Raise your hand if you've ever been where Alissa was. (Alissa: that breeze that you just felt was the collective raising of many hands.) We have all let insecurity dictate our lives in one way or another (not just people looking to lose weight/gain health, but literally ALL people deal with insecurity in one form or another). What I have learned, and what I will say time and time again, is to turn into it and confront it head on. Until you do this, you are a hostage of the insecurities.
So one of my favorite classes at LA Boxing Georgetown are the Technical Boxing/Sparring classes taught by Randolph (who is as patient as he is knowledgeable). They exemplify the second point I want to make about the insecurity regarding going to a gym: the more you go to the gym and connect with the people around you, the more you will feel like you belong in the gym and among active people.
To make that point, I asked a few of my classmates from the technical class as well as a few of the staff members at the gym a few questions, including Alissa's concern "How would you feel if a 300lb woman came into LA Boxing?"
Paul (a very fit gentleman who has let me spar with him on two occasions) has been boxing for the past 4 months. He did some martial arts in college, but boxing is fairly new to him. Paul is taking boxing not just for the cardio, but for the "explosive strength" aspect that he found he couldn't get from weightlifting alone. He noted that other members of the gym are a unique mix of all different body types and ages. If he were to see an obese person at the gym, he would think "good on them for trying to make that effort to improve themselves" and that the "consistent effort to improve is inspirational." His advice is to take it easy in the beginning (in boxing, in working out in general) and gain endurance/stamina. "If you are in the mindset of going out swinging hard, you will be disappointed, you will get frustrated and give up. Go in humble and eager to learn, not trying to prove a point, and you will stick with [it] longer."
Jessica (another classmate who is in her mid-20s) originally started boxing with her dad, even though he didn't think she would stick with it. A little over a year later, she is still at it. She said that she is still boxing because she was never good at any physical activity before and she is good at this (also "it's nice after a stressful day to be able to beat the crap out of something or someone.") Jessica made the same comment about the makeup of the gym -- members are all shapes and sizes -- and noted that many of the members were women. She said "everyone is really helpful; no one judges you." The only thing she'd think if an obese person came into the gym is "Good for them. How's their right hook?"
While talking to Jessica, MMA/Kickboxing trainer Ed chimed in with what he'd think about the obese person walking in the door-- "About fucking time! You made a commitment. You came in. The first step is the hardest: get inside the fucking gym." Once there, he advises people to ask a lot of questions, "[i]f you're new get the attention of the instructors, so they know to make sure to watch your form so you don't hurt yourself." This is true in a boxing gym as well as a regular gym. "The scariest part is getting in here. Once you do don't quit because it's hard. It gets easier." He should know, he's been doing martial arts for just almost as long as I have been alive.
Last up to endure my battery of questions was Felix, the Regional Director at LA Boxing covering the DC area (he has been with LA Boxing for 3 years, has worked at many gyms in the past). I was hoping he could tell me bit more about the membership in general, beyond the diversity that Paul and Jessica had mentioned. I asked Felix a variation of the question I had asked the others: "How would you convince an obese person to join?" He said that telling people they can burn 1,000 calories an hour usually does the trick and that if an obese person wanted to join that he or she would "be received just like anyone else that joins -- as a person that wants to be a part of something." What is that "something"? He said that many women are not interested in the perceived violence of boxing (he hopes to offer budokon at some point), but that the gym is a workout-based facility with a strong group mentality, "people motivate and push each other. . . it helps prevent people from giving up." It's not just the instructors who are willing to help; Felix says the long-standing members just as willing to help a new member feel comfortable in the gym.
So I guess all that's left to say to the people sitting on the sidelines, afraid to set foot in the gym:
What will it take for you to join in the fun?
LA Boxing Post 1: The Risks and Rewards of Change
LA Boxing Post 2: Showing Up
LA Boxing Post 3: Finding Your Fight
LA Boxing Post 4: Belonging
LA Boxing Post 5: Fight or Flight
LA Boxing Post 6: Finding your Fight: The Class -- Reporting In