Hey, you gym bunnies? I have a heads up for ya. Some day you may wind up seeing a fat chick in the gym. No, really. I know that the media says we don’t exercise (because exercise magically melts the pounds away the second you step on a treadmill, dontchaknow?), but some of us do.
Now many of you are thinking, “Oh hey, cool. She’s decided to work out. That’s great!”
You know, you’re right. Choosing to be active is a great health choice in many cases. That’s why we do it, right?
Since chances are good that you prefer to be benevolent and supportive, I’d like to offer a few little tips.
- Unless you know her really, really well, don’t say “I’m proud of you” the second you see her in the gym.
- Be aware that body consciousness exists.
- Unless asked, don’t monitor her progress.
- Do be inclusive.
- Don’t make assumptions about her fitness goals
Yes, there are people who need the strokes and the hand-holding. Do you know that person well enough to know if she needs it? Be sure before you say something like that. The whole “I’m proud of you” thing can come off just awfully condescending from a stranger, even if your intention is to be benevolent. When she’s done her first pullup, though, feel free to throw confetti and blow horns.
It may be the custom to parade around in the altogether in your locker room, regardless of age or body type. (It is in my gym!) However, it might take awhile before any new person (fat or not!) is necessarily comfortable with chatting with someone they don’t know well totally naked.
Again, I know people like to be supportive of positive life choices, and that’s cool. There’s a difference between having someone be supportive and finding that someone has tried to make a project out of you. The latter is a real pain in the butt.
While I’m sure you know the rule about not bothering someone in the gym with headphones in, if she’s not wearing them, being friendly is good. You and I know that all it takes to be a member of the Cool Kids Club in a gym is showing up, but it’s not common knowledge among the uninitiated. Let ’em know they belong.
She might be trying to take fat off. She might be working on her strength and not bothering with body fat percentage. She might be rehabbing an injury. Unless you know what her fitness goals are, your advice is probably useless. Wait to be asked.
Do I blame social gaffes on chasing someone away from the gym? Not entirely. If you really aren’t into being there, you’ll probably find just about any reason not to. Still, if you want to make sure your gym is a welcoming, inclusive place, it’s a good idea just to be matter of fact about people being there rather than making a big deal of any one particular class of person showing up.