Advice to Newbies from Oldbies

I decided to tap the brilliance of the oldbie group in the Fit Fatties Forum for the advice they would give to newbie exercisers.   (If this doesn’t answer all of your questions, you can always e-mail and the answer will be posted on the Ask a Fit Fatty blog.)

I asked the Oldbies:

I have a question for the oldbies (to help the newbies – I’m going to be putting this in a blog post) – what advice would you give a fatty who is just starting out and wants to get more fit?

Here is their advice.  I happen to think it’s awesome and as always just take what you like and leave the rest, feel free to add your own advice in the comments, and I would ask that you not criticize the contributors.  Thanks!

Hi – the best starting-out advice I can give is start by finding beautiful spaces and places to walk in that make you feel good. For me, I started by walking in local arboretums and botanical gardens that I found on Google maps. The pleasure of seeing the beauty of the space really made me enjoy the movement. And they are generally, I find, very ” genteel” places where weight bullying seems unlikely. I am also a huge believer in black workout clothes (forgive me if I sound silly!). I wear black stretchy form fitting yoga pants with a black v-neck tee for the gym and have a bunch of the same in my closet. I don’t know why but it makes me feel a lot more comfy in the gym. I feel more powerful somehow and less self-conscious. ~Ann

The words of wisdom that I would give to someone who is just starting out is to try a variety of different movement activities to discover which one you derive the most pleasure from. Becoming more fit should be fun and should not feel like a mandatory addition to your day.  Additionally, if you would like to explore some activities such as yoga or Zumba but are worried about the cost, you can try searching for DVDs at your local library. Additionally, many community recreation centers and even some public libraries offer free yoga, hooping, Zumba, and other classes.  ~Rebecca

The advice I would give to someone starting out is all stuff I used myself. I hope some of it resonates with others.

1. Go slow. Seriously. Sloooow. The number of times I started at a million miles an hour and hurt myself or became discouraged because I was too sore to work out for a week is, well it’s a lot. Go for small achievable goals and give yourself mad props for doing them. If 5 mins of walking around the apartment is where you’re at right now, that’s where you’re at and you did it and you’re a hero.

2. Only note what you DID, not what you DIDN’T do. At the beginning I had to stop in every track at Zumba and walk on the spot. It would be easy to notice that I didn’t do the entire class but I only noted that I showed up and did half a class. Yay me! Want to eventually walk for 30 mins and start at 10 mins, that’s 10 mins! Yay you!

I’m also a big fan of rewarding yourself when changing a habit. I know this is dorky but I bought myself a stamp which said ‘Good Job!’ and gave myself a stamp when I worked out. I then bought myself a pressie when I reached a number of stamps. The constant positive reinforcement helped to negate the ‘you’re not good enough’ critical internal voice.

3. Do what you love, or at least avoid what you hate. I know that accessibility, time, money, fitness level and mobility are all factors is what exercise is possible. If it IS possible, try and do what you love. I love to dance, I like high stimulation, music, people etc. Zumba is perfect. My friend loves the peace of walking along the beach looking at the waves. Neither of us would work out if we swapped routines.

If there is nothing you love, if you’re not mobile or in pain or you’ve been so infected by the ‘go harder, beach body, feel the burn, it’s got to hurt, burn off those calories’ horror show of what current society seems to think fitness is, I would say link it with something you DO like.

Watch guilty pleasure tv, listen to music or an audiobook, join a group if you like working out with others, work out in a park if you love the outdoors. Note whether you like working out in the morning or at night, inside or outside, with others or not. It may be the way towards finding activity which you enjoy.

4. Reconnect with your body. Begin to notice how your body feels when you move, when it feels better than at other times. Notice how it feels to have a bath or sit in the sun. When I started I was so disconnected from my body and so angry that a chronic condition meant that I was in constant pain and unable to dance anymore. Plus I didn’t look the way I wanted to look and my body got a lot of hate. Getting back inside it through mindfulness meditation helped as did gratitude. On the days when I couldn’t walk and had to be helped to the bathroom I would have to think, hey I can read, I am breathing, I can laugh. I can lift my hand and feed myself. It’s all relative.

5. Try not to mind read. At the beginning I was the one red faced and panting, sweating like crazy, modifying everything, having to stop and because I was around others I worried that they were judging me. Some of them may have been but I didn’t have to do the work for them. I developed my own mantra of positivity inside my head and tried to remind myself that I didn’t know what they were thinking and in any case they didn’t know me. I don’t always succeed but most of the time I don’t notice anyone else and that’s because I’m king inside my own head. They don’t know that when I box I am totally Buffy.

I feel so lucky to be able to be active and anything I can do to encourage or support others, I will. All that stuff I mentioned is hard, and took years for me to take on board and sometimes I do all the things I say not to do, push myself too hard, have a hate fest on myself etc but it’s doable.

Best of luck to anyone starting! ~Sophie

Small steps and achievable goals will help each of us have positive experiences and develop the inner knowledge that we will feel better!

No matter how I feel before a dance class, water aerobics, or strength training session,  I know I will feel better afterward. I believe it based on years of experience. Doing something I enjoy with people I like is also effective for dissipating pain  –  especially while we are on stage performing  –  then there is no pain!  ~Ronda

I couldn’t have said it better myself!  I would add – try lots of things.  It will help you find things you like and help keep you from getting bored.  Consider starting a Health at Every Size meet-up in your community so that you’ll have a group to go try stuff with (so instead of just you trying out the Zumba class, it’s a fleshmob of fatties and friends.)

Also, I would say give yourself time to progress.  I have a video below of me doing something called “short spine” on the pilates reformer. Now it feels really easy (so easy, in fact, that I’m going too fast in this video.)  However, the first time I saw it, it seemed like it would be impossible.  The first time I tried it, it was very much like a fish on dry land and not at all like my instructor (Kate Wodash of Mindful Body Center). It was frustrating to flop around unsuccessfully but I worked hard to be happy with progression and it was so worth it the first time I was able to do it successfully.

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11 thoughts on “Advice to Newbies from Oldbies

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am starting activity again after losing my mobility from anorexia and I’m terrified and finding it very hard dealing with a ‘new’ body that i’m not used to as well – these tips are all very helpful for me. I actually clicked further on your video – to the solo you did called “This Is Your Life” and I just want to say you are an awesome dancer (I’m an ex-dancer myself).

    1. Hi Fiona,

      Congratulations on your recovery! If there is ever anything I can do to support you, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for the kind words about the dance, I really appreciate it!


      1. Thank you Ragen, that is really kind. I have really found a lot of comfort and safety in the fat acceptance community because it’s about accepting us as PEOPLE, not as bodies first and people second – so thank you for your blog.

  2. Great post — I was really needing some ideas as I DETEST typical workouts and this town is so body conscious that I feel horribly judged in a gym. Maybe an HAES movement group is in order…

    1. Hi Darci,

      If there’s not one up and running when I get there (July 1!) I would love to start a HAES group. We had so much fun at the Fatty Dance Extravaganza that I’m thinking about doing live dance classes as well.


  3. Thanks for this post, Ragen! I’m just starting to get back into my routine after being out for a few months. It’s been frustrating because I’m, obviously, not where I used to be! I was biking about 50-70 miles a week, and now even half that just wipes me out. This was a good reminder for me, to start out slowly and work my way back up. I just moved to a new neighborhood, with lots of nice parks and the like, so I think I’ll start by walking after work every day, and after a week or two I bet biking won’t be so difficult.

  4. Thanks to all for the really helpful post – I’m trying to get back to exercising regularly and it comes at a perfect time.

    I’ve often found belly dance to be a great way to feel good, and American Tribal Style (ATS) and some tribal fusion style classes often seem to be fat friendly.

    Good luck to everybody!

  5. Fantastic bits of wisdom!
    If I may add — start with something simple with a low barrier to entry in terms of prep/hassle. If I want to swim, I have to shave all the appropriate body areas, find my goggles & cap, drive to the gym, shower, swim, shower again, drive home. As much as I love swimming, this feels overwhelming some days. On the other hand, my walking shoes are in the closet and my bike is on the porch and I can be out the door and actually moving in five minutes. Don’t make your hurdles too high in the beginning if that will keep you from moving joyfully.

  6. First of all awesome video! I’m amazed. I don’t know anything about Pilates but that looks hard!

    I really appreciate this post not only as a fat woman who loves to exercise but as a woman with fibromyalgia that loves to exercise. These tips are great for starting over again with a new body that hurts all the time and is heavier. I started over again 9 months ago SLOWLY & there’s no turning back now!

  7. I like “don’t be a mind-reader”. I try to keep in mind throughout my life that most people have their entire own lives to worry about and are likely not paying enough attention to me to notice when I trip over nothing or laugh like a goofball. A corollary to that advice is “you never know when someone else is an HAES believer!” I’m an in-betweenie and don’t feel comfortable just talking to strangers, but I’m often thinking “Go you and your confidence!” at people, especially people who look new at something. So imagine that everyone is rooting for you, maybe they are! (I need to take this advice myself…)

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