Are you BIG at the gym?


I am.  Yes, I can modestly announce that I am the most popular person there.

At 930 on Monday and Friday mornings an almost palpable sigh of relief fills the Body Pump studio as I come through the door.  Here, I have reached almost celebrity status and, yes; I am THE ONE that most of you eagerly await to arrive in your exercise classes.

If you haven’t already guessed I win the Biggest In Gym award.

However, in common with all celebrities, I do reap certain benefits.  For example, I am exempt from the usual tutting aimed at latecomers by regular attendees and therefore can swan in late.  Indeed there is an air of approval as I put out my step and select weights for the class, and if there are no weights left, there are numerous offers from others sacrificing their closely guarded stash.  And so, I bravely face the studio class crowd despite worrying that one day they will forget that they are not at a football match and shout “who ate all the pies” as I walk past.

Meanwhile while the instructor motors through the usual blanket “any injuries?” or the curiously unqualified “anything I should know about?” questions.  These are universally ignored other than by some over excited newly pregnant participant.  I secretly hope that someone will respond loudly with “yes, my neighbour is sleeping with your partner“.

The instructor is, of course, much less enthusiastic about my regular attendance.  She views me as a poor advertisement for her trade.  I could at least have had the decency to lose a significant amount of weight within a few weeks to back her insistence that “the calories keep burning long after the class is finished”.

Last week she asked if anyone was going on holiday in winter half term  – a ripple of horror went round as I tentatively raised an arm.  None more so than from SBIG (Second Biggest In Gym) and TBIG (Third Biggest In Gym) both promptly making “notes to self “ not to attend next week’s class.

“I take it you don’t ski” she correctly asserted, clearly disdainful of any non activity related holiday. 

Today, on return from my week of poolside inactivity and over indulgence in local wines, I felt a confident, tanned returning celebrity.

However, there has been an unsettling occurrence.  I am tutted at as I arrive in my usual last minute rush. I spot the  problem immediately.  A defo size 18 has infiltrated the class. 

Eyes swivel away from me as I am dropped like a hot potato to SBIG.  No spare weights are proffered and I have to squeeze my step into the awkward spot between the exercise bikes and punch bag.  The new BIG could well be the vilest woman on the planet but she is firmly on her way to topping the popularity ratings .

Akin to Little Britain’s “only gay in the village” character I realise that I am not ready to relinquish my BIG status.

The thing is, its not that I am huge or even approaching that.   I am a flexible size 14 – 16 who can pass muster when carefully dressed.  But of course exercise gear is not exactly forgiving or flattering - and the plain fact is that you simply cannot look acceptable in lycra unless you are slim.  Indeed the majority of the class is confident in their kit, without flinching or breathing in, and wear sporty vests over enviable neon coloured crop tops.

Meanwhile ex Olympian Sally Gunnell cheerfully advises me to constrain my chest by endorsing the alarmingly named shock absorber sports bra. 

Maybe the shock part comes from someone over size 12 daring to stray out of aqua aerobics.  The pool is clearly the place where most gyms hastily usher the larger, or older, members.  There is also a mild presumption that those attending aqua classes may “have issues” and therefore must be pitied (I am guilty of such thoughts myself when I see the class bobbing up and down waving mysterious light blue webbed gloves to the watery sounds of Enya).

After the class I quietly stalk the usurper to the changing rooms.  I gain her confidence with a pleasant exchange over why, when a euro is always the only coin lurking in your purse, it won’t work in the locker. Then, swiftly taking advantage of the fact that I am also the only other woman not in dental floss underwear, I thoroughly recommend the aqua class……

Sally Forth