations or environments:
- Use the buddy system: No matter how uncertain you feel, don't you feel better if you're not alone in it? Ask friends or family to join you on a new adventure, or see if you can tag along with someone else. I recently did this for a BarreAmped class: would never have gone to it by myself, but with a friend, I felt much better.
- Ask for help: If you're new to a gym or a certain fitness class, let people know so they can help! All gyms have staff who can explain equipment to you, and fitness instructors would rather know you're new so they can help you than have you be uncomfortable in the back of the room. I did this with spinning and was so glad as the instructor made sure my bike setup was correct and saved me from some pain!
- Keep your head up: For natural introverts, this is a hard one, but pays off greatly. When you're in a new environment, resist the urge to keep your head down and focused only on what you're doing. Lift your head and make eye contact with those who look your way or that you pass while headed to your car. You'll be surprised at how many will offer a smile and even a kind word. Once the ice is broken, you'll feel much more comfortable.
- Move on: If you've been to the gym or a new class a few times and still feel really uncomfortable or unsure and have done all of the 3 items above, it is quite possible it's the facility or class that's the problem, not you. Move on to another environment - don't waste your time, money, or energy somewhere that you truly can't enjoy.