I know going into new gyms is stressful for everyone who travels for work and who works out on the road. I’m shy to begin with and having to deal with people who think I’ve never exercised before and that I’m new to fitness centres is hard. Mostly I cheerfully take on the role of being the ambassador for fat, fit people everywhere. (Even though I’m still ambivalent about the label “fat”–see Fat or big: What’s in a name?— I know that’s what most people see.)
Let me explain what I consciously do to make it easier. (And I know that not everyone can do these things. Call what I’ve got “fit privilege.”)
First, I wear the right clothes. That’s easy.
Second, I often deliberately chose water bottles from past races I’ve done. Fitness instructors notice and it helps smooth my path.
These days I always wear my CrossFit hoodie. Nothing screams “yes, I’m qualified to do your fitness class” quite like a CrossFit hoodie.
I get what fitness instructors are concerned about. They don’t want a visitor, a guest member, on a 1 day pass, keeling over dead in their class. They don’t know me, and they want to qualify me as capable of surviving their class without extra attention. It’s the professional and caring thing to do.
But I wonder about thin privilege and whether smaller, fit people feel the need to prove themselves to new gyms in this way.
I also worry that this might hurt thin people too. My worry is that fitness instructors might assume you’re fit and not give you the help you need. See How equating being fat with being out of shape hurts thin people too. Is this worry right? Let me know. (What’s thin privilege? Have a look at Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege.)
Today I went to a spin class at the Banff Centre for the Arts and the instructor handled meeting a new person well. She asked if I was familiar with spin bikes and how to adjust them and I said “yes.” I said I wished I’d brought my bike shorts and shoes. She smiled. We talked about cycling and winter. I mentioned the Forest City Velodrome and she asked about fixed gear bikes and how fast did you need to go to stay up on the walls of the track. All good. I’m welcome back any time and no heart attacks were had.
It was a fun class though I have two beefs about spin classes: The seats! Why not nice skinny road bike seats. (I know why. They scare people, but really they are more comfortable.) And all that bouncing to the music. Keep your upper body still people! Save your dancing for the night club. But of course, if they don’t ever ride real bikes all that bouncing is just fine.