I remember the first time I took a yoga class, and boy, did I feel uncomfortable. There I was rehabbing from a broken ankle and I could not feel more out of place. All around me were people with incredible flexibility and knowledge of the moves. Downward what? Warrior pose who? I felt so self-conscious I almost just left the class.
Now, I have never been significantly overweight, but I do know what it feels like to be in a room full of people and think that I stick out. However I can only image how some overweight people feel walking into to a gym full of fit people that have been working out for years. It must be intimidating to say the least. It also pains me to hear that people need to “lose weight before they join a gym.” If people don’t feel at ease in a gym, then personal trainers and gym owners are failing the same population that needs us most.
The purpose of this article is to give some simple tips to give a person just off the couch a basic idea of what to do and hopefully confidence in the gym and the personal trainers.
The most important thing for someone who is overweight or obese is to develop confidence. In my past experience when overweight people come to see me, they have already tried and failed to do it on their own or in a group setting, usually yo-yoing multiple times. They expect to fail so finding exercises they can do is a must to build confidence. I like to use bench squats or box squats instead of regular squats, incline pushups or ball tosses instead of planks, standing cable rows or lat pull downs instead of chin ups, and pallof presses or as I call them “belly-button presses” instead of sit-ups Finally adding workout machines here and there may not be a bad idea.
Bodyweight exercises can be very challenging for anyone, but especially for heavier individuals. Also, getting up and off the ground can be a frustrating experience, so I pick exercises that have the person standing or sitting for the majority of the workout.
Some might think that a sitting-down workout is not intense enough to get results. Without the popular jumps, Olympic lifts and interval training, will bench squats, ball tosses and machine work get the job done?
One of my most successful clients, a woman in her 60s lost more than 100 pounds to date using this workout strategy. Because of knee pain that could not be addressed by her doctors, we sit down almost the entire time, although, bench squats don’t seem to cause any pain so we add them to the program. Consistent workouts with an incredible attention to diet (more important than working out) produce these life-changing results.
And what about me, did I quit yoga? No, I actually had people come up to me and give me compliments for being a “meathead” that was willing to try something new. The instructor also recognized that I would not perform all poses because of my current and past injuries. In fact, I still have some yoga inspired movements in my programs today.
I feel most people in the gym are the same way. Most everyone realizes that people have to start somewhere and most are willing to help out. The hardest part is frequently that first awkward and intimidating step.