Putting the fun into functional fitness
November 24, 2017 2:02 AM   Subscribe

What strength-building exercise/class can I do that I will not hate, and given my poor coordination and weakness?

I've posted (extensively!) about adopting a fitness regimen on AskMe previously, but the tl;dr version is that I'm fat and have never really been active until about 2 years ago. Right now I work out regularly and try to mix things up a little. I am looking for a class or exercise to add to my current regime which will address the strength-building side of things.

I've got flexibility and cardio down. I do hatha yoga and use the cardio machines at the gym. The reason I stick to these things is that I don't hate them: they're not that difficult or competitive, you can go at your own pace, and with both, there's a bit of meditation involved - the mental/spiritual component of yoga, and the way you can go into a meditative state when using say the treadmill or the elliptical machine, are what keep me going back. I also like the people I meet at yoga, they're in general a friendly and accepting crowd. I am a very 'beta' person and the reason I've stayed away from physical activity so long is that I shy away from areas with a competitive space. I was always the kid who got picked last for any team and that sense of being worse than everyone else really stuck with me.

But as it is I feel that my current regime is really lacking a strength-building component. So what chilled-out, fun, slightly meditative activity or class would I enjoy? That really is key, as it's the only way I will keep doing it.

About me: 30s, overweight, flexible, poorly co-ordinated, clumsy, hypermobility in knees and back. I can devote 3 evenings a week to exercise. I have access to a gym. I would rather not exercise at home. I don't have any major fitness goals - I'd just like to balance out my fitness regime a little.

Thanks Mefi for all your advice in this area to me over the years, it's been invaluable!
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I shy away from areas with a competitive space

Ugh, that should be competitive vibe. Sorry!
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:06 AM on November 24, 2017

I found getting a personal trainer (even for just 5 sessions) to be really helpful. They got me comfortable using the weight machines and using different parts of the gym.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:15 AM on November 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

These guys are pretty chill and funny.


I am, I guess, a weight lifting enthusiast. If lifting in a gym is out due to the competitive/toxic atmosphere and home gym isn't what you're looking for, you may find something inbetween with coaching to go along with it there. Tbey also have a fun IG accoumt.
posted by greenskpr at 4:42 AM on November 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rock climbing?
posted by bilabial at 5:05 AM on November 24, 2017

Have you tried vinyasa yoga?
posted by woodvine at 5:16 AM on November 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I find medicine balls fun. You can use them to work on a zillion different things, including core strength, arm/leg muscles, etc. I have a fancy kind that bounces, that make it extra fun in my book. I’ve seen them at gyms but I don’t know how common they are.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:27 AM on November 24, 2017

I personally like Body For Life’s exercise regimen. A typical week has upper body on Monday, lower body on Wednesday, upper body again on Friday, with cardio activities on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and one day of rest. Then, you’d do lower body on Monday, upper on Wednesday, lower on Friday, etc. so that you’re basically doing each muscle group twice every 8 days.

The workouts are comparatively short (45 minutes or so for weights) and comprehensive. And since it focuses on intensity rather than arbitrary weight totals (e.g. “It should feel like this” vs. “Lift 10lbs this week and 20lbs next week”) the program continues to be useful even if you’re experienced.

I second getting a trainer to familiarize you with form and how to use equipment and stuff. As for whether it’s fun or meditative, well, I always get in “the zone” as I go from one exercise to the next, but I can’t predict whether you’ll think it’s fun or not. It’s a useful and effective program.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:35 AM on November 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Marathon runner, here.

Vinyasa yoga for functional strength. Seriously, amazing stretching with core and strength building.
posted by floweredfish at 7:35 AM on November 24, 2017

I’ve always had trouble motivating myself to exercise regularly and properly, and I agree with raccoon409 that hiring a personal trainer even for just a short period of time helps a lot. You’ll understand what a “real” workout feels like, and you will have someone to be accountable to. Longer term (since trainers are expensive!), have you considered something like CrossFit? I have worked out at three different CrossFit gyms and I’ve really enjoyed the variety of the exercises, and in my experience the competitive aspect has been competition with yourself more than with others. In my experience they’ve been very supportive and encouraging environments, and the other people working out have been widely diverse in age, gender, weight, and ability. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think CrossFit’s reputation as a bunch of hyper-competitive paleo-eating fanatics is not accurate. Good luck!
posted by tybstar at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2017

Does your gym have other classes you can try? I've found that around here at least (granted, I live in an area with a lot of retired people) the strength-building classes at my gym tend to be filled with a lot of older people who are using fairly light weights, and the instructors tend to be really supportive and encouraging of everyone. I figure the serious weightlifters are doing their own thing on the gym floor, and people with less experience and more trepidation are attending the classes, in a lot of cases. Since you like group exercise and have a gym membership, that might be a good place to try some stuff out.
posted by lazuli at 8:35 AM on November 24, 2017

I’m just wrapping up P90x2 and really feel good: lots of core exercises, push-ups, pull-ups, a little weightlifting (dumbbells). I skip yoga day, so it’s four workouts a week, each about an hour with the warm up and cool down. You can probably find the dvds on Craigslist (probably the minimal equipment too: a couple of medicine balls, dumbbells or bands, a pull-up bar).
posted by notyou at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2017

Powerlifting is so meditative.
Slow, deep in your head and body to make each lift perfect.
You will compete only with yourself unless you want to do contests.

Here’s a great program: Unapologetically Powerful
posted by littlewater at 1:33 PM on November 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have to disagree with the recs for P90x and Body for Life. To each their own, but in my opinion (1) Body for Life is pretty boring and (2) there is definitely nothing fun about P90x. I did P90x when I was 10 years younger and even then it was really unfun (with the exception of the yoga day) and left me so sore there were times I could literally barely stand.

I’d recommend barre. I go to the Bar Method and I really love it. It has been great for me when it comes to building strength, the instructors are great about giving corrections, the environment at my studio is positive, and you can go as deeply into the exercises as you want. It’s also a plus that you’re already flexible!
posted by sevensnowflakes at 5:33 PM on November 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kettlebells classes do it for me. It’s usually some kind of circuit and I find the “just follow the instructions the class leader gives you for 45 minutes” thing makes it pleasantly mindless and meditative. The classes I go to have all sorts of people in, and in fact the larger people are often the stronger ones, so there’s not too much conventional body shape pressure. I’m usually lifting by far the lightest weights of anyone but nobody cares. It seems to require less physical literacy to get started than barbell/powerlifting (which I’ve given up twice because I’m so bad at squatting, even without weights on the bar, which makes it hard to progress).
posted by penguin pie at 9:54 AM on November 25, 2017

I find powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting extremely meditative in a way that long, slow cardio and sitting meditation never were. When my hands close on the barbell, my mind empties of everything else except my coach's cue.

In both of those sports, you don't generally compete with anyone else besides yourself until you get to an actual meet that you have to sign up for, and even then, it's broken down by weight class and age, so you still might only be competing against yourself. It's perfectly fine to never sign up for a meet and just lift for yourself.

There is absolutely no shame in starting with lifting a PVC pipe or a technique barbell at first, and no lifter's ever going to put you down for lifting less than they do. Other lifters are generally encouraging and helpful, and a fairly accepting crowd — hard work and effort is what matters, not the weight on the bar. You don't have to be extremely coordinated for powerlifting, and the flexibility you have from doing yoga will be an asset.

Also, since you described yourself as fat — both powerlifting and weightlifting are very accepting of larger people. I'm in the superheavyweight weight class, and no one has ever been even remotely rude in the gyms or at any meets.

CrossFit can also be good, but you might need to do a little more shopping around to find a box that's got the right fit — not all CrossFit coaches are good at coming up with workouts that can be scaled in a meaningful way for someone who's substantially heavier than the rest of the class, leaving you the odd person out, which is no fun. There can also be a bit of a condescending vibe if you're overweight, and the coaches can place a heavy emphasis on weight loss. (Which might be something you want, but you didn't specifically mention that.) The timed WODs (workout of the day) might be a little too competitive-feeling for you. On the other hand, some CrossFit boxes are very laid-back and accepting, too. Each one's got a slightly different feel, so it's worth visiting a few and observing before you commit.
posted by culfinglin at 1:41 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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