More gyms are catering to plus-size clients who want to work out but are intimidated by the types of people featured in New York Times trend pieces. (Bachelorette gym parties, anyone?)
One gym in Vancouver, Body Exchange, actually screens potential clients over the phone and bans non-plus-size women from joining. (Men aren't allowed, either.) The goal is for the space to be a "save haven" for heavier clients, founder and CEO Louise Green told The Province. "Many of our clients have not had successful fitness pasts so I can see the anxiety before we get started and I can see the relief and happiness after we finish," she said. "People are often too fearful to become active. There wasn't a model that offered camaraderie. I used to walk into fitness classes where nobody would even say ‘Hi.' This has got to be fun or it's not going to work."
Green said three types of people join her gym: women who are "idle," women who used to work out but have put on weight in recent years, and the "do or dies" who need to get fit for medical reasons. But all have one thing in common: they don't want to get patronizing side-eye glances when they're on the treadmill. "It's intimidating going into a gym setting," one satisfied customer said. "I honestly think some people in a gym setting are judgmental to people who are overweight or have a different body type."
Other gyms don't go as far as barring skinny people from joining, but instead say they "target people of size" or don't "encourage" a thin crowd. "We make it known that our specialty is working with people who have at least 50 pounds to lose," Jason Burns, a partner at Downsize Fitness in Chicago, told the New York Daily News. "Most people who come here, come here for that reason." Michael Hayes, owner of Buddha Body Yoga in Union Square, said he started a yoga studio for plus-size people because he "was tired of being the biggest person in the classroom."
That's the same reason why Marty Wolff, who competed on season three of NBC's "The Biggest Loser," started the health club Square One in Omaha, Nebraska. "My whole life, I have always wished there was a place for other big people," he said. "So I created one." He doesn't turn anyone away, though — not because he wants to be inclusive, but because he thinks some skinny people would rather work out with bigger people. "What we have found is that there are some [non-overweight] sub-populations who like to work out with ‘people of size,'" he explained. That's probably a sub-population all gym-goers should stay away from; they sound even more fucked up than the boot camp bachelorettes.
Image via Peter Bernik/Shutterstock.