So, you’ve been through the surgery. You’ve plugged into a support system, you’ve made your dietary changes and you’ve been walking every day. It is time to take that next big step.
Now, you need to head to the gym.
Into The Sweat-Soaked Air
I’ll be honest – I am not always crazy about the gym. The grunting, the shouting “Yeah!!!!”, the clatter of 50-pound dumbells being slammed into the floor…you get the picture. Even when I was weightlifting recreationally 15+ years ago, the whole concept of staring fixedly at one’s reflection and flexing made me feel a little weird.
So, I just didn’t do it. I strapped on my headphones, went through my routine, and went home. Sure, if someone asked for help with a spot I would give them a hand, but mainly I did my best to ignore the yelling and crashing of plates surrounding me. I suspected that everyone was watching me, but I never made eye contact, so no problem there.
Nowadays, things are a little different. I no longer suspect that everyone else in the gym is watching me. Now I am convinced that everyone is watching me. Mainly wondering “What the heck is that flabby little dude doing here?”
I freely admit, it is very frustrating and kind of embarrassing to be lifting with fractions of the weight I used to be able to handle. 80-pound seated bench presses and 25-pound dumbell curls are not going to win me any medals. But, I have to keep something in mind: I am not here to win medals. I am here to regain control over my body.
I have also discovered a secret weapon: Planet Fitness
Among The Un-Buffed Masses
Spend any time at all on a weightlifting forum, and you will inevitably find a post or two bashing Planet Fitness. It is not a “real gym”, some will claim. “Too many machines”, another purist will say. “Only pansies and wannabes” is another claim I saw recently.
Sound familiar at all? Kind of reminds me of high school. If you aren’t one of the Cool Kids, you might as well stay home.
Elitism exists in every human activity. Weightlifting is no different. What we need to understand is that, as bariatric patients, resistance exercise is a requirement. One of the best places to pursue resistance exercise is a gym. And I personally avoid the elitists by hanging around at Planet Fitness.
Just yesterday I ran into a 70-year-old grandmother working out next to a high school cheerleader. An older gentleman working out on a treadmill while wearing his oxygen supply. Another man weighing over 300 pounds being coached through lat pull-downs by a 20-something who resembled Adonis.
It is the Island of Misfit Toys, for those of us who are attempting to get healthy without the posing and posturing. An environment without judgment, with everyone working toward a common goal: getting healthier.
A Few Missing Pieces
Planet Fitness bills itself as a “judgement-free zone”, and while I appreciate that aspect, there are a few things I wish ours had. A pool would be nice. Aerobics classes would be cool. And, yes, they do give away pizza once a month, in a completely baffling appeal to their clients. I can sort of understand free food once a month. But pizza?
However, this is all eclipsed, for me, by what they do have: a safe environment for those of us who are trying to get back on the exercise horse. A wide variety of cardio equipment is available. Machine-assisted weightlifting is present for every major muscle group. Those who are a little more experienced can even find cable-driven “Universal” rigs and even a collection of medicine balls and yoga mats. Heck, there is even a hardcore section populated with dumbells and mirrors. (I tend to face away from the mirrors when my routines take me into this section.)
In short, there are options here, for just about anything someone who is building back up from bariatric surgery might choose to add to their exercise routine. Lor and I spent half an hour yesterday tossing 8-pound medicine balls at each other, in lieu of our usual back and shoulder routine. (And, man, do I feel it today.)
In my neighborhood, this is all available for $10 a month. A little tough to argue with that price for what you are getting.
Time To Get Out of The House (And Into The Gym)
If you’ve arrived at the point in your fitness journey where you need to add some resistance training, I would recommend you take a look at your local Planet Fitness. Make an appointment with their on-site Personal Trainer, and get going. Lor and I are now hitting PF 6 days a week, and I have yet to experience any of the questionable elements that might keep us out of a “mainstream” gym. It seems to be a perfect refuge for those of us who are relearning how to take ownership of our bodies.
And, again – this isn’t a paid post. I will get nothing from Planet Fitness for talking about them. In fact, I get to pay for the privilege of attending every month. In short, when I head to PF, I feel safe. I can work out safely, I can safely join a community of like-minded people, and I am safe from judgment by those around me.
In a judgement-free zone.
Week 4 Of My C25K Starts Today (At Planet Fitness),