Exercise smorgasbord

As I’ve mentioned before, I really love the Tuesday “fitness” section of the local commuter paper. It can be mildly fatphobic, but it details all kinds of trendy, expensive equipment and classes, and I like to imagine that if this blog were my full-time job, I’d try them all out (tax-deductibly!) and report back to you. Sadly this blog is merely the thing I do when I should be doing my full-time job. But it occurred to me that, with your help, I could still provide a pretty broad view of exercise options outside the hamster-wheel gym mold.

As it happens, I like the gym — my short daily stint on the elliptical is what keeps me off antidepressants. But I’m going to lean away from classic gym exercises like standard cardio machines, weight training, and swimming, for a few reasons. One, the fat-friendliness of these exercises depends almost entirely on the climate of your gym, which I can’t really predict, and some people have understandable aversions to the possibility of judgmental hardbodies, or in fact anything that smacks of phys ed. Two, gymgoing evokes a self-punishment mindset, where you drag yourself through a workout you hate because you think it will make you “good”; it doesn’t have to be like that, and it’s not for many people, but I really want to make the point that there are plenty of other options available. Three, relatedly, I figure everybody already knows that the gym is there, and many people probably already know if they like it or not. I want a compendium of physical activities that people might never have thought of, that might catch the imagination.

My ultimate goal here is that we have a list of activities that exercise-prone Shapelings can peruse for fun new ideas, and that Shapelings who aren’t active but want to be can scour for something that sounds exciting and meets their needs. (If you aren’t active and don’t want to be, obviously it won’t be very helpful for you, but I’ve put most of the text behind a cut!) If possible, try to be sensitive to size ranges, fitness level ranges, health ranges, and expense. There will necessarily be some guesswork involved — for instance, I don’t know how much exertion a person with chronic pain can handle, and thin Shapelings will have to estimate the fat-friendliness of their favorite activities. For that reason, don’t hesitate to post reviews of things that have already been mentioned, offering your own view.

I’ll start, with some sports and activities I have personal experience with. Don’t feel constrained to my format when you add your own.

Hooping

Even if you couldn’t keep a hula hoop off the ground in elementary school, you can probably hoop; adult equipment is bigger and heavier, making it easier to keep momentum going. If you’re like that girl from Heroes and can copy what you see on TV, there are tons of YouTube videos to inspire you to learn tricks. Personally I need the class, because some of the tricks actually look physically or geometrically impossible, so it’s important to me to get a breakdown. But anything you learn in a class can be easily practiced at home — hoops are very cheap to make. I just had my first class last night and I’m really excited for next week.

Benefits:

  • Builds core muscles — I’m pretty sure my teacher could throw something across the room with one flick of an oblique.
  • Looks awesome.
  • Totally bleeding-edge. You know it’s cool when the Burning Man types are already bored with it.
  • Has an art project aspect, since most people make and decorate their own hoops.
  • Can absolutely be done solitary, in any backyard or spacious room.
  • Fun at parties.

Considerations:

  • You will bruise the shit out of yourself at first. I’ve been doing waist hooping for a while, so my ribs aren’t too bruised after last night’s class, but I have a fucking LUMP on the back of my left hand.
  • Humiliation potential is high. During some types of tricks, if you lose control of the hoop, it will shoot across the room. Other people will be doing the same thing and you can probably laugh with them.
  • Potential for smacking yourself in the face is also very high.
  • Some of the Burning Man types still really like it.

Fat-friendliness:

Taller and wider people need bigger hoops in order to get enough momentum. I can imagine that this becomes a little difficult if you are quite wide but not very tall, because it might be hard to keep a very large diameter hoop off the ground when doing tricks that involve passing it around your body. Larger hoops also tend to be heavier and thus require more wrist strength to hold (plus they probably bruise more). You could counter this by using one made of a lighter material, or using a proportionally smaller hoop and just hooping faster. Available hoops in my class ran very large, and they can be made even larger; I can’t imagine anybody who wouldn’t be able to find or construct a hoop to fit.

Fitness level required:

In a class, minimal. I barely broke a sweat in an hour and a half of learning and practicing tricks, and I inherited my dad’s sweat glands, which believe me are in no way shy or retiring. On the elliptical, I usually reach saturation levels by 18 minutes, but I can’t say I was more than dewy after hooping class. Doing a full routine would require a fair amount of strength and stamina, and continuous hooping (what I’ve been doing in my backyard, since I didn’t know any other moves) is more demanding than learning tricks. It does require a fair amount of wrist strength, which is easy to build up, but I might not recommend it for people with arthritis or other joint pain.

Belly dance

For a couple of years, belly dance has been the trendy way to get exercise without having to make an enemy of your body. (I’d say it’s the new yoga, but yoga is still the new yoga, as there’s no evidence that it’s about to relinquish its throne.)

Benefits:

  • Not as much ab-strengthening as you might think in early levels, but it’s very good for muscle strength and control.
  • Almost as good as yoga for getting you in touch with your body.
  • Very femme, if you like that sort of thing. Lots of pretty clothes and sexy wiggles.
  • Looks hot.

Considerations:

  • Possibly culturally appropriative, though you can decide what your relation is to that.
  • Very femme, if you don’t like that sort of thing. Popular styles want you to be made up, long-haired, and smiling if you’re going to perform. (If you’re not, then whatev.)
  • Can get really pricey, what with classes and costuming (although you’ll only need a hip scarf if you’re doing it for fun and not performance). And you will learn better in a class, at least at first, than from a video. It helps a LOT to be able to ask questions.

Fat-friendliness:

Very! I’ve heard stories about belly dance studios that behave like other dance studios in terms of body image, but they are atypical, because the ideal body type for belly dance is one that shakes and jiggles. One of my teachers actually told us repeatedly to “eat a lot and get your shimmies bigger” over Thanksgiving. You do generally have to bare your belly to perform, though not necessarily to practice, so that can be a psychological barrier because we tend to think belly dancers ought to look like Shakira, but fatter women can get amazing effortless-looking shimmies which is really the idea. Depending on where you live, you will probably be practicing with other fat women. I’ve often ended up being the fattest one in my class, but I am far from the fattest one at my studio, and many of the fatter women are advanced dancers.

Fitness level required:

I think you could start belly dance at any fitness level. Sustained dancing or drilling is tiring, particularly for the quads, but you’re unlikely to get out of breath or anything. Some moves require a fair amount of muscle strength and control, but you build that as you go. It’s certainly harder if you’re uncoordinated and out of touch with your body, but that will definitely improve with practice! A class might be hard for someone with chronic pain, because there aren’t a lot of options for scaling the moves to be easier if you’re having a rough day. But overall it is physically demanding without being extremely strenuous.

Fencing

I fenced from age 9 through college, with a particular obsession when I was on my college team. I’ve found it hard to find a place to fence as an adult that has the right attitude — not too cutthroat, but rigorous enough to keep me happy — but people who haven’t been spoiled by college athletics will probably have fun in a typical adult fencing class. It is just a fucking great sport, that’s all.

Benefits:

  • Reflexes! Fencers dodge and parry well and play a wicked game of coasters. My reflexes were particularly helped by rooming with my coach, because I could pretty much get hit with anything at any moment, but that’s just a more extreme version of typical training. I pretty much credit fencing with any ninja catch or dodge I manage to pull out, or basically any time I’m not clumsy.
  • Arm, leg, and wrist strength.
  • Balance, supposedly, though that’s never really come through for me. I even got red carded once for falling over.
  • This may not apply outside a team, but every bit of personal discipline I have, I got from fencing.
  • Increased pain tolerance.

Considerations:

  • Even after you stop fencing because you can’t find a place that suits you, you will still get keyed-up and energetic when you talk about it, and really annoy other people. Ahem.
  • A competitive spirit really helps. Eventually you will have to fight, even just against other people in your class.
  • You will get bruised as shit, and more significant injuries are possible (anything that draws blood is really really rare and almost never serious, but for instance I’ve gotten struck right in the throat, bypassing the protective gear.  I also had a mole removed via epee).
  • Can get REALLY expensive, once you graduate beyond using club gear.

Fat-friendliness:

There is a material benefit to being small in fencing, which is this: different weapons have different target areas, but in all cases your opponent has to hit you on your body. The smaller your body is, the tougher that is for them. There’s a reason that the top fencers are very thin and wiry, and it’s not just the fact that exercise is their job. Fat people are just easier to hit, so they need to make up for it with strong parries and good strategy. It can also be difficult to get bigger gear — at one purveyor, jackets top out at a 56″ chest, but knickers don’t go past a 40″ waist. I found them up to a 52″ waist elsewhere, but there was a fairly significant fee tacked on to the larger sizes. And now it is hurting me to look at fencing gear so I will stop.

In a class, you’re unlikely to experience fatphobia beyond the garden variety. On the competitive circuit, I imagine there’s a fair amount, because fencers are assholes. But I was certainly not the only fat woman in the Northeast Fencing Conference, and the other fatties were considerable opponents. In fact, the fattest woman kicked my ass one time.

Fitness level required:

One of the things I love and miss about fencing is the fact that it helps to be strong and fast, but it’s good enough to be strong OR fast. If you’re not quick on your feet but you have a good parry, you’re not that bad off. That said, fencing is physically demanding and classes usually involve a lot of drilling and warm-up exercises like running, jumping jacks, and wall sits. It’s a sport, after all. That said, if you’re interested but not very athletic, check out your county’s parks and recreation service — they sometimes offer fencing classes that are much lower-key.

Water aerobics

I only did this for a while while the school pool was closed, but it strikes me as a perfect activity for the newly active or those with health considerations. It’s very low-impact and usually everyone there is either fat, old, or both, but it’s pretty decent exercise.

Benefits:

  • Moving around for an hour can’t be bad — even if it’s not too hardcore, you get all the mood and emotional benefits.
  • You get to do stuff that would look utterly ridiculous on land, which is fun, especially if you have an instructor who demonstrates on land, as mine did.
  • Being in the water is really relaxing.
  • You can probably find a class at a community pool, where it’s cheap.
  • There is a lot more muscle-building going on than you actually notice.

Considerations:

  • Not everyone is comfortable in a bathing suit.
  • Don’t get all cocky, because there is actually exercise going on even though it doesn’t feel that way. One time I tried to make some moves harder for myself and ended up with a hideous calf cramp.
  • One woman’s “meditative” is another woman’s “boring.”

Fat-friendliness:

Higher than anything else I’ve ever done. Sure, you’re in a bathing suit, but so is everyone else, and they’re probably fat too. Water aerobics is low-impact, and buoyant, so it’s very popular for women who are fatter, older, in poor health, or some combination thereof. It’s not a cop-out exercise, but it can be more comfortable than higher-impact activities if you are quite heavy and not acclimated to strenuous exercise, have joint or pain problems, etc.

Fitness level required:

Minimal. The stronger you are, the better you can bounce around, and the harder you can push the water around with your arms, but you can do the moves at any level. Also good for pain sufferers, not just because of the buoyancy, but because nobody can see what you’re doing if you need to slow-roll the moves for a while or alter them to be more comfortable.

Yoga

Kate can handle this one better than me, but she’s on her birthday vacation. I’m sure she’ll flesh out my description eventually, though.

Benefits:

  • Really, really great for stress. People are not kidding when they say this.
  • Makes you increasingly bendy.
  • Improves posture.
  • Good for back problems, knee problems, etc. — though you might want to get a targeted DVD if you’re going that route, and if you’re taking a class you definitely want to talk to the teacher. Yoga teachers know a lot of anatomy and can tell you how to tweak moves to suit your body.

Considerations:

  • Awfully trendy!
  • With many classes and DVDs, you will encounter a level of new-age mumbo-jumbo that many would find intolerable.

Fat-friendliness:

Some places offer “Yoga for Round Bodies” or a variant, which some people might find more comfortable, but personally I’ve never felt out of place in a yoga class or felt like I couldn’t do the moves. I guess there are some where my belly gets in the way, but not so’s you’d notice, and you can always ask the teacher about that (if you’re brave enough) or just adjust moves on your own. If you’re going to a very chic yoga studio in a large city, you might feel weird around all the gym bunnies in their matching Lululemon outfits, but not everyone is like that — and even if they are, once you get started, yoga is such a solitary and concentration-heavy activity that you can be sure they won’t even notice you.

Fitness level required:

Yoga is scalable to all fitness levels. As long as you don’t expect to do everything exactly as the teacher is doing it, you can get the benefits of yoga even if you’re out of shape, inflexible, have a pain condition, whatever. Basically, if you can’t do something or it hurts you, do something different. Some teachers will give a running commentary on this, telling everyone how they can vary the pose for more and less stretch. Others, you may have to ask them for advice on using things like blocks if you can’t reach the floor. But there’s no stigma in not doing a pose that hurts you, or doing a pose less deeply than your neighbor, or taking it easy on a day you’re not feeling great. If someone judges you on that, they’re doing it wrong.

Okay, have at it, Shapelings! I can’t wait to hear about the things you like to do with your bodies. (Er, but keep it PG-13 please.)

232 thoughts on “Exercise smorgasbord

  1. Here’s what I’ve been doing since I ‘discovered’ the FA blogs and realized I can do stuff to be active even though I am a fattie :)

    When I drive to work (not too often), I park about 1 mile away and walk the 20 minutes to work. Depending on your own level of fitness, you can park farther or closer. I started at about 10 minutes away and built up to 20 minutes.

    When I take BART, I get off at a farther stop. I started with the stop that was 10 minutes away, then the one that was 20 minutes away, then the one that was 35 minutes away, and finally with the one that was 50 minutes away. Depending on how early / late I am to work, I will get off at one of these stops and walk to work. (Usually the 35-minute-away stop.)

    When running errands I park at the end of the parking lot, for the little bit of extra movement.

    I know none of this is original, but I found it helped me a lot. Prior to this, I was out of breath, huffing and puffing, with my feet KILLING me walking the 2 blocks from my office’s parking lot to my office (just to give other readers an idea of my “fitness” level that I started out with, which is to say it was practically non-existent). So, for me at least and possibly others, adding in some extra walking can help. :)

  2. Swimming. I haven’t done it in a while, but I’m about to start up again (actually, I just bought a new suit and am going tonight!). I like it because it’s basically no impact, and I hardly ever feel sore afterward. Also, the monster feeling of tiredness and hunger afterward is very satisfying. I also like it because you’re kind of invisible; if you go to a public pool during “adult lap” time, everyone’s, you know, in the water and not looking at you, ’cause they’re busy swimming. Only disadvantage is if you have to share a lane with someone and you’re slower, it’s kindof annyoing. So I try to go at the least busy times.

    Problem: you have to know how to swim already, unless you want to take a class. If you do know how to swim, though, my advice is not to try at all to swim fast. Most people try to swim way too fast and tire out quickly. Swim a slow freestyle or comfortable breaststroke–your breath shouldn’t even be affected much. Think of it as a “walking” pace, where what you usually see people doing when swimming is “running.”

    Of course, if you are totally against wearing a swimsuit, that’s kinda prohibitive. And if you have large breasts like I do, it’s pretty hard to find a swimsuit that’s supportive enough. My suggestion: wear a bra underneath if you have to. Who cares what you look like, right?

  3. I’m a fan of the yoga. Besides walking to work (I hate walking with no destination), it’s the only form of exercise I’ve found that really makes me comfortable in my body. Also? Some poses are VERY good for inciting hysterical laughter when you try to show them off to friends later and fall over instead.

  4. I just wanted to add biking to the list – it’s great for people like me who can’t see to get off their asses and go to the gym and do something that is self-contained like yoga and also hate sports; biking is sweet if you live in a city ’cause you can use it to get places and it’s convenient! Also if you can’t afford to drive (like me) it’s all the more perfect as it’s super cheap. You can do it at pretty much any fitness level (just put it on a low gear and go on flat roads) and when you own a huge fucking hill that you’ve always been afraid of because the small girl part of you is constantly afraid of going up steep hills due to the looming and inherent possibility of losing speed and careening down said hill backwards? YOU FEEL LIKE A GIGANTIC BADASS.

    Just sayin’.

  5. aaand now I realize the “get off their asses” part could be offensive and what I really meant was “I can’t get off my ass and I presume others can’t either because I’m dumb”. There!

  6. Excellent topic, FJ!

    What I would add to your yoga coverage…

    PROS:
    -Another good one for core strength and all-over muscle building that sneaks up on you
    -More cardio benefits than are immediately apparent, even if you’re just holding poses, not doing vinyasa work
    -Builds body awareness out the wazoo

    CONS:
    -Can be much harder than you expect at first; I’ve known several athletic types who have gone to a yoga class expecting it to be fake exercise, then ended up going, “Oh my god, I sweat! I ached the next day!” Yeah, I’m not actually surprised, dude.
    -Again, one woman’s meditative is another woman’s boring. If you’re an impatient person who likes action, yoga can be really frustrating. (Ashtanga, power yoga, or “vinyasa flow” classes can solve that problem, but be aware that those are serious cardio workouts, on a par with an aerobics class.)

    Specific recommendations… If you’ve never done it, go to a “gentle” or “beginner” class, not an “open” class. Trust me, you’ll still feel it. Problem with open classes is, A) the instructor can’t pay as much attention to specific beginners’ issues, since she has to keep the more advanced students busy, and B) if you’re a keener by nature, the temptation to push yourself beyond what you’re ready for when the instructor starts offering more advanced modifications can be irresistible.

    Megan Garcia’s Just My Size Yoga video and her book, MegaYoga, are excellent resources for fatty modifications.

    I also love Sudha Carolyn Lundeen’s Gentle Kripalu Yoga video. (Kripalu is also what Megan Garcia is trained in.) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything on it that would require much modification for fatness, and it’s an awesome workout for beginners, with half-hour and hour-long options.

    And finally, if you hate the first class you go to, don’t assume you hate yoga. Try another class, another teacher, another school. If, after a few different tries, you still can’t stand it, then okay. It’s not for everyone. But I also know several people who walked out of their first yoga class going, “Bleh. I don’t get the appeal” but then got dragged to a different class and fell in love with it. (I was lucky that my first ever class made me feel awesome.)

    I’ll have more on other forms of exercise later.

  7. Oh headsmack, I totally meant to reference body awareness with regards to yoga! It would have changed my life on that front if fencing hadn’t.

    Word up about the teachers — I’ve had substitutes where I had to walk out, and then teachers whose personality and expertise alone would have kept me coming back even if I didn’t like yoga.

  8. Oh, man, I haven’t been to bellydance class this whole month and it’s KILLING ME.

    I can sing tribal style’s praises all night, all day, and then at least into the early evening of that day (and in fact I did so here several years ago). Regarding the femme thing, I find that tribal/fusion dancers aren’t so much with the long hair and the sparkles but tend to go for big drama queen scarves and gigantic jewelery and so on and so forth. I do think the cultural appropriation issue is a big one; it pops up on the bellydance forums all the time and there’s a lot of discomfort and weirdness around it, which I don’t see ending any time soon. It really pays, if you’re dancing to Arabic-language music, to get it translated so you know what you’re expressing.

    I’ve found the body awareness and muscle control (belly roll = instant party trick) really amazing and awesome, but even those pale in comparison with the sheer joy of using your whole brain and whole body at the same time. I think that’s really important for fat people, especially those of us who feel divorced from our bodies. I have found the grace and freedom and power of dance to be a really useful concomitant to fat acceptance.

  9. Chiara, yeah, I noticed that about tribal style — I haven’t started it yet, still doing the sort of Egyptian/Lebanese/American cabaret melange that they do at my studio. But the styles that most beginners will encounter are way femmey.

    I’m taking a performance class this semester and having big complexes about the performance thing, but your comment made me feel kind of better about it.

  10. My Mom used to teach water aerobics andt another class called “Deep Water Walking” (This has to be said in a deep booming voice a la a movie trailer.) We made fun of her for that one a lot, the name just sounded so silly.

    Mocking aside the excersizes they are great, especially for her. If you watch it it really looks like a bunch of old people bouncing up and down in the water (Or floating in the deep end and waving their arms around for “deep water walking”). But the excersizes really keep her fit, especially for someone who has had a knee replacement and a massive stroke.

    I would really encourage anyone who wants to get fit but is concerned about high impact stuff to check it out.

    If anyone has any FREE suggestions for things that are fun and interesting, but y’know FREE, that’d be awesome. (I’d love to do Yoga and Belly Dancing, but I am currently poor.)

  11. Hooping is practically free! Materials to make a hoop are pretty inexpensive, and for the cost you can make a bunch of them in different sizes or make them for your friends.

    I think you could probably learn yoga poses just fine off the internet, and doing them at home is free. So’s dancing around in your underwear.

  12. Fillyjonk, I’ve been dancing since 1999 and have performed about five times total; when I get back to Seattle I’ll be joining my troupe’s performance prep class. Each time I was urine-sprayingly terrified, and each time it went pretty well! (Even the time my arm fishnets got caught on my coin bra thereby severely reducing the efficacy of my goddamn basic Egyptian arms, I tell you what). That said, I mostly just love practicing and dancing with awesome women in a tank top and yoga pants and can take or leave performance.

    One of my old jobs was to work with people with a certain chronic disease around increasing their health through exercise, and it was so much fun to see what people came up with and to think about all the good benefits (physical and non-physical) they received from that work. It helped me realize that there really is something out there for everyone in terms of living in and enjoying our bodies through exercise–before I did that work I thought exercise had be to gruelling and boring and just plain awful. In fact, before I had that job I didn’t even count dance as exercise because it was just something I did for fun!

    This conversation is making me anticipate today’s walk even more than usual! And is also making me kind of want to take a yoga class, too.

  13. So’s dancing around in your underwear.
    But then I’d need to buy curtains. ;-)

    I’d been thinking about doing yoga at home but I keep reading that it can be dangerous without someone smarter than you around. I was thinking that I remembered someone who’d seriously injured her back doing yoga… and then I remembered that she’d just told her parents that because she actually did it during sex with some jerk who thought life was a porno. So there we have it, Yoga, safer than sex.

  14. Yes yes yes!! to yoga and belly dancing. Having done both (belly dancing for a couple years, many years ago; yoga for a couple months just a month or so ago), It might be hard to believe for folks who haven’t participated, but as much as these are two high-body-awareness activities, I can confirm that they really do tend to be incredibly fat-friendly!

    I would recommend classes at least at the beginning. It’s really really a good idea to have someone able to tell you whether you’re doing something “correctly” or not. Most of us don’t have a mirror wall at home, and even if you do, you can’t always see yourself to check posture/movement. Or, if you don’t have the money for classes and you have a friend who’s got some reasonable experience and a good eye, you might look at working with a DVD and have your friend be your eyes/mirror for you. An external view to help with positioning and such.

    One *huge* thing that I’ve taken with me from my yoga instructor (Cathy at grapevineyoga dot com FTW!) is the yama of ahimsa, non-violence. She re-framed it, where it’s not just non-violence in the world, but being non-violent toward *yourself*. Be kind to your body, listen to your body, and treat it well. Be kind to your heart and soul. We can all use some of that, no?

    Namaste (the goodness in me honors the goodness in you)

  15. I’m really interested in hearing opinions about Pilates, if anyone has tried it. My initial impression is that it’s like Yoga, only you have to spend more money to get the essential gear.

  16. I haven’t done Pilates, but from what I understand there’s a decent amount of overlap. Pilates focuses much more intensely on proper form and building strength (yoga asana practice is definitely strength-building, but also focuses on flexibility) and does not include the meditative/philosophical approach of yoga.

    Another exercise suggestion is Tai Chi. Non-impact and meditative. Unfortunately, I can’t give any further opinion since I haven’t tried it personally. (That’s next on the list.)

  17. I found Pilates sort of boring (like, not that hard) and annoying, because the woman kept touching my feet. I’d give it another try with a different teacher if you wanted to take a class, though, Cacie! I have heard that it’s great for core muscles, and those come in handy for belly dance.

  18. I got Megan Garcia’s DVD and kept with it for about 2 weeks. It’s definitely enjoyable, but I found that holding the poses put some of my joints in extreme pain, even when “modified” further from what was recommended. I’m currently doing Tai Chi and *love* it. Basically it’s moving yoga. Same breathing techniques, same “poses” that allow body awareness, same muscle strengthening – the only difference is that you move around so you’re getting all the same benefits without putting a ton of stress on any particular joint for an extended period of time. It forces you to be aware of the speed of your movements, which is really relaxing. You also have to work on coordination of the legs and arms as well as balance. One of the other benefits I’ve found is that it’s shown me how to shift my weight to other parts of my leg when walking so I don’t come down so hard on my knees.

  19. I love pilates, which is a lot like yoga minus the silver toe rings and the air of self-righteousness.

    I kid!!

    I actually loved the yoga class I took with my first instructor – a stocky, middle-aged, no-bullshit woman. Unfortunately, she left and was replaced with an ethereal, waify elf-person who talked constantly about spirituality. I didn’t have luck finding another class that I liked so I went to Pilates and have been enjoying it for 7 years.

  20. Well, something different…the hubby and I both used to Morris dance. The Border kind, involving bashing big sticks together. Very energetic, loud (a lot of whooping involved) and great fun. We, and the other sides we knew, had people of both sexes and all sizes doing it. I would guess that if you had knee problems it might be a bit jarring. But attitude-wise, it could hardly be less body-fascist. Mainly British, but there are sides worldwide, including, I think, quite a few in the US. And there’s no law to say you can’t start your own side; many of the dances are published, and most sides make their own up anyway.

    We gave up because we moved, and dragging ourselves a lot further out to practice on freezing winter Monday evenings started to feel too much like hard work. I could happily take it up again with the right bunch of people, though.

  21. I found Pilates sort of boring (like, not that hard) and annoying, because the woman kept touching my feet.

    Gah! What the hell kind of class was that?

  22. I took Kripalu yoga the first time I ever got into yoga, and it was terrific, because the focus is on keeping your breathing in rhythm, rather than getting the poses “right.” And I had a great instructor, who kept reminding me of that in the moments I was struggling, and she also helped me find ways to do the poses that worked around my flexibility issues. I’m REALLY glad I took classes, rather than trying to rely on videos and books, because I wouldn’t have had a clue otherwise, about how it’s really supposed to feel when you are doing it right.

    I would love to get back into weight training, but it’s pretty expensive to belong to a gym. I keep promising myself I’m going to clean out the spare room and set myself up with the basics in there, but for now, I rely on a couple of 10 lb dumbbells to see me through. Actually, cleaning out the scary spare room would be a GREAT form of exercise. ;)

    I have chronic myofascial pain and carpal tunnel, but both of these activities actually help, rather than make it worse.

    One of the BEST things I’ve been doing lately is walking – and singing at the same time. REALLY amazing for developing breath control, and since (if you’re doing it right) you build your lower lung capacity when you sing (as opposed to breathing from your upper lungs, like a lot of adults normally do), singing and walking at the same time makes you feel like you could take on the universe without ever running out of breath. Okay, a few people look at you funny, but most of them are actually damned impressed that you’re not scared to sing out loud in public. :)

  23. I like anything that gets me outside. I like hiking or even just walking, if it’s through a pretty area or an area full of nature, or if I’m doing it to get somewhere (I’m very bad at just walking near my home if I don’t have anywhere to be).

    I will also put in a vote for swimming. Even though it’s no impact, it can still be hard on shoulders and knees, depending on the stroke, but it’s waaaay better than doing bouncy aerobics.

    Back when I used to be relatively broke, I did something that I kind of thought of as “cheer dancing” in my living room. I’d clear out a space in the middle of the floor (often a feat, in my house), I’d put on a high-energy, rhythmic album and I’d do a lot of strange little dance moves that involved marching in place a lot and throwing my arms around, or bouncing side to side and clapping.

    I also used to take Tae Kwon Do lessons, which is something I’d like to get back into. I found it to be good for my flexibility, strength stamina and confidence.

    And finally, today, I shoveled some ice, partially for the exercise it afforded and partially because my favorite lunch parking spot (by a ball field surrounded by woods that I often walk in at lunch time) was covered with slowly melting ice.

    -E

  24. Gah! What the hell kind of class was that?

    I know, right? I’m sure she was correcting me or something, but I kinda blocked it out. Fuckin’ hate people touching my feet.

  25. The only thing remotely exercise-y that doesn’t bore the pants off me is Dance Dance Revolution. It’s fun, and you get an objective numerical score, so you don’t have to settle for any of that “intangible sense of accomplishment and well-being” crap.

  26. One of the BEST things I’ve been doing lately is walking – and singing at the same time.

    If I did that, I’d leave a trail of dead birds in my wake.

  27. Flaming heck, fillyjonk! That youtube vid you linked to with the fat belly dancer fair took my breath away! Think I’m going to find me a class….

  28. Thanks for this post! What a great and useful compilation of info.

    I’ve got to put a plug in for good old hiking. If you find the idea of just ‘going for a walk’ to be mind-numbingly dull (as I often do), a short hike in the woods can be just the thing. I’m lucky enough to live in Maine, within an hour or less drive of many many good hiking trails of all lengths. Obviously YMMV depending on where you live. I started with short (as in, 1/2 mile and under) hikes a couple years ago with my boyfriend. I feel comfortable now with longer hikes as long as they aren’t too steep. Most of the hikes I go on still leave me breathless and sweaty, even the ‘easy’ ones, and my skinny boyfriend has been very patient to stop and wait for me every 15 minutes or so while I catch my breath. Like everything, it gets easier with practice. Plus, nobody else really cares how slow you go when you’re hiking, or how often you have to rest.

    And if I’m hiking a trail with a ‘summit,’ the payoff is incredible. Even on an easy trail where even the toddlers can go faster than I can, there’s something very satisfying about getting to a destination and thinking “I had to work for this.” Also, it’s free!

    PLUS, one of the best parts of a hike is the picnic lunch! Stopping on a summit to eat lunch in the sun – delicious!

    Trail guides and websites abound for information on long and short hikes. Though I’m sorry to say I don’t know of many except in the Maine/New Hampshire region :)

  29. I have to give a brief plug for jujitsu and/or aikido. You can be fat, weak, tall, short, strong, thin, wevs–and the mastery of balance is what you take away from its practice. Not that this was my intent, but I dropped a lot of myself, a la butt on the beach commercial, doing what never really felt like hard work. Also, body awareness. Also, energy work. So all those things; if there was a place for me to do it here conveniently, I so totally would.

  30. If I did that, I’d leave a trail of dead birds in my wake.

    Eh, you’re fat, you’ll eat ‘em. Waste not, want not.

    I have a horrible Hansel and Gretel visual running through my head right now.

  31. I have lots of things to add! I was terrified of exercise until after college and then started going to my local Y. Low key, nice people, and relatively small number of weight lifting guys hitting on you at the drinking fountain. But honestly, that just sort of makes me laugh anyway!
    I love…
    1. Swimming-trust me, if people are there to swim laps, they aren’t thinking about how you look in a bathing suit. I used to be so weird about that, but I got over it!
    2. Kick Boxing-OK, this one was harder when I first started (like WAY harder.) So I don’t want to act like it will be good for every fitness level. But sometimes I just want to take a leisurely walk. And sometimes I want to push my body and really get sweaty! Kick Boxing is for those down and dirty days! Bonus: There’s a 75 year old guy in my class. That class is HARD and 90% of the time he’s the only one left standing! Ha!
    3. Treadmill-I only mention this because I used to dislike it. But then I realized I could bring a headset and watch Seinfeld! Also, I like to set the machine to random so that it’s more like a real walk outside. Hills, and different speeds.

    I really don’t like the elliptical. I just find it really hard even though I like to run on the treadmill. Am I doing something wrong Filly?

    This is a fun thread!

  32. Second on the love for yoga and pilates. After I ruptured a disc in my back, for a long time those were the only two forms of exercise I could do without hurting.

    I also love martial arts. If you look into the different disciplines, they all focus on different things: punching, kicking, striking, etc., so you can pick what you’re comfortable with. I chose Tae Kwon Do because it uses the most kicking, and I have tremendous flexibility in my hips (from dancing years ago). That way when I first started, I felt like I could already do some of it, which was good for my self-confidence. Plus, the first time you break some boards – DAMN, that feels good!! :D The big downside is the cost: around here 3 classes a week will set you back $90 a month or so, and it’s paid in 3 month installments. So $270 every 3 months feels like a LOT.

    I’m also partial to taking tap or interpretive dance classes at the local community colleges. They usually offer night and/or weekend classes, and although you do have to wear some sort of form-fitting clothing in the interpretive classes, you can usually get away with jeans in the tap classes. Both of those are great forms of exercise, and both are pretty body-positive. (Obviously not so much with the ballet or the jazz.) Also, they’re usually pretty cheap at the colleges: even with parking, you’re probably only out about $125 for 3 months of classes.

  33. I just find it really hard even though I like to run on the treadmill. Am I doing something wrong Filly?

    Interesting. I love my small home elliptical but I HATE the ones at the gym. I feel like I’m driving a massive pick-up truck – they’re not not the right scale and I’m reaching too much and can’t stand up straight (which is very important for my neck and back issues). I’m short of arse – shorter than Kate, even – so maybe that’s the issue.

  34. Flaming heck, fillyjonk! That youtube vid you linked to with the fat belly dancer fair took my breath away!

    Isn’t she amazing? I discovered that right when I was starting, and it was interesting watching it again because now I can do most of those moves… but I cannot do them like she can do them. That is one talented lady. (I also sort of know her on the internets and she’s a triathlete in the bargain.)

    I really don’t like the elliptical. I just find it really hard even though I like to run on the treadmill. Am I doing something wrong Filly?

    I dunno, I have the opposite experience — it’ll tell me I’ve done three miles, and I’m like “you fucking liar.” In fact it is a liar, because it’ll tell me I’ve done three miles after like 22 minutes, which is simply absurd. What about it are you finding hard? It could be that you’re not using your arms enough, for instance.

    But honestly, if you like the treadmill, go with the treadmill. I can’t even stay upright on it at more than like 4 mph (I have terrible balance), and running has historically given me shin splints, so I avoid it. But if you love it, no need to force the elliptical to work for you.

  35. I loved belly dancing when I took it last year, but I didn’t want to sign up for another class this year because I’m going to be travelling a lot for work, so I would probably have to miss too many classes. I’m going to do drop in classes of aquacise and deep water work out instead… as soon as my new bathing suit arrives (I don’t currently have one that fits).

    I also like doing workout dvds in my living room… it’s easier to motivate myself to do that than to do something that involves leaving the house and driving somewhere. I might get laughed at or scoffed at for this, but my friend gave me the Carmen Electra ones and I love them. I’m thinking of getting a belly dancing one too, just to keep me going until I have the chance to take another class.

  36. Oh yeah, I totally have Jeff Costa’s Cardio Striptease DVD. Used to do it all the time when I was in grad school and had the house to myself sometimes. I love exercise DVDs that are so ludicrous that you have to laugh while you’re working out — Tae Bo is the same way.

    Meghan, hiking! Yes! I’ve rarely been, and I want to start going a LOT more. Love being outside, love moving, love picnic lunches… what’s not to like?

  37. I’ve been doing a bit of Pilates for about a year. I really, really like it, because it appeals to the former ballet student in me. You don’t need to spend anything on it, except for the obvious instruction and basic gym wear, and a mat. All that expensive equipment (like the Reformer) is for professionals who rund studies, and for very rich people. When I do my Pilates at the gym, I just lie down on the carpeted exercise floor and go at it.

    What Pilates requires is body awareness, form, and control, like barre work in ballet. It’s all about doing the movements right, not doing a lot of them. You have to really work at resistance and proper form. Someone I work out with sort of goes through the motions with Pilates, and I can tell she’s not getting a lot out of it (in terms of workout or satisfaction). I haven’t run into any movements I can’t do as a medium-heavy woman, except that in all those slow leg lifts and circles, of course one’s legs are heavier and harder to lift than, say, that frickin’ Daisy Fuentes’s legs. It’s all about the core–you have to keep that “powerhouse” in position during every movement, and it’s a real eye-opener to see how much doing that helps. So, in conclusion, 1) fat-friendly, 2) harder than it looks IF YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT, 3) not expensive, 4) feels good.

  38. fencing is extremely hard on the knees, though i enjoyed it when i was younger. swimming is great but i can’t seem to find a pool that is not unpleasantly high traffic.

    i also avoided yoga for many years bc it seemed boring but it really depends on the teacher/school — megan garcia mentioned above teaches in the new york/nj area, she is a superb, supportive teacher with excellent classes. she is very sensitive to adapting poses to individual abilities/health concerns, and at the same time, knowing when you can push yourself a little harder. i can’t say enough great things about her.

  39. All that expensive equipment (like the Reformer) is for professionals who rund studies, and for very rich people.

    I did mat for years, but a damned injury forced me into a Reformer class specifically for people with screwed up necks/backs/legs. ARGH! Luckily, the place I go is fairly inexpensive – much, much, cheaper than physical therapy. Eventually, I hope to regain enough strength to go back to the mat.

    And you’re so right about being able to “cheat”. I’ve seen people just fling themselves around using momentum and they wonder why they don’t feel any stronger.

  40. Elliptical=bane of my existance. Srsly.

    However, I loves the belly dancing, yoga, and pilates. Also? I loves, LOVES me some hula and Tahitian dance. I initally learned the moves in a class, and then I bought some dvds…let me tell y’all. I’m too busy focusing on how much of a sex kitten I feel like afterwards to think about the strength component.

    And on relaxin’ days? Nothing beats a walk around the neighborhood with Bad Whiskey.

    Oh, it’s not a drink. It’s my cousin’s dog. :-D

  41. Oh hee, I thought maybe you meant they funded studies. Like nobody could afford a Reformer unless they had an NSF grant.

  42. Wow, Sniper, what’s the Reformer like? I love that name–so Germanic and normative–and it looks like it would feel good, like being put on The Rack and stretched just until you say “when.” It probably isn’t like that at all, but that’s my fantasy. I think it’s more like mat work but with the pulleys and stuff to keep you in form, no?

  43. Another vote for yoga..

    And, last night I took my first boxing class. It is an all women course, and we began with 5 minutes of jump rope (we will be doing 20 straight by the end). Seriously, I can’t believe I used to jump rope like it was nothing when I was a kid. I didn’t think I would be able to make it the full five minutes, and I can hike mountains with an 80 lb backpack. I paid a small fortune for the class, but if you don’t care about boxing, a jump rope alone probably costs 10 bucks.

    So very high intensity, and probably not for those who have severe joint pain. I have a knee that acts up, though, and it wasn’t painful.

    I guess it’s fat friendly, though I had to use up sanity watchers points getting weighed and measured at the beginning of class. We were also told that we should be eating 7 times a day and not drinking diet soda. I just tried to space out and ignore the teacher during those moments. Finding a teacher who doesn’t assume that you are there to lose weight just b/c you are fat would be nice.

    I also used to mountain bike all the time. Expensive to start up, ’cause you need a good bike, but totally fat friendly and fun. And the fatter you are, the faster you go on downhills :)

  44. Pilates! I am on the thinner side, so I can’t definitively speak to the fat-friendliness, though I imagine it depends on where you go as I know plenty of fat girls in my town who love-love one of the pilates studios here, but you can do it at home with a DVD, so no problem there.

    I have serious back problems from an old injury, and pathetically weak ab muscles, and after a month or so, the pilates straightened me out (figuratively AND literally!). My physical activity level was nonexistent before I started doing it, so I had to modify some of the moves, but it does get easier every time.

    Sometimes the ladies on the DVD are annoying, but after a few times you can do it without listening to them, and that makes it better.

    Also swimming, for sure. I’m pretty stoked because I just found out that the local college has semi-private swimming lessons for $11 for 45 minutes. Me & the mister both know how to stay afloat and paddle from place to place, but I’m pretty excited to actually learn how to really swim correctly. And it’ll only be me and him in the lesson, and so cheap. Check if your local Y or college has something like that available. Ditto for pilates classes, yoga, and some martial arts.

  45. I think this is a great post, mostly because I HATE the regular gym and really need a fun alternative exercise routine to get my butt in gear. My recommended activity to try is indoor rock climbing!

    Pros:
    -builds great upper body muscles
    -SO FUN — it’s the type of activity where you look at the wall and go…”no way….” and then you get up there and it’s the coolest thing
    -everyone works at their own pace, you can belay (hold the rope) for an expert climber and they can hold it for you, skill will not impact who you can hang out with

    Cons:
    -climbing gyms tend to be expensive (plus there is equipment to rent/buy)
    -depending on how big you are, it is possible that harnesses won’t fit you, unfortunately (just being honest) That being said, there certainly are XL harnesses! I think the largest leg measurements would probably be about a 30 inch thigh and a 45 inch waist? I could be wrong, I’m sure there are xxl measurements out there too, but a regular XL is probably the largest for rent at most gyms.

    Fat Friendly-ness
    I think most fat people would shy away from this activity — that sucks because it’s fun as all get out. However, if you can climb a ladder, you can do the easiest climbs at an indoor gym, if they’re a good business they will cater to beginners and have plenty of routes for you. Also, ropes are set up so you’re weight doesn’t matter when someone’s holding your rope. My husband outweighs me by 100lbs, and I can EASILY hold the ropes for him. And the equipment is ridiculously overrated, those ropes and equipment can probably hold a ton, your 250lbs won’t be a problem!!!

    Warning: there will be little skinny gym bunnies running around, but most of them are hippies and are more into peace love and understanding than their skirt size.

  46. Wow, Sniper, what’s the Reformer like? I love that name–so Germanic and normative–and it looks like it would feel good, like being put on The Rack and stretched just until you say “when.”

    It’s pretty much like that. Lots of stretching and pulleys and trying to hold on to a bar with your ankles as you move the “carriage” back and forth in a controlled way. My husband called it “The Terminator”. My favorite parts of class involve controlled breathing while pulleys stretch out the limbs.

  47. I found out that I love to jog. Weird, that. I like walking a lot, and finally started to try jogging the downhill stretch on my neighborhood route, and I love it. The hard part is that I hate cold, so I tend not to do it enough in the winter (read:never). I did do Leslie Sansone streaming online walking videos at work during my lunch break (I have a private office) for a long time, but now my media player doesn’t like them and they’re no help on it.
    Don’t laugh, but I got one of those little mini-trampolines on an after-Christmas special and it’s so much stinking fun. Most of the fun of jogging, plus a little bouncy bouncy, and I think it’s easier on the knees.

  48. Pilates rocks! I’ve been doing it (mat and machines) for 7 years. Like yoga, it definitely depends on your teacher. I lucked out with finding a good one, but when she trained to be a teacher, she went through several. I would say the mat work has similarities to yoga (body awareness out the wazoo, and using muscles you didn’t know you had) but it’s not the same thing. Kinda reminds me of ballet, actually. For beginners, I would say you should try it with a teacher one on one (but it can be expensive), but I wouldn’t recommend buying an instructional DVD and doing it at home alone, as I did. It’s really easy to misalign yourself, and they always demonstrate the exercises too damn fast — you can really hurt yourself (I wrenched my neck really badly because I couldn’t “engage my abs” if you’d paid me). Pilates has ALL kinds of modifications for different fitness levels and injuries.

    I love the elliptical too, but I’ve found somedays I have to back way the hell off on the resistance and the incline. The second it starts to strain my lower back or hurt anything, I make it easier on myself. You really have to listen to your body. Every workout doesn’t have to be (and probably can’t be) at the same intensity. The “no pain no gain” philosophy is bullshit. If it hurts (even a little) while you are doing it, then something is wrong, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  49. My favorite is cross country skiing. I feel like I shouldn’t suggest this because it’s not really practical for most people most of the time, but I will anyway. It’s fun, and fat friendly, at least in the environment where I ski. I feel like I get the benefits of walking/running, but plus strength training and minus the boredom.

  50. You have already achieved your objective, I never heard about hooping and I’m all over it! I was a killer hooper when I was a kid so I can’t wait to make my new grown-up version.

  51. Yoga – my studio has a class specifically for larger women called volumptuous vinyasa. (Tranquil Space in Washington, DC for those so inclined.) The class teaches you to work WITH your body in yoga, and teaches great modifications for yoga poses that seem to forget about hips, buns, boobs, and bellies.

    Hip-Hop Dance – It is high activity, but keep in mind that hip-hop is one of the best places to see dancers that deviate from the thin lithe norm. If you are in a gym, you’ll probably get more of a pop class, if you go to a studio, you’ll probably take more advanced moves.

    Bollywood Dance – Another one, high activity but excellent.

  52. Neena and Veena are twins who bellydance and have really simple, easy to follow, basic belly dance instruction videos. I like to get together with my girlfriends, run through the tape, and then eat something tasty.

    I’m interested in using an exercise ball (the kind you sit on, not the kind you throw around), but at 5’2″ 250+ pounds, I’m worried about weight ratings. Does anyone have any brand suggestions?

  53. For the past year and a half, I’ve been taking flamenco classes. It’s a surprisingly intense aerobic workout, but also works the muscles and core because of the precision of position required and how the movements are powered. In addition, it is a fantastic stress reliever–stamping one’s feet and taking on the regal, arrogant attitude the dance calls for does a lot towards getting out all that free-floating frustration that gets picked up over the course of a day.

    Since I started these classes, my posture has improved, my muscle tone in arms and legs is better, I have more cardiovascular endurance, and my core strength has gone up significantly. (I still have a layer of flab across my belly, but if you poke it, you’ll find amazingly strong muscle under it.) I also do a short workout every morning with stretches, crunches, and hand weights as support for my dance training; while I don’t “enjoy” doing these things, knowing that they’ll improve my physical capabilities for the dancing keeps me dedicated to them.

    I have seen women in the range of a size 20 in my classes doing it without particular difficulty, but it could be somewhat challenging if one is quite wide, simply because of the precision of position required. (I have a massive rack, and it occasionally gets in the way of proper arm position.) And while correct technique should help protect the knees and ankles, if you’ve got problems with those, you could find yourself sore as you’re learning correct technique. And of course it’s not necessarily easy to find instruction–it’s not as ubiquitous as bellydance or swing dance, and probably somewhat challenging to find classes outside of big urban areas, and the classes cost money, although mine are in line with what most bellydance classes in my area cost and are not particularly expensive per class. (There are DVDs available, but I’m not really in favor of using those for any dance form unless you’ve had some in-person instruction first.)

    I’ve fallen passionately in love with this dance in a way I never have with any other, and that love keeps me motivated to stick with it. (I did bellydance for awhile, and found it fun and welcoming, but just didn’t *love* it the way I do flamenco.) In that sense, even though it might not be “working out” the way most people tend to think of that term, it’s absolutely exercise for me, and really good for me.

  54. Awesome post!!

    So, years ago, I loved me some TaeBo (I miss it so much!) and pilates, but then I fell down some stairs, broke my tailbone, and acquired two slipped discs….which forced me to alter my workout routines (kicking and twisting? not so much – ditto for anything involving laying on my back). I tried bellydance (which I really loved, but found to be really rough on my particularly messed-up lower back). I tried swimming (which I also loved, but found was also surprisingly rough on the lower back). I tried biking (we’ll just call that tailbone HELL).

    (I share my experience because anyone with lower back issues might proceed with caution if trying any of those activities. My experiences sent me back to the acupuncturist for pain control a lot.)

    Eventually, I picked up yoga and Qi Gong (which – the way I learned it – is kind of like T’ai Chi, but with fewer postures that are repeated, which is easier for me to remember), with the occasional round of dancing like a spaz to some raucous pop-punk and/or whatever awesome mashups I’ve recently downloaded.

  55. I agree with all the advice to learn Pilates in person. It sounded similar to yoga but without the spirituality (which is sometimes a bit much for me), so I bought one of the Gaim videos. Video was insanely hard, so I bought the easier version. Gah. I used it once, and strained my lower back. Several days of popping ibuprofen and sleeping sideways with a hot water bottle propped behind me convinced me to never use it again. That shit is like The Ring of exercise videos — watch at your peril.

  56. Biking is a big favorite for me. I will not exercise if I don’t have a goal. And a bike, panniers (or a basket) and an empty fridge is instant goal time. We shall go and seek LUNCH! Sometimes I also seek books, yarn, knitting needles, a picnic, new clothes… It’s a lot of fun picking a place you want to go and then getting there by bike. You don’t need a super-expensive bike to have fun, but there are lots of useful bits of gear (lights for when it’s foggy or rainy, fenders for rain and snow, panniers or a basket so you can carry stuff easily, a rack so you can carry your panniers) that ordinary bikes don’t come with.

    I also like having dumbbells around. I don’t enjoy weight work on its own, but the exercise high comes fairly quickly and being strong is so useful. And well, weights help my wrists fight off carpal tunnel. Having exercise make it so you *don’t* hurt is really awesome.

    Ice skating is fun. Roller skating is fun. Hiking is fun. Playing around with a ball (I like soccer, my partner likes basketball) is fun if you have good people to do it with.

    Main thing with all of these is don’t try to be a big damn hero. Stop *before* you hurt. Get enough to drink. Don’t suddenly decide to go out to play at lunchtime and skip lunch.

  57. I’m interested in using an exercise ball (the kind you sit on, not the kind you throw around), but at 5′2″ 250+ pounds, I’m worried about weight ratings. Does anyone have any brand suggestions?

    Brigid, no brand suggestions, but here’s something else to consider. Since you’re short, you could try getting a larger ball, recommended for taller people, because you’ll probably sink down in it a bit — realistically, I think that would be the problem with exceeding the weight ratings, not popping it or anything. If you sink down several inches into a larger ball, it probably puts your knees at the angle you’d get from being a thin person on a small ball.

    I’m 5’2″ and 185 lbs., and I can work on a small ball pretty well. I do sink down farther than a lighter person would, and I’ve considered getting a medium ball, but the small works just fine. I’ve also worked on a large ball at my yoga studio, and it’s manageable, but I hate it — I can only touch the floor with my tiptoes when I’m centered on the ball.

    Finally, I got my ball at a discount store (Marshall’s, if you’re American) for under $10. You could buy one and experiment without losing much even if it doesn’t work. (And if you like it, you can always buy a better one later.)

  58. Oh, another thing, Pilates is totally rooted in injury recovery, so it can be really beneficial if you have slipped/ruptured discs because you gain muscle strength and mobility to support the spine. My teacher (who has two ruptured discs) has helped a lot of people who were about to go under the knife for hip replacement or degenerative disc disease or scoliosis. Amazing stuff.

  59. Weight-lifting: I don’t think that plus-sized people should shy away from weight-lifting. It is the bomb. I love feeling strong!

    You don’t have to go to a gym for it. You can use hand weights at home. You can also use your own body weight and no hand weights for tricep dips, push ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and the like. If you look around locally, you might find a park with a “Parcour” course. This is a walking track with stations every few hundred feet with bars, planks, and other equipment for doing chin-ups or hangs, sit-ups, stretches, and so on. If you do this with a friend on a nice spring day, it’s a heck of a lot of fun AND an awesome workout.

    Dancing: Go out to your local goth club, techno club, whatever, and dance your butt off. I can do this for hours on end, unlike a dance aerobics class that I just want to be over in 45 minutes. And you get to choose the movements and the intensity.

    Cardio kick-boxing: If you’re tired of the exercise DVDs or other aerobics-based classes you’re doing, this is SO MUCH FUN! I like feeling powerful and in charge, and you even learn some self-defense techniques.

    Tossing the medicine ball with a partner: Not too much to say about this, except it’s good cardio and weight-training all in one.

    Gardening and landscaping: My husband and I did this project where we raked up the decorative rock around our house, replaced the plastic underneath, and put new rocks down. We did this in one-to-two-hours stretches a few times a week over the course of two weeks, and my quads were ROCK HARD by the time I was done. Gardening (weeding, planting, hoeing, etc.) can be meditative and energy-burning all at once.

    Walking on the beach: Seriously a calf-sculpter, as you have to really dig in with your feet to get a good grip. A much harder workout than walking on a sidewalk.

  60. This is making me chuckle….because I keep thinking about all the idiots who say we are fat because we are lazy and never exercise, and here are all us fatties talking about our favourite exercise programs!! Hee hee! Fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all.

  61. Thirding or fourthing the water exercise classes! I go to three different ones, a standard aqua-execise class in which I’m usually the youngest non-pregnant participant (you haven’t lived until you’ve been part of a group of 20-odd women, and one confused man, all in various states of sag and wrinkle, rocking out hardcore to ‘It’s raining men’), a deep water running class, and a deep water muscle tone class.

    The deep water running class is literally that, you run up and down a diving pool for an hour, doing different sprints and using foam hand weights or ropes for resistance. I’ve got two dodgy knees, one crappy ankle and sciatica in my left leg, and I can still go as hard as anyone in the class, it’s done wonders for my cardio. It’s used by a lot of triathletes or runners recovering from injury, and all you can see of anyone is their head above water, as all the action is happening down below. Also, flotation belts are used, so even if you’re not a strong swimmer, there’s no danger of sinking.

    The deep water muscle tone is my favorite, because it’s kind of like playing in the pool with my niece for an hour, only choreographed and set to music. The moves are fairly similar to the ordinary aqua class, but with some short swimming sprints and running, and other fun things like a can-can line, thrown in to break it up. A lot of the focus is on core strength, which is awesome cause I’ve been able to ditch the mega-boring pilates class I was doing. :-)

  62. Gymnic is a great brand of ball — supports up to 600 lbs. I’ve bought some cheaper ones and they do burst — once, underneath a 300 lb. friend of mine. He really hurt himself falling on the floor!

  63. While getting dressed for my birthday dinner, I was just reminded of another excellent, low-cost, at-home workout: putting on a pair of slightly too small control-top pantyhose.

    For the advanced version, do it with wet legs.

  64. I love exercise DVDs that are so ludicrous that you have to laugh while you’re working out — Tae Bo is the same way.

    When I did Tae Bo, there were times where I was doubled over laughing at how Billy Blanks would bark at the class and be all drill-instructory, then turn to the camera and get soft and sweet to remind folks to just do their best and work within their ability. Then, it was back to yelling at the class, “DON’T STOP OR I WILL SET YOU ON FIRE!!!!”

  65. Oh, Kate! The panty hose thing made me think…

    I never wear pantyhose (I like criculation and no muffin-top), but I dig thigh highs…and the excercise you get after your partner sees them!

  66. This isn’t so much a suggestion for a specific activity as a shout out to a body positive workout environment that women in the greater Boston area should tune into!

    Healthworks is an all women’s gym with locations in Boston, Cambridge and Salem. In my 4 months as a member there I have found it to be a positive and welcoming environment for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I see women from 18-88 working out there and feeling comfortable and accommodated regardless of size. If you are skeeved out by image conscious gyms, this is the place for you.

    Another great thing about HW! The spa! I would reccomend a post workout visit to the sauna or whirlpool to anybody with a regular fitness routine. Too often we view working out as a punishment or a chore. We need to start looking at it as a reward. The spa gives you a chance to put back what working out takes away from your body and serves as a reward after a hard work out. Best of all, it is free with my membership. Again, I have observed that women of all sizes/ages feel comfortable walking around naked there without fear of being judged. HW is truly an open environment. I would reccomend it to any woman in the area, and I hope there are other places like it out there!

  67. “Megan Garcia’s Just My Size Yoga video and her book, MegaYoga, are excellent resources for fatty modifications.”

    Yes. *nods*

    Also, check her site for when she’s doing workshops in your town.

    Also, another vote for Pilates. Privates first to figure out the correct body alignment – you don’t want to do the videos without it – and actually know where your transverse abdominus is.

    Lu pretty much broke it down; there are a lot of muscles we don’t really even know we have, until we know where they are and can access them to strengthen them, that contribute to overall energy and wellbeing and all.

    And yes, it is harder than it looks if you’re doing it right. But the body strength-without-grunting-and-or-excess-bulk payoff is pretty massive. (No pun intended.)

    Once you’ve had your private sessions so you can ask an instructor your questions, you can get Brooke Siler’s books (portable workout on CD) or Elle Herman’s Pilates with Props workout books (suggested workout lists in the book; buy your own stretchbands).

  68. While getting dressed for my birthday dinner, I was just reminded of another excellent, low-cost, at-home workout: putting on a pair of slightly too small control-top pantyhose.

    For the advanced version, do it with wet legs.

    SO far past wrong.

    *dissolves in laughter*

  69. Awesome! This post makes me want to belly dance– I actually used to waitress at a Lebanese restaurant where the manager had been a pro belly dancer for many years. She was going to start giving lessons, but I moved away from the city before I could take her up on it!

    Another voice for Dance Dance Revolution too. My mom and her coworkers in the school secretaries’ union, who are all middle-aged and have varying body types, have all starting doing DDR together and are having a blast!

  70. Lo, these many years ago, I used to run a program called ‘Sisters of Plenty’, which was basically an opportunity for fat women (including me) to try out all different forms of physical activity (this group was predicated on the idea that movement is joy, that body-connection is joy, and yet all the fun and fulfillment had been *ruthlessly sucked out of it* by the parched, parsimonious atmosphere brought on by fatphobia).

    I had to do a lot of work in that group to get across the idea that this endeavor was not at all intended to make anyone shed any pounds, that I didn’t care what you weighed or what you lost or what you gained or what you ate, that I wouldn’t be measuring or weighing or judging or stopwatching or haranguing participants. A lot left the group, disappointed. A few stayed.

    It was kind of awesome. I miss it.

  71. I’d love more advice for at-home equipment that people have used. Brands and weight ratings, if known, are especially helpful.

    I’ve been eying a mini-trampoline to get us through the snowy season, but worry my husband and I are no match for cheap springs. Also, saw an eliptical at Sam’s Club the other day that had me wondering if it’d do the trick.

    Advice?

  72. OMG, Cimmerians, “Sisters of Plenty?!” Is made of win (both the name and the concept). And I would totally join a group like that. Maybe I should start one. Hmm.

    Oh, and one thing about the exercise balls: I am not sure about weight limitations, but remember that there are plenty of muscular men out there that weigh more than 250 pounds, and I anticipate that the manufacturers factor in folks like that. Use that to your advantage–they don’t make limitations based on BMI! :)

  73. Speaking of which, I’m reading my news feed and I stumble upon this article

    Aside from the mention of the Obesity! Epidemic! I think it is a pretty positive step for the kiddies.

  74. My little sister got Dance Dance Revolution for Christmas, and I was having SO MUCH FUN playing with her (we have the Wii version, so you play with arms and legs, and it’s a really good workout), until I BROKE MY FOOT! Oh DDR, you are a cruel mistress. If you’re like me and tend to roll your ankles, watch out playing DDR–you need to watch the screen, and so it’s easy to accidentally put your foot down in the wrong place, like for example the bump at the front of the dance mat. Other than that, though, I highly recommend it…

  75. I’m LOLing, Kate! It reminds me of my struggling to get up off of the couch after watching the Olympics (any season, any event, ’cause I love the athletes) because I’m stiff after having been stationary for a few hours. *blush*

    Happy Birthday!

  76. I love belly dancing, and am starting up another class at the end of the month. I am the most awkward dancer, but it is still fun, and if you *think* you want to try it, I would really encourage you to do it. In fact, in order to persuade any fence-sitters, I will take the very embarrassing step of linking to a picture of me doing it in Egypt, with a passel of Egyptian men at my feet!

  77. Ok, didn’t read ALL the comments, but my current exercise favorite is JUGGLING! Takes maybe a month to get the basic cascade down and then there are tons and tons of tricks to learn. Juggle with heavier balls for a killer upper body workout! Juggle to music, it’s almost like dancing! Juggle while jogging, it’s called joggling, and it makes running more fun! All you need is 3 balls. It’s cheap! It’s portable! Juggle at the park while your kids play or at the doctors office in the waiting room or at that social event where you can’t find anyone to talk to.

    I can’t see how being fat could possibly be a disadvantage with this sport.

  78. I’ve been wanting to get back into yoga since forever and a day. I did it in high school as part of my P.E. class; it made me feel amazing as well as more flexible. I’m thinking about picking up a yoga DVD sometime soon.

  79. For any Shapelings (like me) who love walking but get bored by just, you know, walking somewhere, if you’ve got an MP3 player of some sort, Librivox has free audiobooks of all sorts. It’s a great resource, though be aware that the books are read by volunteers, some of whom are great readers and some of whom are… not. I used to listen to them when I would go to the gym or go on walks, and it made me so excited to do exercise that I enjoyed physically but not mentally, if that makes sense.

  80. Another vote for Pilates. I’ve been taking one on one classes for about four months now. It’s really amazing what its done for me in terms of strength and my posture. I can’t imagine Pilates to ever be boring and easy, because if it gets easy, trust me, there are way of making it harder. And yes, there are also Pilates exercises that seem easy. Until the instructor corrects your form.

    But, that said, my favorite all time exercise is Nia.

    http://www.nianow.com/

    I’ve never done any exercise that’s more fun or makes me feel better. The “official slogan of Nia is “Through movement we find health,” But it’s about finding more than health. It’s about finding joy in movement. It’s about getting back to that point where you were a crazy kid, bopping around to music and not even thinking about what you were doing, just listening to your body and what it wants to do. It’s the perfect class for someone (like me) who loves dancing but isn’t good at it in the usual sense. There’s no pressure to get the steps right, just to find that joy in movement. Nia takes stuff from dance, aikido and other martial arts, and yoga and blends it all together for a workout for both the body and the spirit. It’s also nice that its a non-impact aerobic exercise (that’s what Nia stands for Non Impact Aerobics). There are also adjustments that can be made for fitness levels. I’d say, that if you can walk at a moderate pace for 20 or 30 minutes, you could probably start with Nia, no problem. And another great thing about Nia is the instructors. Every single one I’ve met is so positive and you can do it and kind. And joyful. I think that if I were a little better co-ordinated naturally, I might think about working towards becoming a Nia instructor myself. I really can’t say enough good things about Nia.

  81. Nia sounds cool… is it real touchy-feely like some yoga classes, or are the instructors more physical than spiritual about it?

    And juggling! I never would have thought of juggling!

  82. Masters swimming–adult swim team–is surprising friendly to different body types. Some groups are more beginner friendly than others; my group is happy to have people who need to learn how to do the strokes properly. You can find local groups via http://www.usms.org/

    They have a magazine, and in the Nov.-Dec. 2007 issue there was an article about people who do extreme cold weather swimming. See http://www.usmsswimmer.com/200711/coldwaters.pdf It quotes Lynn Cox: “My ability to handle cold water comes from training, training, and training, and good genes and a body that is the perfect size and shape for what I do.” The perfect size for what she does is a body fat percentage of 35%. There is a picture of her here: http://sixtwothreetries.blogspot.com/2007/01/power-of-osmosis.html

  83. No ideas to add at this time, BUT THANK YOU! I finally decided to ditch the gym business and start taking classes. I love learning new things and I’m more likely to stick with fitness if it includes a new skill or party trick to show off. I started with belly dance, but I’m already contemplating what other activities to take up later.

  84. I give yoga another vote. I bought Megan Garcia’s Mega Yoga book last year and developed my own routine based on the ones in her book. There are lots of suggestions for modifications for people with large breasts, large bellies, etc. Suddenly, poses that felt all wrong are doable.

    And I’m a little embarrassed to mention this here as a form of exercise, but I’ve started going to a “mommy and me” dance/movement class with my daughter. Okay, I realize SHE is supposed to benefit from it, but, um, it heals my inner fat child who never got to dance when I was little. :-) I get to sort of take a dance class, not be embarrassed about my body because the focus is on the kids, and just have fun. Not a super workout by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s movement nonetheless, and it makes me feel good. Plus I get to be a good role model for my daughter.

    Finally, I like doing good old fashioned yard work — mowing, trimming, etc. Not for everyone, I realize. But I’d rather do that than go to the gym any day. The gym feels like punishment to me. But yard work? I actually accomplish something, and it’s not about my body. I like that.

  85. Nia is less touchy-feely than yoga, more than Pilates. There’s a tiny little bit of talk in each class about finding your energy. I choose to interpret this as “physical energy” (as in the energy produced by my body) rather than that vague Energy (as in from the Universe or something) people like to talk about . I’d say an average class is 3% feel good talk and 97% dance party time.

    At least this is the classes I’ve taken. When you read the website and I’m sure take the teachers training, there’s a lot more stuff about Chi and such. But for just taking the class, I feel free to ignore that stuff.

  86. Phledge, lol, I’m amazed it took so long for someone to make the obvious joke.

    Things I do:
    * walk locally. It’s a nice leafy suburb, with several parks that sort of connect to each other. There’s a 1.6km round, or I can go further afield. Sometimes I even jog a little bit.
    * cycle to work. Combine commuting and exercise. I choose to go gently on the way there, so I arrive a bit puffed and warm, but not soaked in sweat.
    * yoga. Yoga is great, as discussed already.
    * swing dance. This is terrific – it’s quite hard work with the fast tracks, and lots of fun. Love that 30s/40s big band & blues music. Charleston is even harder. And it’s a dance that needs you to be quite grounded, you wear flat shoes for it. The group I’m with are quite body-agnostic – a couple of the teachers are quite chunky, though not all of them. I imagine this would vary a lot.
    * weights, at home, with dumbbells. You get stronger! This must be good. For more info, I read stuff at stumptuous.com. I won’t make a full link because there’s some fat loss agendas there, that just might not pass muster here. But it really is pretty good. There’s a nice section on how to get started when you are fat , and on her blog front page she’s calling out for heavy female athletes in strength based sports to interview.

  87. Just to second SarahMich’s suggestion of at-home strength training. I started out just doing body-weight exercises, like she mentioned. However, I got a set of resistance bands a few months ago and love them. I find them a lot more comfortable to use than hand weights. They also came with a door attachment thingy, so they can be used for a wide range of exercises either sitting, standing or laying down. I’ve found lots of workouts online, including some for people who have a limited range of motion.

  88. I just find it really hard even though I like to run on the treadmill. Am I doing something wrong Filly?

    Just a wee note: when I first tried the elliptical, I felt like I was falling the whole time – and I’d come from running regularly, so maybe it’s a muscle strength thing. What helped me was setting the resistance quite high and going quite slowly, and then backing the resistance down and picking up the speed – all within a good cardio range, of course. No blowing yourself out!

    Anyway, I mentioned that to a trainer at the gym and she said later that technique helped another one of her clients. So it’s worth a try, maybe?

  89. I’ve tried out the Mega Garcia yoga DVD a couple of times now and it felt pretty damn good afterwards that I’m going to do it most mornings, I think, and get some other similar DVDs for variety. And tai chi class is starting in about three weeks. I guess tai chi and yoga would be pretty complementary.

    I’m hoping that their stress-relief-giving properties will stop me having to consider going back on anxiety/depression medication.

    Also, moving harps is pretty good exercise. :) Mine weighs 76lbs and moving it without the cart is … interesting.

  90. (by muscle strength thing I mean composition: I’ve found that running works me differently than elliptical.)

  91. I like to dance a lot, usually traditional styles of dance. I love the joy of motion and the folk dance communities I’m in. So here’s my short list of fat-friendly dancing that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    New England contra dancing, like square dancing but in long lines and without the crinolines. It’s basically walking in time to the music and interacting with other dancers. There’s a live band and a caller telling you what to do. It is a partner dance, but part of the etiquette is that you change partners every dance so it’s not necessarily a meat market. Also, there tend to be more women than men, so it’s okay for women to dance together, and men rarely sit out. Although, you can sit out anytime you want. Regulars generally ask newcomers to dance so it’s a welcoming setting.

    Sacred Circle dancing, the slightly woo-woo little sibling of international folk dancing. Again a mostly walking style of dance with great music, including some in very non-Western time signatures. Dances are from a variety of (mostly European) cultures, including Greek, Roma, and Turkish, along with some recently devised dances. The dance patterns tend to be fairly simple and short, and are repeated until the motion becomes almost meditative. Of course, some people may find it boring because of this too.

    I also do Scottish country dancing, a partner style dancing (sometimes with bagpipes!) that involves lots of hopping, so is not good for bad knees and ankles, and I tend to bind down my girls, too, to keep them from hitting someone; international folk dancing, which can also involve jumping around but not always; and my new favorite, ballet.

    Yes, ballet. I never took ballet as a kid, where I probably would have been traumatized as the fat girl, so I’m in the intro level adult class with other adults who don’t necessarily know what they are doing either. No tutus, no recitals, no pointe shoes. Just a core workout with live accompaniment. And while I’m the largest by far in the class, I get no grief about it. The teacher understands that students will only come back if it’s fun and challenging, not if they are ridiculed.

    My next dance style to try is Appalachian clogging.

  92. Oh, I hardcore love DDR right now. I love dancing in general. I go to the public swing dances and contra dances. They are great! Swing takes a fair amount of practicing, but if you’re the girl and you’re dancing with a decent lead, you can start looking awesome within a few sessions. Every public dance I’ve seen starts with a lesson, and a lot of them are pretty open. I’ve gone alone and ended up with plenty of partners. It can get pretty intense, with the faster songs or if you start getting ambitious or you get fun partners (my guy friends in college liked to twirl us around until we got dizzy), but you can start off easy. You’ll kind of have to, because you won’t know many moves.

    Contra’s much easier to learn. There’s a caller, and you and your partner are in a line and you move up and down it. They teach you how the dance goes at the beginning, and everyone’s really nice about showing you how to do a move. It’s not terribly intense, but I do get sweaty. The one con, which is also a pro, is that you dance with everyone in the room. Since these kinds of dances seem to attract dirty old men, it can be a bit weird, but then you get to hang out with the cool people, too.

    You guys are making me so jealous with the belly dancing. I took a class a few times before my work schedule changed, and I haven’t been able to get back, much to my despair. Someday!

  93. Fencing is a great sport, but I have to say that it is very hard on your knees. And I don’t mean that in the ‘oh-noes-fatty-exercising-hurt-joints’ wanker sense, but in the everyone-i-know-who-competed-with-me-in-college-has-knee-troubles sense. One of the primary motions in the sport is an explosive lunge forward, which is followed with a quick explosive push off of the lunging leg back into the basic stance. This is awesome exercise and good for your leg strength, but some caution is warranted especially if you have prior knee problems. (Also, no fencing in a concrete basement.)

  94. Can someone please tell me about DDR: what sort of music is there, and can you change it to your own choice? I’m really not into pop music at all. I like indy rock, and big band swing, and some metal and trance and weird stuff. I would imagine if you can get tracks with the same beats per minute that it would work – but is this technically possible?

  95. Phew took a while to get through all the comments but here is my little moment of piping in to support bellydancing.

    Up where I am (Northern MA) there is a fantastic woman who teaches in North Salem, NH. Classes are inexpensive and you can always ask for a private class for a bit more money too. That said, normal classes aren’t very full as she keeps them to only a handful of people so as to concentrate on folks. The classes are very fat friendly and if you never want to perform outside of class, its fine. Otherwise we perform at local nursing homes and I have to tell you that there is almost no better feeling than being large and still getting smiles and applause because your dance, your movements of a fat body, are appreciated! (You can see us in our glory on youtube doing tribal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr7HkJwECIE)

    If you only go to one class a week it might not feel like that much (1 hour a week). But I take what I learn in class and come home to practice. I love to put on music and stand in front of my little $20 full length mirror and do moves until I can see them start to look right. Youtube has a plethora of awesome dancers on video to watch and learn from too.

    Otherwise I too enjoy walking down the road to a little resevoir that is just about a mile away with the hubby. Although it does get to be a long trip so I might need to find out how some of you are getting baby bird donuts to fall out of the sky so I can quell those insatiable cravings! ;)

  96. One of my non-traditional forms of exercise is pottery. It’s a very physical art (kneading all that clay takes WORK, let me tell you) and having a lot of body weight is a plus, since you use all your weight (not just your hands) to center the clay on the wheel.

    It may not seem like exercise, but I’m a type 1 diabetic and I have to turn down my insulin pump while I throw pots, otherwise my blood sugar gets low, same as when I’m running or biking… so I’m convinced it has some aerobic benefit. =) And you get to be messy and make stuff.

  97. My absolutely favorite way to exercise without feeling like I’m exercising is ice skating. The cool breeze against my face as I glide across the ice, it feels almost like flying, and I love it. It doesn’t matter if I’m skating around in circles at public ice time, playing forward or goalie in hockey, or jumping and spinning at a freestyle class, I love that I can go so fast with relatively little effort on the ice.

    The one big thing with skating is even the best skaters fall, so you need to have bones and joints that can handle that kind of impact and be able to get up to standing from lying on the ground.

    Depending on where you live, skating is rarely inexpensive, but it can be tons of fun and great exercise.

  98. I love seeing all the different activities people do – I agree that one person’s boring is another person’s meditative. I recently wrote about this on my own blog – there’s something for everyone, and if you try something and don’t like it, try something else.

    I have another shout out for swimming. For me it’s relaxation and stress relief and muscle building and time to clear my head and work on complex problems that I’m just too busy to think about other times. And the bathing suit issue is a non-issue – really, no one’s ever given a rat’s patoot about what I look like in a lap swimming suit (very functional and practical). The comment I get most often is “wow, you were going forever! How far do you swim?”.

    I’ve also started some weight training because I’d like to build some upper body strength beyond swimming. There are SO MANY machines and exercises that I have had no problems finding lots that don’t aggravate the tendonitis in my wrists. The machines that do aggravate it? I don’t do them.

    When I do weights I also do cardio on the exercise bike and speed walking on the treadmill. (I don’t run. I don’t like to run. I don’t have to run.) The downside of the exercise bikes at the gym are very uncomfortable saddles that I keep sliding off of and that put my derriere to sleep. The downside to the treadmill is that I always want to dance when “Mmm Bop” comes on my ipod and that would look really silly.

    I tried elliptical, but the bouncing up and down made me nauseous. On the other hand, my husband loves elliptical and can do it forever.

  99. Thanks for this post! I love yoga and have found that it is easily adaptable depending on your weight. I don’t like to do things that make body parts bounce!

  100. I personally am a huge fan of scuba diving and kayaking!

    Scuba diving is amazing once you get comfortable breathing underwater. I like it better than swimming because it is more interesting than swimming mindless laps around a pool. You get so caught up in the beautiful scenery underwater that you forget about everything else in life and just get to enjoy your time underwater. If you want it to be more physically intense go somewhere with a current (NOT TOO STRONG) and you will be forced to kick against it. This is nice because you are not actively thinking “I have to work hard enough to look sexeh” you are thinking “oh shit, if I don’t kick hard enough, I will hit that rock”.

    Is it a real sport? I am not the one to judge, but I always come back exhausted after a good, long (1 hr +) dive.

    Oh, and the equiptment is very heavy(especially in colder climates), when I started I could barely lift it up onto myself!

    So if anyone wants to learn more, I’d be glad to give information!

    (End of obsessive rant)

    As for kayaking, umm… what is there to say about kayaking? I like it because I find it very relaxing and its not something I really have to think about while doing. If I want it to be more challenging I go against the current until I get tired.

  101. Oh, also the other fabbo thing about yoga (if it hasn’t been mentioned already) is that it seems that there is no age limit.

    My mom called me and said she had made up her mind to go to class — our family’s a little competitive — and I once took class from an 80-year-old woman who does a much better forearm stand than mine. So badass.

    It’s also apparently good for gently reversing glandular malfunction over time (barring any other complications).

    Awesome awesome thread.

  102. Kathy, word on the pottery. I swear I noticed a significant difference in my upper body strength when I took classes for several months.

    I just joined a gym with free classes, so I totally need to check out both yoga and pilates.

  103. I feel like a slug after reading all of this, but here’s what I have done/loved:
    Yoga — if you find the right instructor, it’s wonderful. I’m pretty flexible to begin with, and I have strong, strong legs, so some of the poses make me feel really good about my body and like it’s made to do some things really well. I don’t mind the spiritual stuff most of the time, but YMMV depending on the instructor. There are, as people have mentioned, many different Yoga disciplines out there, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
    Swimming – I love to swim. I swam a mile in the pool in the fall for the first time.
    Weight training — I like to feel strong
    DDR – until my playstation was stolen
    Dancing — pretty much any kind of dancing
    Walking is okay, better with a friend than alone
    Hiking
    At the gym, I like the elliptical — if you haven’t ever tried it, I think it’s a very fat friendly piece of equipment
    Stretching
    Floor exercises

    And this from someone who thought she was not athletic!
    I must do more!

  104. April D., hot damn! You are shaped and sized almost precisely like me and you look GREAT, which definitely helps allay my fears about performing. Except that you are way better than I am. :)

    Kayaking is a great one — I did it for the first time this summer, and ended up tooling around for a good long time, even in the rain. I was really worried that I’d turn out not to have the upper body strength and humiliate myself, but it wasn’t remotely true. And that one’s super-scalable — you can go real fast, but you can also just float around. (I should point out here that I’m talking about recreational kayaks, not the ones with a teeny person-sized hole that you flip over in the rapids.)

    I do love weight training, though I didn’t mention it for the reasons above re: gym stuff. I’m not very concerted about it or anything but I love the bench press. My personal weight training goal is to be able to bench Cacie, but I’ve kind of stalled out at ~60 pounds.

  105. If you want it to be more physically intense go somewhere with a current (NOT TOO STRONG)

    I’ve never scuba-dived, but a few years ago, I went swimming in a river (the mighty Saskatchewan), and it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Where we were, there was no danger of getting swept away or anything, but the current was a huge part of the fun– swimming against it, floating on it for a bit, holding on to my boyfriend at the time while he stood still, and feeling like I was flying. Awesome.

    Damn. I want to go do that again right now.

    Also love the recreational fake kayaks. I actually bought one, back when I was spending practically every summer weekend at my dad’s place, which is on a lake. That’s one thing I miss hugely now that I live in Chicago.

    And I have like 10 new things I want to try after reading this thread.

  106. I took a little bit of dance (jazz & ballet) in college (back in the 80’s), but thought that I was all done with it afterwards. 2 years ago, my daughter and I tried out a Broadway dance at a nearby dance studio that emphasizes dance for adults of all shapes. I’d never tried anything like that before, but I’ve always loved Broadway music. The teacher is great, and he teaches to all different levels in the same class (which isn’t easy). With the teens, like my daughter, who have been taking dance for years, he emphasizes the technique and style of the choreography, and he adjusts the choreography for people in the class who haven’t danced as much or who have injuries.

    I already exercise (I also like to walk, swim, and teach aerobics), but, from his class, my balance has gotten far better, I’m more flexible, and my body image has improved. There’s nothing like acting out that you’re pretty/sultry/whatever to eventually make you feel more that way. I’ve also added a Broadway dance section to my hi/low aerobic class, and the participants really like it.

    His class is one of the high points of my week!

  107. It would require a gym or an expensive machine but I love indoor rowing. It’s fun and meditative and can definitely get out aggressions when trying to do a “personal best” piece. It can be a total-body workout and it’s really low impact.

    I personally use the Concept 2 (http://www.concept2.com) and these can be found used pretty cheaply on Craig’s List or eBay. We’ve got quite a community on the forums, along with other things to keep yourself motivated.

    There are other kinds of indoor rowers out there too!

    I want to try on-the-water rowing but the classes just keep not working out for me. Someday!

    I also echo the recommendations for bellydancing or just any kind of dancing. DDR unfortunately did not do it for me; my hand-eye coordination is good but eye-foot not so much. Actually a lot of the “this symbol means move this body part … NOW” games are difficult for me, but I like all kinds of other games.

    I like weight training. I got a set of adjustable dumbbells at Target for about $40. They’re packed somewhere in the garage and I miss them.

    I liked my balance ball too. Great for stretching and exercising on.

    Water aerobics, yoga, swimming, ellipticals, treadmills… all good too.

    I may have to try this hula hoop thing! That sounds like fun! I probably don’t have any room for it though. I barely have room for me!

    Man, I need for this cold that’s been kicking my butt to go away so I can move around without falling over immediately.

  108. Oh god, river swimming. I used to go all the time when I lived in MA and I miss it keenly. We went skinnny dipping in the little river near school, or swimming in the Connecticut which had a big current, and then there were myriad other small rivers to choose from.

  109. My favorite way of getting physical activity is when doing practical, useful things, like cleaning my apartment, or volunteering.

    These sorts of things also keep my mind occupied; that’s one of the reasons why I can’t stand running. I hear lots of people like that they can just let their mind wander when exercising, but I have to keep my mind busy on the actual activity, or I’ll dwell on negative thoughts like, why did my mother have to die? will a Republican be elected president again? what do I want to do with my life?

    Even shelving books as a library volunteer was like exercise because the squatting down (especially in the kids’ section) strengthened my leg muscles, and then reaching up to higher places just felt good.

    Working with animals was also good exercise. It’s certainly not for everyone: if you’re allergic, don’t like animals, can’t be outdoors, don’t like seeing living things in pain, etc.
    I had to stop because I can’t stand for long periods of time due to degenerative disc disease in my back. But now that I’ve gone through physical therapy, I’m thinking of volunteering with a wildlife rescue group.

    Kayaking is the only thing that I’ve consistently enjoyed. The sights along the waterways keep my mind away from bad thoughts, I like the challenge of maintaining good paddling technique, I like that I don’t have to stand, I get to be outdoors, and it works my core muscles, which is good for my back.
    There are a couple of problems: 1) the right kayak is essential for comfortable positioning and so that the seat doesn’t bruise my back, but I don’t have the best kayak for my body, and 2) kayaking is expensive. Whether I rent or buy, either way — I can’t afford it right now.
    Bigger kayaks for bigger people are especially expensive, from what I’ve seen.

  110. I grew up in a little town with two creeks running through it. In the summer we would sneak through the pioneer cemetery and through the woods and go sit in the waterfalls and pools. Best to wear some old sneakers. People are assholes about nature – especially people who drank Genny Cream Ale and then threw the cans in the creek.

    Best river swimming is during a lazy phase of a rafting trip, just bobbing along next to the raft. Also good: canoeing through mist just before sunrise.

    I think I need to move out of the city. I’m not getting the exercise I used to because there’s no space to move here.

  111. Great thread! Just reading this has got me inspired.

    Can anyone recommend a belly dancing or yoga class in the St. Louis area?

  112. Someone mentioned Tai Chi earlier, and I’ve got to follow up on it– Tai Chi, Bagua, Hsing-I, general Qigong, all of the internal styles of martial arts are excellent exercise for the body-conscious. While I’m sure assholes exist everyone, most practitioners are deeply devoted to the idea of being at peace and connected to your physical body and I’ve never seen it be an issue in any of my classes.

    It’s also fun! Since you can technically use any of them (except for Qigong, which is special) to fight, you can impress your friends by pretending to break their wrist when they grab you from behind! Not usually all that intense from a cardio perspective (unless you’re more into the martial aspect and actually sparring in class) but excellent for muscle control, strength building, body awareness, reflexes, flexibility, confidence…. There’s an appropriate issue here too, to some extent, but classes vary widely in terms of how far they go into the art’s cultural/historical/spiritual aspect.

    I’ll just contrast this with, for instance, karate and taekwondo, where there are either a.) a lot of kids, or b.) a lot of emphasis on being able to kick some ass. Internal style people are more chill–I guess judo/akido people are the same way? Beyond my experience at the moment.\

  113. One that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the Society For Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreationist group. Generally very fat friendly although I’m sure groups vary from place to place.

    Fat people look FAB in the costumes, in fact I wish we all dressed like it all the time. My Shapely hubbie in a greatkilt or trews and tunic just floats my boat, and I love wearing the long dresses even though I am usually never found in a skirt. :)

    There are quite a few things they do that are fun ways to be active.

    Our fave was the dance, which you can do at weekly training and also at feasts and demos. A mix of folk and courtly dances, so some are fast and some slow and oddly sexy. Lots of partner swapping in the dances and also girls dancing together, like most types of dancing. In some places they do belly dancing too.

    There is the heavy fighting, where you dress up in armour and belt each other with rattan canes disguised as swords. For this you really do *better* with a bit of weight behind you. Yay! Not many lady’s out there fighting, but enough to prove you can do it if you want to. Probably pretty high impact and no good for me due to my crappy shoulder from past martial arts fun. I yearn to do it though! So much fun and pomp.

    Fencing. More theatrical, and not so stylized as the olympic version of fencing. Better costumes too! Very fun and silly at times.

    Archery. Very good upper body workout and great for the brain. Nothing nicer than being with a group of people in medieval dress indulging in the gentle art of archery together.

    Oh, and the feasts ROCK!

  114. April D, I’ve seen a lot of belly dancing, and your isolations are WICKED. Kick ass! That’s some good dancing.

  115. So, it’s probably not available everywhere, but I’m a big fan of aerial dance for addictively fun exercise. Aerial dance is dancing with anything that can suspend you – ropes, trapezes, hoops, pieces of cloth, hammocks, ladders, window-frames, bicycles strung up to the ceiling. You name it. You know when you see kids on the jungle-gym, or those really long swings at the play ground, or the ladies on the trapeze in the circus, and you’re like, “Oh My God, that looks SO FUN!”

    It totally IS.

    A lot of people find it intimidating, but actually, if you get the right teacher, it’s very sizes friendly. It builds upper body strength for sure, but also, there are apparatuses like slings and hoops and low trapezes which allow you to be suspended without much upper body strength.

    Some apparatuses can be uncomfortable at first – the bar of the trapeze digs into hips when you first try a hip hang, for example. For some people, it’s not worth the initial pain. But I just found it so fun that I was willing to keep going to class long enough that eventually my body got used to pressure in unusual places like backs of knees, elbows, hips, etc.

    Also, with most of the classes I’ve been to, there are a variety of apparatuses to choose from, and if you want to pick the soft ones, you just pick the soft ones.

    The teacher really *really* makes the difference .

    In Chicago, Kate and Phil Weglarz are super, wonderful, most excellent and warm teachers, who will happily modify anything for anybody and appreciate every dancer.

    In Berkeley, Cherie Carson at Studio 12 gives fun, all-size friendly classes (http://movingout.org/cherie/classes/classesfr.html)

    And it’s been a while since I’ve been in Seattle, but there was a woman named Lara giving aerial dance classes there once upon a time. When I took a class with her years ago, while I was visiting the city, she told me she had just given a workshop just for plus-size dancers who had been intimidated about coming to a regular class. She was so happy with that workshop – she said that every one of her students ended up surprising herself with her strength.

    If anyone wanted to take classes from Lara in Seattle, I could probably do some research to see if she’s still offering classes.

    Same thing with the Weglarzes in Chicago – I’m not sure where they’re teaching right now, but I could find out pretty easily if anyone was curious.

  116. What a fantastic topic! Fillyjonk, I’m another belly dancer/fencer. It makes me love you more than ever.

    I would like to second juggling as a great form of exercise. I do contact juggling mainly (like David Bowie in Labyrinth) and it does wonders for my core strength.

    In addition to the dancing that I’ve been doing, I’d also like to pursue yoga and I’ve been thinking about capoeira. Has anyone tried capoeira?

    Also, April D, your hair and facial structure look so similar to mine, it’s sort of freaky. It’s like watching a slightly smaller version of me with a way better haircut. Any chance you’re of German/Austrian/Czech ancestry??

  117. Just piping in to add my endorsement to the Pilates thing — my husband and I take private lessons together twice a week, is how much we love it — and also to the recommendations to take private classes first, because it is so, so, so easy to do it a little bit wrong and either screw yourself up or waste your time. Let an instructor watch your form carefully for 3-5 classes before deciding whether to go on your own with a book or a DVD.
    But I also wanted to add that this is like yoga too — if you go and you HATE it, try another studio and another instructor, and see whether that doesn’t make a difference. I’ve taken some classes and instructions from pretty indifferent instructors, and it makes all the difference. My best luck has been with people who were trained in the classic method (and, ideally, trained by one of Joe Pilates’s proteges). I have knee problems and back problems, and my husband has different back problems (although we’re both better since starting), and our current instructor can effortlessly adjust the exercises to work with our bodies. I also know that there are modifications specifically designed for larger bodies, because our instructor has mentioned them in passing on occasion.
    And now this thread is making me think about trying yoga again, maybe. I’ve tried a couple times, but maybe I just didn’t find the right fit before.
    Mostly, though, I am so ready to get back outside. It has been cold and rainy for 800 years in Portland, and I am SO ANTSY!

  118. Oh man I LOVE this thread.

    First of all, April D: rock ON Chaka Khan! That’s a great song (I dance to it all the time in practice class), and a hard one too, at least for me because I can do fast and I can do slow but I can’t do fast-yet-slow. Gorgeous isolations on you, and I love your snappy snappy hips. TRIBAAAAAAAALLL! (And hey, just out of curiosity, are you in a wedge formation there or facing 3/4 or what? How are the follows following? Or is it a choreography?)

    Also, I took a Nia class about four years ago and found it way too patchouli-scented for me, and I say this as a big old former-Burning-Man-attender myself. The instructor was all telling us that she felt oppressed by the room we were working in and asking us to bring “bright scarves, or stones with special meaning! Or plants from home!” to each and every after-work class so that she could feel more spiritually grounded. Uh. This placid mostly vegetarian teetotaller found herself with a strong yearnin’ to, like, drive an asbestos-fuelled ’57 Chevy through a river of whiskey on her way to a cheap fuck and a rare steak dinner after every class.

    Also, I just got dive certified on the Great Barrier Reef in August and can totally attest to diving’s awesome power. On my dive trip I was snorfing down thirds of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just to recoup energy lost from getting in and out of my wetsuit.

    And seriously, why is kayaking so fun? So so so fun?

  119. I walk to university and back many days of the week, which is 45 minutes to an hour round trip. I also occasionally dance like nobody’s watching to my favourite music (in my room, with the door shut so that nobody *is* watching). I briefly tried using a dancemat game and would get back into that if I had a games console, but I’m not going to buy one (and a TV!) just for that.

    I’ve tried yoga and enjoyed it, but I found the rest pose (lying flat on my back) actually hurt my hips and lower back, and I was studying two other evening classes at the same time, so I dropped out in the end.

    I’m starting bellydance classes tomorrow! I’ve joined the university society. I’m pretty nervous as the rest of the class has had a term’s lessons already, but I’m going with my best friend, also a beginner, and the tutor assures me they’ll be doing lots of review work. I’m looking forward to sewing costume.

    The other thing I sometimes do which counts as exercise is live-action roleplaying (LARP or LRP). Friends have described it as ‘cross-country pantomime’. (If you’ve never heard of it, essentially, you get a bunch of people in tents on a campsite, give them a fictional world description and events, and they play autonomous characters in an ongoing story. So it’s like improvised acting, but with foam-rubber swords and cap-gun muskets and screaming. Lots of different games/events exist with different themes and rules.) There’s nothing like being ambushed in the dark by a group of monsters and fighting for your life with only a latex dagger, knowing that you’re the best healer in the area and if you get killed everyone else is in trouble too. Really gets your heart rate up. Also lots of walking and running through woodland and sand-dunes. Hate the sand-dunes.

    I haven’t been able to go this last year (the events I particularly enjoy are not very cheap, and train tickets are expensive too) but I’m hoping to go back to it in the spring. Time to make new costume and work on my facepaint!

  120. I’m a big fan of water aerobics. My current instructor is not fatphobic in the slightest, and I love her. The class with the older ladies on a Friday morning is insane. She makes it fun.

  121. Count me among the yoga fans. I have very mild lumbar osteopenia (my previous crash diet-convert gynecologist was in near hysteria about this but my new one looked at my -1.18 T-score and said, “Nu?” and shrugged) and the Big Two of weight-bearing exercises recommended for this are walking and yoga. Walking is great because I can walk around the grounds of my workplace at lunchtime while listening to Air America podcasts (so that I can ignore the psych patients that tend to also wander around), and yoga is great because a) I can do it at home; b) I can progress at my own pace; c) it’s certainly weight-bearing; d) it IS aerobic in its own weird way; and e) I’ve been able to handle the stress of a judgmental, triangulating boss much better since I started doing it.

    If you’re lucky enough to have Dish Network, you can do Kurt Johnsen’s excellent yoga classes on the Veria network (channel 9575). Johnson is sort of like Bryan Kest, only better-looking (but not intimidatingly so), with a more soothing voice, and not creepy. And occasionally he even has a fat woman in the televised class! The classes are a bit heavy on the sun salutation poses so there isn’t much variety, but even if you fast forward through the commercials (which you can do if you DVR it) it’s a 40-minute class.

  122. Oh, and I should add, LRP is supremely fat-friendly. People of all ages and all sizes play all kinds of characters – you get to choose who you are and what you can do within certain rules, so if you want to play a character who’s more sedentary or conversely much more inclined to run off and attack things, you can do it, and there’s also no bar to ending up being the fairy queen, royal champion, guild head or social doyenne of the settlement no matter what size you are, as that’s about your actions and manouevres in-game. I have met a lot of fantastic people through it, older people through teenagers and kids (a few players bring their families!) and everyone is made to feel welcome.

  123. Great topic!

    I’m another vote for cycling. I commute every day by bike, though sadly this is no longer much of a workout since it’s only a mile and I’d actually be better off walking it – 3 miles each way before I moved was great though. But much more fun is getting out at the weekends and just going places.

    Obviously this is much better in the summer when the weather is more appealing, but we went out for a little 9 mile ride a couple of weekends back. I sometimes go out for an hour over my lunchbreak which is great. 30 miles makes a nice afternoon ride, and we’ve done as much as 90 in one day before, though that was a one-off. We even made our holiday last summer into a cycling holiday, staying at B&Bs about 30 miles apart. Definitely up for that again this year.

    I’ve just got a standard bike, and my local bike shop said my weight (250lbs) would be no problem. If you’re heavier you can get specially designed bikes that are rated much higher, and have broader saddles too – though the ones I’ve seen were made in the US. I recommend padded shorts for very long rides, as you do tend to get a bit sore otherwise, I had to order mine from the states since I’m around a 3X in the waist. I often wear them under a dress or skirt or even normal trousers if I’m planning on going into a nice restaurant en route. So there’s no need to worry about looking silly in them (personally I don’t care, but a lot of people hate them). I’ve still not been able to find a cycling jacket I like in my size, but then I don’t ride much in the rain anyway.

    I also like swimming to a certain extent, though I get a bit bored with laps. The local pool is actually about halfway between work and home, so I have very little excuse for not going given how convenient it is. I’m considering signing up for http://www.swimathon.org/ – I found I could do 1K only the second time I went back after not swimming in years, but I dunno if I could work it all the way up to 5K by April.

    And a year or so back I took some latin and ballroom dancing classes and that was really good fun. The fast dances (like Jive) are a real aerobic workout, but even the waltz gets your heartrate elevated a little. I went with classes run by the local dancing club, which is largely university run but welcomes non-uni members. All you need is something you’re comfortable wearing and shoes that don’t stick to the floor so you can slide your feet. I went with a partner, but most people didn’t – some weeks there were a few too many women compared to men, but it usually worked out OK.

  124. Count me in for cycling, anytime. I commute to work/school by bike, and it’s a good 12 miles each way. I love, love, love it.

    When I get the chance, I go swimming, too, but at my local pool the lanes really are much too crowded, with up to 8 people sharing a single lane.

    When I was a kid, I did my absolute favourite class EVER, though: For three or four years, I went to a circus school one afternoon a week. I learned how to walk a tightrope, do handstands on the trapeze and other really cool stuff. I hated doing the clown and magician bits, though, since there wasn’t enough running around involved. I’d love to do the circus thing again, but I haven’t found anything around here for adults…

  125. ARRRGH! Ok, I’ve been going through the internet with my eyes closed for MONTHS for fear of Heroes spoilers (I live in Germany, we’re only in the middle of season 1), and now I stumble over one in the middle of a SP entry about exercise. You can’t be careful enough.

  126. fillyjonk ~ Thanks ^-^ I love to perform and the more you smile, even if your moves aren’t perfect in your own eyes yet, the more the audience loves it! Its one of those GREAT cycles! ;)

    keechypeachy ~ Medieval reenactments are a great way too if the SCA doesn’t have a branch close to you! If you get into it a LOT it can cost quite a bit but if you just go to any of those groups that perform at parades and such (I did a French Reenactment one once) it can ge very good exercise with drills, especially carrying period style weapons. Very fun too!

    Arwen ~ Thank you! :)

    Ducky ~ Well I’m mostly Polish…and cool; I have more body doubles around the world :D

    Chiara ~ Its totally a choreography and we manage pretty well considering we all take different classes and just come together for the shows!

    Taimatsu ~ I agree with LARPing! We go 6 times a year for weekends and by Sunday when it ends you’re exhausted from running through the trails.

    Question to folks though. After reading more comments I really want to start a Yoga class now too once a week or so. Are classes ever male friendly too? I’m wondering if it is usually only a girl thing or if the hubby would come along without feeling awkward?

  127. Swimming is one of my favorite exercises. Any attention I’ve gotten in my swimsuit has been of people admiring my boobs, since they spill out of any suit I can find. But swimming, in addition to being a great, low-impact exercise, is very relaxing. It’s also meditative – I tend to tune out everything that’s happening around me and just focus on my breathing. I always feel destressed after I’ve swum a few laps.

  128. April D, all the yoga classes I’ve taken recently have been very male-friendly. I’d say the ratio was maybe 60-40 F-M, in my experience.

  129. I went cage diving diving with great white sharks. I knew that I had to get out of the cage and into the boat, so three months ahead of my trip I hired a personal trainer to help me get ready. This trainer changed my life. I am no longer afraid of the gym and know what to do. I had such a phobia before. It took something as extreme as this to get me going!

  130. Yeah, there have always been lots of men in my yoga classes, including people who went as married couples. I even dragged Dan along once and he liked it a lot.

    Ducky, I was hoping someone would have tried capoeira! Tell us details!

    Jessica, I have a friend who does aerials and I was wondering whether it was fat-friendly. I guess you have to be a lot stronger if you’re fat, because you’re holding up more weight. I know she does it in the Bay area; I can find out where if anyone’s interested.

  131. D’oh, I just realized that my first comment totally missed the part where fillyjonk said she was going to stay away from traditional stuff like.. swimming.

    Nonetheless! I’d like to report back from my first return to the pool in several years. It was “adult lap” time at one of the chicago park district pools, and they had the lanes labeled “floater”, slow, medium, fast, and very fast. I stayed in the floater lane although I should have been in the slow lane I guess, ’cause I ended up doing 750m. Woo!

    Also: lots of fatties and other non-average looking people. In fact, basically no one who was there looked like the regular hard-bodies I see every day at the gym.

    Bonus: naked chicks in the locker room. I wasn’t staring or anything, but seriously, I was realizing that as a straight women, I’ve seen lots of regular naked men, and naked women porn stars. It was kinda cool to see all the different bodies and be like hey, this here’s not so bad, is it?

  132. Eh, people want to talk about swimming and weight-lifting and stuff, so I’m not gonna tell them they can’t… I just didn’t put it in my original list. Swimming is fucking great though.

  133. Great idea for a post, fillyjonk. I don’t mind the gym, but I’ve never really been a group excercise person — always had my issues with comparing myself to what I perceived to be the perfect others in the classes. I started taking exercise classes at the Adult Education Center in my town (Cambridge, MA) and they’re fantastic. Relatively cheap and they cater to a really diverse crowd of people.

  134. I’ll thow in another big-up for Tai Chi. I did Yang style for years, and I *loved* it. I can’t wait to get back into it, once time allows!

    I also loved running, until a foot injury sidelined me. TRUST ME, if you’re heavy like I am, BUY GOOD SHOES. And replace them, regularly. Like, more than the every 100 miles that thin people have to. It might seem expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than physical therapy! But all the doom and gloom aside – the feeling of being out, increasing your running time steadily, feeling your muscles / lungs get stronger… pure, unadulterated awesome. Also, knowing you are really, truly fit and strong, no matter what your body might look like from a fashion standpoint – I’ve never felt more confident than when I was running. Jeff Galloway’s books are amazing for getting non-runners started, without ever pushing harder than their bodies should go. (assuming they buy proper shoes. Ahem).

  135. My favorite exercise is stair walking. I live on the 15th floor and I walk about 4 times a week up the stairs. I enjoy the sense of purpose of exercising to get from here to there instead of moving in place.

  136. This thread is fanfreakintastic. I’ve been brainwashed for too long.

    I liked weight lifting for a good sweat and a endorphin high, but I injured my knees doing it this summer and never got back into it. Highly motivated to start again (skipping the squats) and I vow this very moment that I will have made a hoop for myself by Sunday afternoon!

    April D, you rock!

  137. I’m one of those weird people who actually *likes* working out on cardio equipment. I tend towards being mildly depressive, and I find a good, fast, hard workout gives me an adrenaline and endorphin rush that picks up my mood, and I like the feeling of mildly sore muscles the next day. It’s good to know they’re there. I used to jog/run, which I absolutely loved – especially when I lived in the north bay (San Francisco) and could trail-run through redwood groves most weekends. But after breaking my ankle the second time, and messing up my knees from overcompensating for the weak ankle, I had to give it up a few years ago.

    I really want to take up yoga again (I used to do it years ago), but for me the main prohibition is cost. I’m a grad student and so get free membership to the campus gym, but I’d have to pay an extra $100 or so for 10 weeks of classes, or $12/class to take a class at my local studio. Plus you’re locked in to the class times – I like the freedom of being able to go workout when I’m free and in the mood. I’ve tried using Richard Hittleman’s book and a couple DVDs, but I really want the direction of a course. Someday when I have a real job again and can afford it I’ll take it up again.

  138. Incidentally, I didn’t even think about fencing being hard on the knees, but now that you guys mention it, I do have distinct memories of icing my knees, and of teammates fencing on knee injuries. Correct form (not overextending your lunge) and muscle training (we did lots of plyometrics) can mitigate that. And I still think that in a typical adult-ed, low-key fencing class, you’ll get all the fun with none of the athletic injuries. But it’s worth thinking about if you have known knee problems — or ankle problems, I would say.

  139. Swimming is my absolute favorite, even though I’m the slowest in the slow lane.

    Archery is great for the arms and back muscles and lot’s of fun to pretend you are Maid Marion.

    Currently, I’m taking a stage combat class, so I’m getting to pretend to fight with others. It’s very physical, and we get to use broadswords!

  140. May I submit a variant on hiking?

    I do letterboxing (atlasquest.com for more info). In a nutshell, you look up clues on the website, follow them on a hike through the woods, and find a small plastic box at the end.

    In the box is a blank book and a rubber stamp, usually hand-carved. You bring your own blank book and a stamp that represents you, and an ink pad. Reciprocal stamping, then go back to your car.

    I like it because I’m not very good at “just hiking” — I need a tangible goal to get motivated. Also, it’s brought me to all kinds of new locations, many very close to home, that I never knew about before.

    Best of all, artsy-craftsy stuff combined with outdoors combined with a treasure-hunt-clues-thingy! That’s just plain awesome.

  141. Archery sounds fun but does it really make bruises all over your arms when you first start out? I had a girlfriend who was into it for a while but she had all these huge bruises and I wonder if she was doing something wrong or didn’t have the right equipment or if that sort of things just happens??

  142. This past fall I took a class in “ChiRunning” which combines elements of Tai Chi with running. It stresses proper form, alignment and using the core muscles, so it’s quite gentle and easy on the joints. It’s great for people like myself who used to run, but gave it up because it became too painful. There is also ChiWalking for people who don’t want to run. I also bought the DVD, which is actually really good.

    Also, even though it doesn’t count as a fitness activity per se, I can’t say enough about getting a good massage now and then. I love Thai massage, where you are fully clothed (comfortable yoga pants and a t-shirt) and placed into yoga positions while being stretched and kneaded. It released pain and tension I didn’t know I had, and increased my flexibility quite a bit. I know not everyone is into being touched by strangers, but having clothes on cuts down on the creep-out factor for me.

  143. Fillyjonk: regarding fat-friendly aerials/required body strength – it all depends on where you go. If you go somewhere that teaches circus aerials, that is, has classes with names like “aerial conditioning” or “static trapeze” or “swinging trapeze” or “flying trapeze” or “lyra” or “tissu” or “spanish web,” they will be teaching you a certain rigorously defined set of techniques and tricks, which were developed by super thin muscular people for super thin muscular people. I’m a size 14, and I’m always the biggest person in my circus aerials class.

    *Aerial dance* classes, on the other hand, can be less intimidating. Again, it depends on where you go – but there are some aerial dance teachers who come from yoga backgrounds, for example, or dance therapy backgrounds, or pilates backgrounds, and this adds a whole different tone to the class.

    In Kate and Phil’s classes, or in Cherie’s classes, there’s a focus on enjoying whatever type of dancing you’re capable of doing that day – if your dance includes a lot of arm strength, fine, and if it doesn’t, fine. The apparatuses are often low to the ground, so it’s possible to get on and off (and stay on and be stable) without super-human arm strength. I’m rarely the biggest person in those classes.

    National Dance week is a great way for people in the bay area to check out all sorts of dance classes, especially people who are feeling intimidated.

    http://www.bacndw.org/

    It’s at the end of April, and it’s ten days of hundreds of free classes, demonstrations, and performances all over the bay area. If you’re curious to see if a certain company is fat-friendly (and a whole lot are), you can check it out, in person, for free.

    Other cities celebrate national dance week, but I’m not sure about the vigor with which they do it. Anyone know?

  144. Normally I just walk to work, but I took up Yoga like a week ago for my birthday present to myself (Megan Garcia again – awesome DVD for beginners). I love it in the morning.

    Let me know if this is normal: I have been peeing more than usual since I started yoga AND I have been getting some heartburn, which is abnormal for me, AND I had a charleyhorse last night in bed. A mild one, but still, I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid.

    Might I be doing something wrong? Should I stop doing inversions for awhile and see if the heartburn goes away? Am I a hypochondriac?

  145. oooh ooh rachel! My family does Geocaching, which is a lot like letterboxing. D,mn good fun, both – so much so I sort of forgot to think of it as a form of exercise (which, what with hiking and scrambling around and whatnot, it really is).

  146. Biking is my absolute favorite form of exercise and transportation. I also love yoga at the YMCA because there is such an interesting variety of people in class.

    I find that drinking a glass of water before I go to bed keeps me from getting charleyhorses, but that may just be me.

  147. I’ve tried yoga and enjoyed it, but I found the rest pose (lying flat on my back) actually hurt my hips and lower back, and I was studying two other evening classes at the same time, so I dropped out in the end.

    If you want to go again — and for anyone else who has that problem — it’s fine to put your knees up or, even better, put a bolster or rolled blanket under them, so you’re still not doing any work. Sivasana is like any other pose in that, if it hurts, you should get out of it or find a way to modify it.

  148. This thread kicks ass… the live-action roleplaying and letterboxing sound awesome! When someone says it’s good to “get outdoors” more, the only activities that come to mind are, like, softball and hiking, and those types of things hold no interest for me. But thanks for suggesting these alternatives because they sound really cool.

    You guys have also inspired me to look more seriously into local dance classes. I loved ballet and tap as a kid (and I was usually the best in my class at acrobatics, even though I was “the fat kid,” thank you very much) and I want to learn hip-hop. So THANK YOU.

    (Additionally I love reading about how different we all are. There are so many different tastes in activities here and that’s awesome.)

    I have to “fourth” SarahMich, Cath, and Peggy on strength-training and if you’re like me, you will enjoy doing it at home. I love having my own dumbbells and I love the flexibility of being able to do the exercises alone and whenever I want to. No machines to wipe down and no bodybuilding guys alternately ogling or judging you and hogging the weights. If you are more advanced than me then I guess you will be getting into having to buy a weight bench and barbells and stuff, so the costs and space requirements could start to get prohibitive, but I do the set of dumbbell exercises from the book “Strong Women Stay Slim” (which book I do not necessarily recommend, for obvious reasons, but IMO the exercises are good), plus a few other things for back and abs, and pushups. Once I got past the idea that women “shouldn’t” lift heavy weights or “get too big,” I think strength training has really helped me to feel OK with and proud of being a big person and taking up space.

    I agree with the recommendation of stumptuous and nowissomeday dot blogspot dot com has some good routines posted too, for women who want to get strong and not just “firm up” or whatever bullshit they used to try to sell us. But again, the sites (esp. the second one) are fairly weight-loss oriented, so you will need a really good ability to read selectively and take only what you want from the content.

    For my own regular workout I enjoy running. I weigh almost 190 and have not had trouble with injuries or pain, so I think its effects on your joints can be more a factor of your individual joints, past injuries, etc. than your weight. So I guess my overall point is if you are interested in running, maybe try it, starting slowly, and see how it agrees with your body, rather than assuming it’s a bad idea because you are fat. Of course I could be wrong, but that’s my gut feeling. I love running outside in the cold as long as it is not icy (dorky though it may be, I am of Scandinavian descent and I like to pretend I am my ancestors moving swiftly through the frozen landscape), and lately I have enjoyed increasing my stride rate (which is supposed to allow you to get faster more easily and with less stress on your joints) by creating a music mix with a certain range of beats per minute.

    Somebody in a previous thread on exercise mentioned Jazzercise–does anyone reading this one have any experience with it? I love doing good old-fashioned cheesy ’80s dance aerobics, and I miss that there doesn’t seem to be a class like that at my gym. (It’s all interspersed with band exercises and stuff, which is fine, but I do my strength training elsewhere and would be looking for pure cardio for the most part.) Is Jazzercise pretty challenging, or are there different levels of classes?

    Finally, someone mentioned enjoying cheesy workout videos. I observed while watching TV that “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” is now available on DVD. I am tempted…

  149. Somebody in a previous thread on exercise mentioned Jazzercise.

    It wasn’t me, but over Christmas my sister and I watched some home movies one of which was my Jazzercize birthday party from when I was 7 or so. It was Janet Jackson Tastic.

  150. Whoops… Suzanne, in case you see this, your comment above about ChiRunning was not there when I started typing, so my own statements about running above are not some kind of response to you, or backhanded way of saying you were wrong to stop “regular” running! I know you probably wouldn’t have taken it that way but I am paranoid and hate to sound like a know-it-all. I was basically just barfing out my own personal experience on the matter and like I said, I didn’t see your comment before I posted. :)

  151. I like biking, but not enough to do it more than a couple times a week, or to do it in bad weather if I don’t have to, so it isn’t enough for me. I tried running for a while but eventually had to give up – I worked through the shin problems and the ankle problems, but the knee problems just would not go away. (Note that this has nothing to do with weight – I’m as skinny as they come!) I don’t really like gyms and find cold water really uncomfortable, so boating, swimming, and gym workouts never worked well for me.

    I do love yoga very much (and I agree that a good teacher makes all the difference! I never would have known what it was supposed to feel like otherwise), but right now I’m a bit too poor to afford classes and I’m bad at doing things on my own. So I’ve been looking for something new to do, especially in the winter when the weather is gross out.

    So tonight I’m going to spend 2 hours learning how to curl! I have a feeling it is accessible to people of all sizes (I mean, you’re sliding on ice, and they say kids can do just as well as adults at it), though some kinds of injuries might make it a bad choice. And it’s clearly some decent exercise. Apparently a curler will walk/jog the equivalent of about 2 miles during a game (while vigorously sweeping!). Becoming a club member can be pricey, kind of like joining a pool or a gym, but my club has student rates that are reasonable.

  152. OK, JAZZERCISE BIRTHDAY PARTY?! Was this an officially sanctioned event like the McDonald’s birthday party, or just a Jazzercise theme? I have to know. I am both scared and incredibly fascinated. :)

  153. What, you mean fat asses are allowed to exercise?!?! Sheesh, I wish someone had told me sooner… lol

    I work out at Women’s Workout World in the early AM, and love it. Women of all shapes, ages, and sizes crawl onto the exercise floor (coffee in one hand and water bottle in the other) for aerobics, pilates, whatever. It’s great, and like you, it is keeping me off antidepressants.

    Having said that, here are my favorite classes (I am more motivated if I am in pain – I mean, if I work out – with other like-minded masochists – I mean, lovely women):

    * Strip tease. Heck, who wouldn’t want to learn to shake it on a pole?! Boyfriend loves that I take this class and makes sure I’m at the class early.

    * Pilates. Ouch. It hurts and is the most challenging class I take (I’ve actually cried), but its great to get toned.

    * Body building. I have a secret desire to be a body builder. Really, I do.

    And I would like to thank you for your great blog. It has encouraged me to open up about being a fat chick in my blog, Musings of a Fat Chick.

  154. This is really a great blog entry, and I love the comments. Thanks Fillyjonk.

    There’s this girl I know that wants to make a gym and/or program that’s for people of all sizes. This would really help her out, as she’s looking for points of view on it. I don’t know how I want to spin it with martial arts if I want to join in (That’s one thing I’m considering), but there’s a few things/styles I’m considering. I can’t do a backbridge like Kate (With her mad 1337 yoga skillz ^_^), but I’m pretty flexible. I’m trying to get my front split going by the time I head to basic training in May after I get my first AA. :)

    One thing I do every once in a while is “Ginga” in my room, with or without a vest on for 1/2-1 hour or so. It’s the base movement for the Martial Acrobatic Dance of Capoeira, and I think it’s moderate cardio dependent on the tempo, and the duration I do it sometimes when I can’t run, stationary bike, use a gazelle, et cetera…


    When you begin, you’re suppose to try as natural as possible. It’s done like you’re walking. Once you get used to it, you can throw some extra twists in, extend periods, up the tempo*, experiment with the position of your legs (Basically how you’re leaning: You can work the legs if you hunch low, but you can save your back if you hunch forward, but not so low :P), advanced style (Where instead of just stepping, you do a little hop every time you ginga to one side [Gingar is portuguese for "To rock back and forth"]) and so on.

    For about a month, I alternated one day with my 20 pound vest on and one off. It felt great. I wasn’t wearing shoes, however, and it was a little hard on my feet. :D

    *Traditionally, the martial art is done to music, but I just listen to my mp3 player while I do it. I listen to a variety of music, and while I don’t always try to go with the tempo (Sometimes that doesn’t work well with trance or speed/tech metal :p), the music itself keeps me going. Last time I did it, I threw some stretches in the middle. I slept shortly thereafter.

    Thanks again for the post. I bet the shapeshifters are freaking out right about now. “Wut omg dere talkin’ bout exercise?!?!?!”

  155. Most of my exercise right now involves carrying my 35-pound toddler around sometimes. In the past I’ve done walking, biking, swimming. A little Tai Chi.

    Mostly I’m posting to provide a couple of links. I’ve heard that interval training (varying the intensity of your workout) is better exercise than working out at a steady pace. There is a free description of it here: http://www.momentumfs.com/pdfs/sampleintervalworkout.pdf

    Also, following up on the idea of listening to librivox audio books: you can also get free audio books at podiobooks.com – they are modern ones usually read by the author. If you like them and can afford it, you can donate and 75% goes to the author.

  156. Bike commuting! Or riding a bike in general. Yes, you do have to get a bike, but you can go to a bike shop and get “fit” for free then scour Craigslist for a good deal.

    I have been riding my bike to work for a while now, 18 miles round trip per day and it’s so awesome. It’s everything I loved about running without the knee pain and the bouncing of the fat. You get to be outside, you get to know your city better, and you get a good workout.

    I also have been practicing yoga, I find it really helps me to be in touch and aware of my body without being judgmental of it.

  157. I should mention that my 300-lb boyfriend has been bike commuting for five or six years, and he feels like he has to get his wheels trued more often than a lighter person would. He’s a little hard on the wheels in general. The bike shop trues them for free, and the main bike shop guy is stocky himself and is very open about the different biking needs of fat people (pretty much, just paying more attention to the structural integrity, and getting regular bike checkups).

    That said, I have no idea whether he took weight rating into account when he bought the bike, or if he could get wheel rims that were rated for a higher weight.

  158. This is going to sound weird but I covet one of those big, one-speed, pastel-coloured bikes with the big basket. I can’t see myself on a serious bike, but tooling around my community on one of those babies? Totally.

  159. @ spacedcowgirl: S’all good — your comment didn’t even phase me! I wish I *could* run the “regular” way, but it irritates my hips. Nor was I trying to imply that ChiRunning was “better” somehow, it’s just an alternative for people who might think their running days are behind them.

    Which reminds me — I’ve met some trainers and doctors who automatically give the big eye roll and frown on impact exercise like running and tennis (another favorite of mine — hee!). I hate when people give a big broad stroke dismissal to something that you express interest in or love. There are modifications of all kinds in any activity.

    And OMG Cara on the Geocaching! I looked it up for my area (Brooklyn NY) and it looks like so much fun!

  160. Sniper, my bike in the States is like that, except red and perhaps three speed, with a BIG old comfy padded seat. And a wicker basket that I used to use to go grocery shopping with, around which I may twine some plastic flowers when next I see it. It was lots of fun to ride around Green Lake or to the store or whatevs–if only the brrring brrring! thing in it hadn’t broken!

    I may get handlebar streamers, too.

  161. Biking and walking are my favorite low-cost and reasily available exercises, also, walking makes the dog super-happy. But I also have to give a thumbs up to bellydance. And I positively love spinning poi, despite Burning Man hipness factor .

  162. I just wanted to say that you made my day for making me the example for bellydancing :-) I love dancing and it helped rehab my back after a horrible car accident (if you are taught proper posture in bellydance, it should not give your lower back problems….some teachers ignore the posture thing sadly and end up hurting themselves or their students).

    I wanted to plug triathlon as a fat-friendly thing. Swim-bike-run. You can swim whatever stroke you want, you can use almost any bike you have (no recumbants though), and you can walk the run portion. The sport is so supportive of all folks, and the best part of being one of the last people across the finish line is that you have more people to cheer for you!

  163. I have to give a big old -10 to capoiera I’m afraid. I went to a couple classes a few years ago, and maybe it was just the group I was with, but the fact that I was NOT going to be able to do a hand stand against the wall for any amount of time much less several minutes was not well handled by my instructor. The basic movements, the music and ideas of it were cool, but there’s just a lot of ridiculous acrobatic stuff going on that I found very very intimidating. Maybe if you’re already a yoga master and can do that stuff already it wouldn’t be so bad. But coming from a place of being moderately out of shape, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really enjoy a challenge. (When it comes to physical fitness I do NOT)

    I don’t want to rain on parades, because I totally thought it would be cool. I think you just really need to find a group or an instructor who is willing to work with your body instead of just telling you that you CAN do something that you obviously can’t do, like stand on your head, in the first lesson.

  164. My husband and I are starting a dance class, learning Rhumba, Salsa, Cha Cha. I think it will be fun, and really good for all ages and fitness levels.

  165. i really enjoy biking, but i’m in a hilly area, and the hills keep me from doing it as much as i would like. any advice for fat girls on bikes getting up hills? i’m on a 7-speed townie, if it makes a difference. more of a cruiser type.

  166. oh, and i should mention ala letterboxing/geocaching: last year during the better weather my partner would hide poetry and rubber stamps for me in the neighborhood and draw me a map to where they were hidden. over time the routes got longer and/or steeper. we -loved- that!

  167. I’m a big fan of the old classic running and I am around 200 pounds but I’ve never had problems with injuries. To second Cara from way upthread–good shoes are important!

    I’m also a big fan of weight training. And I’ve done mat pilates (and yoga) for awhile. I’d love to try out machine pilates!

  168. @Shinobi-
    I wasn’t recommending taking the classes, but rather just doing that base movement. At long periods of time, it’s a decent cardio tool for anyone. I’m not asking people to do au sem maos, relogios, and mortal soltas. I can’t even do those, and I have martial arts experience. :D
    If I decide to go down this road, I really don’t know what martial arts I’m going to pick from yet to tell you the truth, especially among the 10 or so I’ve experimented with in my life.

    I don’t want to judge your professor/mestrando/mestre/mestranda/instructor, but the roda is suppose to be what you make of it. It alarms me that he/she would expect that kind of thing from a beginner. I know the classes are indeed hard (Especially initially), but that’s nuts if he/she started chastizing you for not being able to do a handstand for example. There’s a way of doing it that is violent, but there’s a way of doing it playfully as well. In either case, it’s suppose to be your own thing, hence the nickname you recieve based on your strategy.

    There’s also two main types (And a hybrid): Regional and Angola. Angola doesn’t have very much acrobatics at all (It has ground acrobatics called “Floreios,” but that about it other than an occasional cartwheel here and there), and regional has a good bit of acrobatics. Most in the modern day train in a mix of both called “Contemporonea,” but that’s suppose to give people room to just get in, and have fun, rather than worrying about standing on their head if they don’t want to.

    Here’s some Rodas:
    Angola Roda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BYZvyn4TIk
    Regional Roda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS38bKr6vYE

    LEGO Roda!! LOL! :P

    Did you go to a Regional/Contemporonea School? If so, then I wouldn’t recommend that to ANYONE without experience. It takes awhile to get used to no matter how fit you are. lol :P The only advantage I had when I was in was striking technique and flexibility. I never took it enough to do the acrobatics, but I used to have lighting quick basics! ^_^

  169. http://www.getcapofit.com/New_Site_byGCT/dvds.htm

    I’m not endorsing this, but the moves included are an example of what I would probably be doing if I wasn’t just teaching a normal class (If I ever get that kind of ability). It’s just the basics: Some kicks, escapes, fakes… The second DVD is when you start mixing them together. I don’t know about the third DVD, but that looks like the time when all the acrobacias come in. Sticking to the basics is all you need, if doing the ginga for periods of time isn’t enough.

  170. Jon,
    Yeah the base movement and the whole idea is fun. But the acrobatics are crazy. I hear a lot of breakdancers train in capoiera to improve their moves.

    I went to a group that was I think related to a university. I wouldn’t say that my teacher chastized me in a really negative way, he just didn’t listen to me when I told him I couldn’t do something. We worked on the roda and some other moves, but he seems to think it is important for students to be comfortable with being upside down. Which makes sense, but that’s the sortof move that not just everyone can do.

    He kept say ing “yes you can, yes you can” And I tried, but frankly that was probably dangerous. I just hate trainers of any kind who seem to think the response to “I can’t” Is “we don’t say that here.” Some things, like inverting my 300+lbs, are just not going to happen right away and you have to find ways to take baby steps.

  171. I just hate trainers of any kind who seem to think the response to “I can’t” Is “we don’t say that here.”

    Y’know, trainers who have that attitude are, heh heh, lazy. Because it would be too much work for them to actually put together different programs at different paces for different bodies and different personalities. (But if they’re thin and lazy, that’s okay! [eyeroll]) A one-size-fits-all approach is just evidence that the trainer doesn’t know what they’re doing. Good trainers are responsive, inspirational, and supportive.

  172. Question: has anyone tried one of those beach cruisers? This is the kind of bike I covet, but I’m not sure if they’re really practical. I live in a suburb would use it on the nearby trails and fairly quiet streets.

  173. The only exercise limits are in your head, says the 300lb girl who rides a racing road bike with a tiny-ass saddle. With enough interest, you can do any type of activity that whets your whistle. In fact, I do believe I need one of them hula hoops. And perhaps I need to go rock climbing as well!

    Best thing about having a big ass? Jumping in at swim practice and making a big fat splash. Caution, though. Only do this with people you know or people you hate. Those who know you will laugh and cheer. The people you hate will generally get out, leaving you with a nice solo lane!

  174. I have yet to actually try capoeira but there is an instructor who teaches classes in a couple places around my area. Having a back injury that is taking it’s sweet time to heal, capoeira is the activity that I’d like to do after my back is a little more stable.

    Archery totally rocks, though!! And yeah, if you’re getting bruises, there are a few things you can do to improve your technique like pulling the elbow of your bow arm outward a bit more.

  175. I have to put a word in for rowing. I absolutely love it, for several reasons.

    1- I have to turn up even if I don’t feel like it because 7 other girls and one cox will be severely pissed with you if you don’t.

    2- I get praised for not being thin, as long as your technique is good you can put your extra weight behind the blade and make the boat go faster.

    3- There is a lovely sense of sisterhood and camaraderie that develops between you and the other seven girls when you are doing all this exercise together.

    4- Most crews do land training as well as their work on the river, and do things like core stability (which is a bit like specialised yoga) and weights so you get to do nice relaxing stuff that isn’t high impact exercise as well.

    Also I am totally going to try to find a belly dancing class, it’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t dared because I’ve assumed everyone else in class would be size 10 and under and I’d look awful in comparison.

    It’s really good exercise, and really social and fun. Okay, I can’t row at the very back of the boat because my thighs get a little stuck, but that’s okay because my rhythm is too bad for me to be put there anyway….you do have to live near a river mind.

  176. Okay, I scanned for these but did not see them, so I feel obliged to commence with the recommending:

    1. Impact/Model Mugging/Krav Maga/Self defence
    (because not only is it great joy in movement, but there’s just so many other side benefits! Especially Impact (which was formerly Model Mugging)–if you’ve never had the joy of breaking a sweat via repeatedly kneeing a guy in the crotch, well, I just can’t recommend it enough).

    2. Burlesque. Granted, all the burlesque I’ve done has been with queer troupes in queer venues, and I think it might really skew my experience to do it in a straight space, but still. I mean, seriously:

    http://www.bigburlesque.com/

    And finally, to all of you bellydancers: ROCK ON WITH YOUR AWESOME SELVES! I miss my old troupe terribly.

    April D: Thank you *so much* for sharing that. It was pure loveliness.

  177. @ eli bishop: just do it! No, really, I used to live at the top of a big hill, and it took me a whole year of bicycle commuting to be able to get home without getting off and walking. But I could see progress – each week I’d get a little bit further up before getting off and walking. Accept that it’s OK not to make it all the way; that’s where you are and it’s cool. Walking up a hill is exercise too, and then you can freewheel down, wheeee!!!!

    Oh, also, change down to lowest gear *before* you start pushing those pedals super hard for your go at the hill. If you try to change down when you’re pedalling hard, the chain can fall off…

  178. Man I feel boring. I just lift my weights, walk a lot and dream of the day we get a swimming pool within walking distance.

    But I HAVE to try bellydancing after seeing that video.

  179. I prefer to do my exercise at home, but I also need some guidance, so I go the video route.

    My recent favorite is YOGA BOOTY BALLET. The name is ridiculously goofy, but the program itself is very enjoyable. Basically it combines yoga meditations and stretching with pilates/yoga style strength training and dance aerobics. The package I bought included several “live class” DVDs which are my favorite because the choreography is themed to stuff like “Bollywood,” “Go-Go” and “Hip-Hop.”

    Some of the workouts can be pretty intense, but most are relatively low-impact and the hosts consistently remind you to “listen to your body” and stop or modify when you need to. There is absolutely no Denise Austin-style talk about calories, weight-loss, or anything. It is actually quite body-positive–lots of talk about “celebrating your unique body” and enjoying what it can do. The live class DVDs also feature participants of diverse body shapes and sizes.

    ONE BIG CON: the DVDs are produced by Beach Body Fitness which, as a company is anything but body positive. The package I bought came with a bunch of pamphlets trying to sell me weight-loss supplements and a book prescribing a diet and workout regimen. But those were easy enough to throw in the trash. Unfortunately, the put infomercial ads at the end of all the DVDs too. I HATE finishing my cool down and being all peaceful and meditative only to be blasted with a shrill “I LOST ELEVENTY-BILLION POUNDS IN A WEEK!!! AND YOU CAN TOO!!!!11!!!!!”

    Arrrrrrgggg

  180. Oh, how could I forget GoGoRobics!!

    http://www.pontanisisters.com

    The Pontani Sisters rule. One of the DVDs has recipes for meatballs and refrigerator cake. I hate aerobics and I love these. It’s the cheesy camp burlesque of it all. I do burlesque, too, though I was reluctant to recommend it, as a lot of it seems quite body-fascist. Not my group, they’re cool. Anyone from Canberra, check out Miss Kitka’s. But some others I’ve seen are not so good.

  181. I didn’t read all the comments, but I have to put a vote in for Nia. I’ve just started doing it, and it’s amazing.

    It’s a mix of dance, yoga, martial arts and other stuff. And it’s really fun and feels healing in the way that it helps me enjoy being in my body. Can’t recommend it enough.

  182. I posted this on my blog a while ago, but since it’s come up in conversation again, I thought you guys might want to see this awesome belly dancing video!!

  183. Living in Denmark, land of the diehard transport-cyclers, I’ve gotten rather fond of bicycle-as-transport as a means of exercise. On the downside, the weather in DK sucks, so you’re biking through rain more often than not. On the plus side, biking through rain makes you feel really hardcore.

    I’m also fond of hiking, especially now that I have my IBS under control.

    I’ll add my vote to DDR (or appropriate DDR-clones), and chime in with the Wii for upper-body work. Exercise-via-video-game has to be about the coolest “cheat” ever.

  184. Hey, does anyone play squash or racquetball? My depth perception stinks but I still think they would be kind of fun. I like handball, except for sucking at it.

  185. Second (third?) the recommendation for contradancing and other kinds of folk dancing. Folk dance communities tend to be incredibly kind and welcoming.

    Contra can be pretty high-energy and physically demanding – I’ve got a hip replacement, and I find that the spins stress my hips a little too much. A lower-impact option that is still great exercise is English Country Dance.

    ECD has a mix of high-energy (but not high-impact) dances and slow, graceful dances, and I’ve found it an excellent way to improve my balance, coordination, strength, and muscle control.

  186. This is such a cool thread!

    I wanted to add support for strength training with dumbbells and free weights. I personally prefer going to the gym instead of lifting at home, especially in the first year, because beginner’s gains come so quickly that you can easily outgrow whatever equipment you bought at home. Also, there’s more flexibility at a gym: you can hit the machines if you just want to get in and out faster; you can do low reps with heavy weights or high reps with light weights; you can try out different lifts that work the same muscles; etc. It can be hard to avoid feeling self-conscious, but if you can make yourself get out onto the floor you’ll see that, mostly people are just looking at themselves in the mirror. I go to the Y, which has a pretty diverse clientele anyway, so I don’t feel like I stick out.

    Stumptuous is a good site for women who want to start lifting weights; there are some weight-loss-focused areas of the site, but you can bypass those and just read up on form and workouts; also, there’s a lot of focus on empowerment and tailoring things to the individual (and she holds up Cheryl Haworth, whom I absolutely adore, as someone who’s fat AND fit). So yeah, I wish it were better, but I don’t feel too many qualms about recommending the site anyway.

  187. This thread is awesome.
    I do yoga, walk, swim, and other “gym stuff”.
    I also really enjoy skiing -both cross country and down hill. Both are snow-dependent, of course, and the snow gear itself can be quite expensive. I wouldn’t recommend downhill carte blanche for everyone- besides how expensive it is, it can be really hard on your knees and back, and falling can be dangerous. However, a lot of the new “shape skis” are making it so that the technique is less difficult to master, so if you want to try it, you should give it a chance because it is pure joy to be schussing through a world of white powder.

    Cross Country is basically free (you can often get the gear at second hand shops, and if you live near a city park that gets at least 3-4 inches of snow you won’t have to pay for access to wilderness areas) and it is great fun. I’m not sure about what kind of joint-health-risks are involved, but it’s a lot of fun. If you go for an all-day ski, you can pack your lunch and have a picnic in the snow!

    to all the people who recommend dance of different varieties, I love you! I would add African Dance/ Ghanaian to the list of fat-friendly dance types to try. I did this in college and loved it.

  188. Pilates, great to build up the core when done properly. I’ve only done mat work as that is all my fitness center offers. I do find that my coccyx becomes irritated in some of the sustained ‘on your tailbone’ postures, but I think that I have my coccyx is just a bit more extrusive than some. I resolved this by put a thicker mat under my thin mat for more padding.

    Tai Chi Qigong is wonderful for a workout that doesn’t really feel like much while you’re doing it, but leaves you energized and refreshed. The last meditative posture can be a real killer. A squat held for 5-10 minutes with transitional postures for the arms. I know when I first started every muscle in my body would be quivering visibly by the end.

    I don’t do it any longer, but there is a regular session at the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland CA that starts each morning between 6:30 and 8:00. The instructor was in his 80’s and had been teaching in the same spot for 20+ years. The group is very welcoming to newbies.

    I prefer cross-trainer to elliptical. I get my arms into the action and I feel like I’m about to overbalance on the elliptical. Don’t like treadmills, they tend to start shin-splints.

    A non-gym activity that is great fun is contra dancing, or for the more refined among you try English country dancing. High energy, fat-friendly, lots of fun. The dancing is done in long lines with an A and B couple. When a couple reaches top or bottom of line, they wait out one round and reenter as the opposite couple. Movements are very similar to square dancing. Usually free or minimal charge.

  189. Roller Skating!

    Benefits:

    -Good for building leg strength and balance. I have knee problems and thought rollerskating might prove painful, but keeping my knees slightly bent and moving slowly worked out well for me to start.
    -Super fun.
    -Makes you feel like you’re flying.
    -Fun music (sometimes)
    -Low-impact.
    -More stable than in-line skates.
    -You can buy your own rollerskates in fancy colors! Or with wheels that light up! You can accessorize with leg warmers or rainbow laces!
    -Some rinks have roller dancing, roller derby teams, or other classes.

    Considerations:

    -Try to go at adult-only times, if they are available at your rink. Children are more likely to do erratic things to make themselves, and others, fall. Tripping over children is not fun for you or the children. They also play dopey music at the all-skate times.
    -Falling is a possibility, but if you start out along the wall and gradually increase speed, the sense of accomplishment when you finally let go of the wall is immense.

    Fat-friendliness:

    -Having a big butt helps cushion a fall. :)
    -Rollerskates come in all sizes.

    Fitness level required:

    -You can go as slow or fast as you want, but balance and courage is a plus. Some existing leg and butt strength is also a plus.

  190. I used to teach swing and ballroom. The nice thing about ballroom dancing is that 90% of the people who do it for fun (not competitions) are over 60 and just soooo happy to have someone young in the class. That said, I’d still take a partner. You can make it as intense as you want, and it’s definitely aerobic. I always wear flat shoes, although some devotees of different styles of ballroom and swing say you can’t dance them in flat shoes. (I’ve never had a problem, though.) Swing is usually a little higher intensity and more work. I mean, try lindy hop if you want a good aerobic workout. Not much on the upper body, but you’ll have awesome calves and quads!

    Not recommended if you have knee or hip problems, obviously.

    Also, I know I’m weird, but I used to be a member of a primarily male, 24-hour gym, and I loved it. The guys spent all their time at the back of the room, in the weight area, and left all the machines and ellipticals free for, oh, all five females who were members there. :) Nobody ever judged me (or my friend who’s 250 lbs), but it might have been a weird gym.

  191. I love this thread!! I’ve been trying to find ways of making exercise pleasurable and fun (instead of dreaded and punishing). So far, what works for me is:

    Ballroom Dancing — Swing, ChaCha, Rhumba, Salsa. I love it all, even Tango and Foxtrot (my least favorite). I hate that the studio I went to mostly had older military men who were there to hit on girls (but not me, because I’m fat!). I need to find a new studio, because nothing has made me happier than dancing in ages. Bonus: You look way cool at parties/weddings.

    Walking the dogs: They are happy, I am happy.

    Elliptical: My university gym has installed individual tvs on all the cardio equipment. If I go in the evening, I watch Gilmore Girls or the X-Files. If I go in the morning I watch *coughmumble*The Nanny*coughmumble*. Either way, it’s stopped being “Go to the gym and be miserable and judged” and became “Go watch fun TV while being upright”..

    Swimming, yoga, and pilates, for all the reasons everyone else has already said.

    Also, someone mentioned massage. And while it’s not exercise, I really do think it helps with feeling at home and joyful in your body. I hurt less, I sleep better, and it helps with that niggling “I’m so fat, no one will ever touch me” body-hate that I’m still working on. Mostly, I go for the mental health benefits, but I think almost everyone can benefit.

    I totally want to do belly dancing and water aerobics, and get back into yoga, now that everyone has talked about it.

  192. Yes! Racquetball rocks!! Thank you, fillyjonk!

    I couldn’t believe no one was recommending racquetball… After reading two-thirds of these excellent comments and still not seeing any fellow racquetball lovers, I finally broke down and used the “find” function to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

    I myself find gyms (or maybe just people) intimidating as hell. I love racquetball because I get to have a great big, brightly-lit room all to myself! If you’re lucky enough to have access to racquetball courts, they’re a great place to exercise in indoor comfort and away from prying eyes. You don’t even need a partner to enjoy it. And you certainly don’t need to know the “rules”.

    I love hitting things, but I hate chasing after tennis balls. Racquetballs usually bounce their way back to you, and even if they don’t quite make it, they can’t roll away very far.

    Plus, you get to loudly smack the crap out of a very bouncy ball. I start out slow sometimes to try and develop my aim, but the ball just makes such a great echoing sound as it hits the walls that I always end up whacking the heck out of it! Such a stress-reliever…

    Speaking of which, I think it’s time for me to go out and play!!!

  193. Good-quality semi-recumbent exercise bike.

    When I finally killed the cheap exercise bike I bought to see if I’d actually stick to an exercise schedule (having stuck to it so well that the bike’s wheel bearings eventually disintegrated), I hesitated about spending the money for a decent replacement. But it was SO worth it, and doubly so for getting the semi-recumbent bike. Just having a wide comfortable proper seat instead of a pointy saddle makes it so much more enjoyable. Plus, I find it much easier to read a book or watch TV while exercising, now.

  194. ooh! time to delurk!

    i took a beginner yoga class in college, and loved it for the first 2 or 3 weeks…then the instructor went all sun-salutation crazy, and wasn’t so supportive when i wanted to do 2 or 3 slow, calm, strong ones instead of 10 lightning-fast hectic ones. so i guess i’m going to have to wholeheartedly agree on the “it’s all about your instructor” part.

    i’ve taken 2 different series of bellydance classes in my life, and totally loved them both. i’ll likewise second the recommendation for neena & veena’s bellydance dvds.

    a couple of people have mentioned burlesque, and i’m totally in love with my classes in that mode. anyone in the greater baltimore area, go check out xpose fitness:

    http://www.xposefitness.com/index.shtml

    it’s a body-positive women-only kind of studio, and i’ve seen everyone in there from willowy college-student waifs to grandmas (!), and us hefty chicks are well-represented. they teach pole dancing classes and floor/chair classes, which are pretty much stripper/burlesque routines with a chair. overall, i’m going to say it’s up-tempo pilates with a trashy attitude. i’ve been going once a week for the last year (this does my core-muscle stuff, otherwise, i’m walking in my hilly neighborhood or sprinting on my gazelle at home), and i’m KRAZY flexible, with a huge improvement in my muscle tone. i have a killer 6-pack at this point, it just happens to be wrapped up in a nice coozie.

    for the people worried about cost: head back over to youtube after watching those amazing bellydance videos, and type “bellydance instruction” or “nia instruction” or “yoga instruction” whatever in there, and you end up with a lot of free videos through which you can try all this stuff out. for the equipment (bikes, ellipticals, resistance bands, balls…) hit up ebay or craigslist. i got my gazelle (which i find MUCH more comfortable than the huge mack-truck gym elliptical trainers!) on CL for fifty bucks, and it’s one of the nice $350 models.

  195. O M G, fireweaver. The Arundel Mills location is half an hour from my house, and that’s the one that’s the least of a schlep, but maybe when I get done with my extra-intense semester of belly dance…

    Question: When you get into class as a rank beginner and you don’t have a six-pack, is it a good environment for that? Are the teachers understanding of different levels? (I’m good at some dance moves and bad at others.)

    I tried a Gazelle and hated it — it made me lock/hyperextend my knees. What am I missing?

  196. I tried a Gazelle and hated it — it made me lock/hyperextend my knees. What am I missing?

    Speaking for myself, the Gazelle is kind of like running on air, which I find kind of fun; you can do things that would look pretty stupid (or be downright impossible) doing actual running. While I enjoy running on the ground I have shin splits and messed up knees (they can be prone to dislocations), so it just doesn’t work for me. Because the Gazelle has no impact, it is a lot better for me to use.

    I think a good way to avoid the problem you described is to keep your knees slightly bent at all times, but that might not be comfortable or a practical solution for everyone.

  197. yeah, i’m there with Jae, keep your knees ever so slightly bent on the gazelle. the first few times i ran with it, i felt kinda out of control, but once i got the hang of yet, yep indeed “running on air”. i actually use it to on-purpose slowly hyperextend my knees and get a great leg stretch before i start up by pulling on the handles while stretching my legs as far out as possible. but not when i’m sprinting along, of course. but i digress (ahem).

    fillyjonk, the arundel mills location is EXACTLY where i go, i’m hauling in from over 45 minutes away (i’m in gaithersburg) and i think it’s worth it. yes, they’re quite understanding of different levels; most of the instructors will say things like “do this, and if you’re one of the long-timers and comfy with it, add this to it as well.” in case i was muddling it up there, i had neither the flexibility nor the muscle tone when i started out, they’ve been post-hooker dancin’ acquisitions. bonus: the class at noon on saturdays is free for people who want to check it out, so go see if it works for you.

  198. Lexy, watch out for the scary leads that will jerk your arm and then blame you and say “yr doing it wrong”.

    There are lots of dance forums and Tango forums on the interwebs to give you an idea of what to expect.

    Also, do you have your sole inserts for your shoes?

  199. LARP, or LRP (Live-Action Role Play) is fantastic exercise if you do it regularly. Some larps (Camarilla) are non-contact and rubbish for exercising. Some (like the system I play in weekly) are ‘contact’ or ‘boffer’ larps. For which read sword-fighting.

    Benefits: you get to do swordfighting, live in a different world for a few hours, and kill monsters. It’s fairly generalised exercise, builds up stamina and coordination rather than strength.

    Considerations: you have to roleplay. Larp is basically Dungeons and Dragons acted out, like doing a historical reenactment of Tolkein. If that seems really stupid/childish/boring, don’t bother with it.
    It’s addictive and you will have the overwhelming urge to tell all your friends how great it is.
    You won’t get much exercise unless you do a regular local system. There are big event/fest larps, but they’ll only be every three months or so. There may not be a system where you are.
    It can get expensive once you start getting into it. Events cost to go to. Local system will probably be cheap or free, but you’ll still need to buy kit. Weapons and armour cost.

    Fat-friendliness: Larpers are willing to paint their faces grey and stagger after their friends pretending to be zombies, they don’t care what you look like. You might have difficulty borrowing costume if you’re large, but you can work around that by wearing a different costume.

    Fitness required: You will need a certain amount of mobility. You probably won’t have to run far, because larpers are generally geeks who don’t get out much, so they aren’t very fit, but you will have to run some and be able to fight for a while (the system I play rarely has fighting for more than ten minutes, and the fighting does not usually involve running.) The armour is very light (just leather), and you don’t necessarily have to wear any. The weapons weigh hardly anything. European ones are fibreglass and rubber foam. US ones are different, but still don’t weigh much.

    Basically, it’s a wonderful way for geeks to exercise without having to actually decide to do exercise (What do you mean, exercise? I’m not exercising, I’m killing orcs!), and fat geeks are included in this.

  200. Yay, Exercise for the Round-ish!!!!

    I’m not positive about other forms of Tai Chi, but the Taoist form I’m doing is specially designed for health benefits. People of all shapes, sizes, health levels, balance levels. It’s WONDERFUL. No embarrassing form-fitting clothing, just something you can move in, preferably that your instructor can see which direction your knees and elbows are pointing in. (I wear yoga pants, and a short sleeved baggy t-shirt) As far as required fitness levels, One of the students in another class is in a wheelchair, so they can accommodate just about anyone. As long as you are trying, you will gradually improve, and improvement is the goal, not perfection.

    As far as archery, which is another love of mine, A forearm bruise is from a bad string release, usually, and they are more common with beginners, and archers with larger diameter forearms. The trick is to find a forearm guard that truly *fits* you, and not make do with an approximation. when a bad release meets an unprotected section of forearm, well it looks worse than it is, but it does look pretty bad. Great for upper-body strength and posture. Just try to find a club with a good coach. (My coach taught his daughter, who was an Olympic contender, last I heard) Tournaments between clubs are a great way to stay motivated.

    Biking is very basic, but some people may or may not have thought of recumbent tricycles for when your balance and knees have let you down. Get a big basket behind your seat and do your weekly grocery shopping. If the grocery is downhill from your house, you will certainly intimately know every pound of food you bought by the time you get home

    My current activity schedule is 3 90-minute tai chi classes a week, 3 hours of Archery a week, and 5-10 miles of bike shopping a week. I’ll be looking into finding a dance class I like to add to it.

  201. ^

    P.S.- I should probably mention that I am not myself fat, so I don’t know how fat friendly these activities are. I imagine that being up to them is more of a fitness issue than a weight one, though.

  202. piping up for bellydancing also!! i did it for years and years and was probably in the best shape of my life when i was doing it. teaching it kinda squelched my desire to do it much outside of teaching. but i’m finding that since i’m looking at moving in march and not teaching it any more… i might just start doing the dancing part again! ok lemme put on my teacher hat for a minute here:
    i wouldn’t recommend learning from a video initially unless you already have a dance background or are very body aware. and make sure you aren’t in a class where body mechanics are being ignored. your back/hips/knees should not be hurting after class. ok now that’s out of the way!!
    it’s tremendously fun and even as a fatty, you can perform. i actually performed professionally (ren faires and restaurants) for 15 years. for money. in all my fat glory. yay bellydancing!! but i will agree that the costuming is NOT cheap! but don’t let being fat stop you from performing. :D it helped my self esteem immeasurably.
    i also did hot yoga and loved it. but i wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is heat sensitive or not already in somewhat decent shape. that being said, it rocked and i wish i could still afford to do it. but it’s not really something you can do in your own living room!

  203. I second the Hula suggestion (Hawaiian dance). The best Kumu Hulas (Dance Masters) are waaaaaay hefty, and so there’s not the stigma against it. It’s fun, it’s good exercise, it’s NEVER boring, it gets you totally in touch with your body, you also learn crafts and end up making your own outfits if your kumu is serious.

  204. I did competitive ballroom dance for a year in college, and dancing recreationally has become one of my absolute favorite things. The hard part is in learning how to lead or follow well if you have trouble getting a sense of how your body interacts with your partner’s, and you do have to be comfortable trusting or being trusted by a stranger. But it’s done so much for my balance, my posture (and therefore my back), my general not-being-clumsy, and of course the all-important being able to dance at a wedding without looking like a fool. The faster varieties, like swing or quickstep, would be hard on joints, but if you’re not competing it wouldn’t be as bad because there’s noone to tell you you *have* to wear high heels.

    It did wonders for my general ability to present myself as a woman of confidence and to communicate with body language. I love the aloof stance of the ballroom dances and the commanding expressions of tango in particular.

    Seriously, if you can follow fairly well and find a good partner, you’ll look and feel elegant no matter what your size or whether you even know the moves they’re leading you through.

    Plus it is WORLDS of fun to just find the local ballroom dance place, pay the $5-10 for admission to the dance parties most have weekly, and spend a few hours whirling about on the dance floor.

  205. I miss yoga!! I’ve done the same tape on and off for years. Last year I FINALLY went to a class and loved it, but I work a slightly weird schedule that overlaps with the beginner class taught by an awesome instructor, so I haven’t gone back. I love how my body feels post-yoga but to be honest, the big prohibition against inverted poses during your period has usually translated in my head into “no yoga during your period”, so I’ve never really kept up with it at home. Kate, do you have any suggestions for this, or resources for how to create your own yoga routine? I’d love to give it another shot.

    I tried Curves for awhile, and while I wouldn’t recommend it without some major caveats, Curves was an excellent stepping-stone for me to be able to join a real gym and not be afraid of going. I also have to credit Curves with giving me an awareness of what an elevated-but-not-too-high heart rate feels like (because they make you stop every eight minutes and check it) and for creating an environment where I knew what the machines were for and could use them without feeling like a dork. Also, almost everyone at mine was fat, and even if the other ladies were focused on losing weight, the environment was accepting and comfortable. I could focus on moving my body rather than spend energy on being embarrassed about being fat.

    All that said, I’m pretty happy with my current gym. There’s tons of different machines and other options (indoor track for running or walking, small pool, racquetball rooms, a boxing room, classes), so I won’t get bored. Just today I discovered a couple of new core strength machines that I’m excited about going back to. :)

    And for the dancers, may I suggest Cajun dancing? Energy level can be high or low depending on the dance, and it’s good music, too!

  206. We love to gather all of the neighborhood kids for a game of kickball. nothing fancy, just fun. you would not believe the ammount of excercise you can get in an hour game. no to mention, it really helps the neighborhood moms take a break and know that the kids are okay.

    Another activity (If you prefer to aviod the kids or just don’t like kick ball) is dodge ball. (Yes, every Jr. High school bully’s favorite sport!) It is great fun to play dodge ball with a few friends. It is also great anger management, so get your boss to join you!! LOL!

  207. I do a hybrid fast walk/ slow run routine three times a week. And then strength training from video tapes at home 2 days. I love the feeling of getting stronger with the weights and also the feeling of being able to RUN. Even if it is quite slow, I never thought I could run and now at 35 I am. Never give up; that is what I have finally grasped in my thirties. Oh,and always honor how you feel. If it hurts, stop. Don’t push yourself just to prove a point. Recuperation sucks. I found that good shoes (as mentioned up thread) are very important and for me arch support inserts I got at Big 5. One thing I learned the hard way: if your hips hurt when you run it could be due to weak muscles in the hip flexor. I did some exercises for this area and it helped the hip area alot. Actually pilates has many exercises for this area I think.

    I used to only focus on my flaws and less than perfect whatever. But now after exercising for four years I find a real joy in my body. And a real appreciation as well. :)

    love this thread, it makes me so happy to know there are other women out there kind of like me. :)

  208. Another vote for archery and yoga. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding a shooting range, and an instructor who does simple sun salutations and up/down dogs instead of forearm stands and pretzels.

    …Mmmm…. soft pretzels…

    There’s so many things I want to do. I wanted to start bike riding so I could use it to get to work, but since I never learned as a child, it feels foolish to be this old and still not know how. I want to start a martial art, particularly Kendo, but it requires lots of equipment and I’m not allowed to keep weapons in my house, and I’d have to hide it from my family.

  209. Just wanted to agree with Phledge on aikido.

    It’s absolutely wonderful for body awareness — especially if you’re into preventing/handling an attack! — and the lack of sparring means that you always work from where you are physically. You partner up to practice a technique, which means an atmosphere where no one’s going to mess with your bum shoulder.

  210. I heart water aerobics. Being in the water relaxes me, and the fact that it’s only twice a week at my gym makes it easy to feel like I’m ‘succeeding’ at something resembling regular exercise. Plus, it kicks my butt. I do the deep water kind, and it seriously makes me more tired than any other activity I can think of. And, all my fat friends and I go together…and my friend with fibromylagia has experienced a lot of improvement in her symptoms from it!

  211. I tried Nia tonight!
    It was fun.
    Not as silly or new-age-y as I was worried it would be.
    The instructor wasn’t skinny — very grounded and a good teacher.
    I moved around but I don’t think I will get very sore. I’ll still be able to swim in the morning.
    Fun! Thanks for inspiring me to try something new!

  212. Fillyjonk you are sooo funny- and I mean that in a good way. I have tried going to the gym but, it didn’t seem to do too much for me, plus I had an instructor that took me around to all these different execersize machines, and I am pretty sure he was wanting to wear me out, I think he got a kick out of it, seeing me suffer?! I was soo sore, I thought there has to be something easier and just as good as gym exercising. I joined pilates group and it is great, and good for stress and building muscles. There are a couple of women that have been doing this for awhile and they always wore the coolest gear, I love camo camo workout gear and one lady had on an outfit that was awesome! Anyways I think Pilates is great, it has helped me out alot, and no trainer trying to push me to the limit!!

  213. Hi there!
    Love this blog!

    I’m a fat girl who fences too! I’m 22 and I’ve been doing it since school. I LOVE it. All my non-fencing friends think I’m a nutball, I’m always covered in bruises and do get the occasional small cut (Epee can be brutal, pull up your socks, kids)

    I love my coach, who is also a good friend. The environment at my club is really great. Sometimes I get teased coz I’m lazy and don’t move much, but its usually because my defences are so good that they want me moving to hit me. One boy teased me about being fat – I then teased him back for being skinny and didn’t make a fuss of it – its never become an issue. I sometimes help coach the kids and they respect me regardless of my size, which I think is good for them and for me.

    I have to admit some people don’t take me seriously at competitions – my defences are awesome, but my attacks are slow, making it hard to score points, and I’m a sitting duck for good fencers. Sometimes I don’t get picked for teams because I’m not as well rounded as the other fencers, need to get more mobile and aggressive!

    The last competition I was at, it was open (no junior or senior events) and the oldest competitor was in her 50s, the youngest probably in the teens, there were tubby people, bulky people, wiry people, smart people, weird people, olympians, binge drinkers, and the chess club. Fencing truly caters for all sorts, if you’re willing to use your mind! The most important aspect of the club is most likely the head coach though. If he/she likes you and respects you, most of the others will follow.

    Plus, poking people with sticks is fun!

  214. Is the elliptical the same thing as the cross-trainer?

    If so I used to hate it as I felt like I was overextending and twisting (didn’t help my back) all the time but my trainer encouraged me to just drop my arms to my sides and use my core muscles to stay upright while using it. I now really like it.

    I’m also a pilates fan. It’s been great for keeping sciatica at bay.

  215. Ok, this is another old post, but I’m going to give another shout-out to tai chi. It looks all soft and easy, but doing those poses in a controlled slow fashion can be hard work, and the lower your stance, the harder it is. Also, keeping your arms up in the air for an hour gives them a workout as well.

    Also, it is a martial art, and it tickles me when you’ve executed a slow graceful move, that turns out, when sped up, is intended to be you grabbing someone by the hair, pulling them across your body, and kneeing them in the chin. Obviously I’m easily amused.

    Also, the constant movement aspect of it appeals to me, rather than the more static (depending on style) yoga poses. And you truly find all shapes, sizes and ages in a tai chi class.

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