I have a complicated relationship with exercise and my body, as I’ve discussed before. The word “diet” makes my skin crawl, and regular exercise is something I’m still warming up to. However, I was talking with a friend recently about how nice it would be to see more fat people talk about their workout routines, particularly when those routines are centered around feeling good rather than… all of the baggage that makes exercise suck.
So, I figured I should put my money where my mouth is and talk about the kinds of exercise I like, why, and how it’s helped me get more connected with my body. Before I start, though, I want to say that it’s taken me years to create a better relationship with my body and not feel like throwing up and/or crying when I think about exercising. If you are not there yet, I want to assure you that this post isn’t going to attack you for not being a “good fatty” and working out or eating perfectly. I’m sharing my experience purely because I think we need more examples of people being fat and happy in different ways.
Now, my routine is pretty basic, and I am slightly hampered by the fact that I’m dealing with an injury from running cross-country back in middle school. (No, really–did you know you can’t actually fix fractures in your toes? It’s great.) I also have the benefit of having a small, basic gym right inside my apartment building, so I don’t have to worry about an expensive gym membership or buying a bunch of exercise equipment to use at home. The great thing about workouts is that they are easily customized to fit your needs and skill level. Listen to your body and move in ways that make you feel good. If something hurts, figure out if it’s because your form is off or if it’s because that particular exercise doesn’t work well for you. For example, I find that squatting with a barbell really hurts my neck, which it definitely shouldn’t do! After trying to adjust my form a whole bunch, I’ve found that this is still not an exercise I particularly like or find comfortable, so I don’t include it in my workout routines. This isn’t a bad thing! There are a million different kinds of exercises to work out each part of your body. It’s okay if it takes a bit to figure out the right ones for you.
In the past, when I wasn’t dealing with broken toe flareups, I used to go for runs. I know that everybody whines about how much running sucks, but I actually really enjoyed the chance to push myself. Especially once I started using Zombies, Run! If you’re at all into zombie stuff or want to try out something a little different, I highly recommend trying Zombies, Run! out. It functions as a run tracker and gives you missions and challenges to complete, all while telling the story of a small group of survivors that you unlock as you complete missions. This works both for running outdoors or on a treadmill. According to the creators, you can also use it while using a bicycle or stationary bike. It’s really immersive and allows you to listen to other music or podcasts while still giving you this incredible story to lose yourself in as you run. I don’t use this as much anymore now because of my injuries, but if you’re up for an interesting, fun challenge, I highly recommend it!
Now, I mostly use a stationary bike at the gym for my cardio. If you also struggle to do more high-impact cardio like running (which, to be fair, is not all that great for your joints), using a stationary bike or an actual bike you ride outside is a really great option. It’ll get your blood pumping and give you the same endorphin rush. I’ve found that I like using a stationary bike a lot more than the elliptical, but that’s just personal preference. Whatever kind of cardio I’m doing, I make sure I get at least 30 minutes of it in each workout, along with a 5-minute cooldown. I prioritize cardio because it’s what makes me feel the best. It helps balance out my brain chemistry better than anything else, so if I only have a limited amount of time to work out, I always choose cardio.
However, I also am not into cardio overkill. Workout advice for those of us who are heavier tends to focus on cardio because it’s “fat-burning.” That kind of rhetoric is exhausting, and I don’t think it’s necessary to promise that you’re going to do an hour of cardio every time you go to the gym. This is especially true if you’re more interested in strength training or making your body feel good rather than weight loss. I use cardio as a way to ease myself back into the gym and get myself mentally prepared for my workout. I also use it as “me time” where I can play around on Pinterest and listen to podcasts without worrying about interruptions.
Once I’m done with cardio, I move on to weights. What’s available in the little gym I use is limited, so most of my strength training either requires no equipment or only requires dumbbells and a workout bench.
On the days I exercise my arms, chest, and back, I use workouts that come from this site. I know the basics of arm workouts, but there are times when I want to exercise a more specific part of my body and I’m not totally sure what to do. That’s when that site comes to the rescue. They split everything up into distinct categories so you can focus on specific muscle groups, and they have detailed diagrams and descriptions of each exercise to help you along. It’s a great free resource that can help you build a routine that works for you.
My usual arm routine looks something like this:
- Bicep curl (3 sets of 12 reps–so, I do 12 bicep curls three separate times)
- Bench press (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Two-armed tricep extension (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Palms-in alternated shoulder press (3 sets of 12 reps)
Occasionally I’ll change things up, but that’s my standard. It’s simple and I can adjust the difficulty for myself by changing the weights I’m using.
I really love doing leg workouts! All of these exercises are easily done at home, especially if you have a yoga mat. A mirror that allows you to check your form is also really helpful to make sure that your form is correct and you’re not injuring yourself. If you’re super unsure about your form, ask a friend you trust to check your form. It might also be worth your while to work with a personal trainer who can teach you more about form. Gotta stay safe!
For legs, my routine is pretty simple:
- Squats (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Lunges (3 sets of 10 reps–lunges are super hard for me, so I have to take it a little easy!)
- Calf raises (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Side leg raises (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Inner thigh leg raises (3 sets of 12 reps)
Ab workouts are also something I really enjoy, though I’m still on the lookout for more variety in this part of my routine. Making sure I get an ab workout in is super important for me. It strengthens my core and keeps my lower back from hurting when I’m working at my desk all day.
My ab routine:
- Leg lifts (3 sets of 12 reps)
- Plank (3 sets, hold for 20 seconds on the first rep, 45 on the second rep, and 20 on the third rep)
- Russian twists (3 sets of 12 reps)
Like I said, my workouts aren’t anything super complicated. They’re fairly easy to do even if you’re not super experienced or are just getting back into the gym. This routine won’t solve all your problems or drastically change your body shape. Still, it’s worthwhile to find out what kind of exercise you like and maybe even try this routine out. Moving your body in a way that makes you feel good is super important!
I love hearing from other fat positive folks about their workouts! What are some ways you move your body that make you feel good? Any exercises you think I should try? Let’s talk in the comments!