This is a guest post by Sam Barnes, a transgender fitness trainer and online coach.
I know from personal experience that the gym can feel like a minefield for trans and non-binary people. The changing rooms and clothing are only a couple of the struggles you can face when wanting to begin working out. Here are my top tips on making yourself feel more comfortable in the gym.
1. Get Changed At Home
The biggest reason I hear for trans and non-binary people not wanting to go to the gym is because of the changing rooms. It can be difficult for all of us, particularly if you are pre any kind of hormones or surgery. My best piece of advice is to simply change at home. It’s very rare that I need to get changed in the gym as I always go straight from home in the morning. Once I’m done I go home for a shower and change there.
However, I know this isn’t possible for everybody. For example I know some people can only get to the gym straight after work, so my advice is to choose the changing room you feel most comfortable using and use a toilet cubicle instead of getting changed in front of everyone. Then you can put your stuff in a locker, workout and then go home to shower.
I’ve found a comment I get quite regularly on my workout videos is “can I workout in a binder?” and it’s not really something I would recommend.
When you work out, whether that’s running or lifting weights, your body requires more oxygen than normal. If you have a binder pushing down on your ribs, you’re limiting the amount of oxygen that can get in to your vital organs. This could result in some serious damage. Even with the amazing binders that are on the market nowadays, I’d still use them to workout in with caution.
Before I had top surgery I would workout in a sports bra, t-shirt and put a sleeveless hoodie over the top. Was it great at making my chest look flat? Not really, but it’s definitely your safest option. Save your binder for outside of the gym.
3. Take A Friend
The first time I went to the gym I was 14 and absolutely petrified. None of my friends were interested in working out at the time so I took my dad with me. It can feel quite intimidating at first so having someone there with you to help you out and keep you focused on having a good time is definitely something to consider. It’s even better if you go with someone who knows what they’re doing in the gym, as they can help you out and maybe even set you up with a workout plan.
4. Go Steady At First
I guarantee you’ve thought about going to the gym before but not wanted to because you aren’t sure what to do when you get there. You’ll probably feel like everybody at the gym has it all worked out and you don’t, so keep it simple! Hop on a treadmill for a few minutes or just do a couple of bodyweight exercises. Don’t feel like you need to be in there for an hour on your first day. Keep it nice and simple, watch plenty of online exercise form guides and throw a few more exercises into your workouts each time.
5. Workout However You Want To
If you Google anything exercise related, you’ll undoubtedly find a million results on people trying to tell you what the best rep scheme, training type or workout length is. Want to know what the best type of training is in my opinion? One that you’ll stick to.
It’s all very well planning a 6 day bodybuilding split, but if you can only get to the gym 3 days a week and would rather train circuits, it will never work.
Yes, there are always going to be optimal training styles, reps and lengths but ultimately you should train however you want to. This is going to increase your likelihood of committing to the plan, enjoying yourself and feeling more at home within a gym environment. Don’t let anybody tell you your training style is wrong if you’re staying safe and having a good time!
Those are my top tips on making yourself comfortable at the gym. All it takes is that first push to get yourself in there and I guarantee you’ll feel more at home every time you go.