I identify as a certified gym rat, and I think I’m a little more obsessed than passionate. I have been a regular at my local gym for the past year and I started seriously strength training 3 months ago. It started out as a casual hobby that took up about 45 mins twice a week, or whenever I felt like it. Nowadays, even with a pretty busy schedule, I go 3 days/week for 90+ mins without fail and often lose time in the gym. It’s like an adult playground, and the whole world of fitness intrigues me. Now, I seek out high sources of protein for better muscle growth and my favorite shopping addiction is cute gym attire.
I am the type of person to start 10 different hobbies and lose them over time. For some time, I was a knitter, I garden seasonally, and I love art but am ashamed of how long it has been since I opened my sketchbook. It took some deep self-reflection to realize why I took to this hobby so naturally. It wasn’t a new stimulus, just me rekindling an interest I wasn’t very aware of.
These pictures are of me and my HS Women’s Sabre(fencing) team posing after winning individual and team championships in my senior year. I went away to boarding school for high school and, if you ask anyone else who has, we would agree that those schools try hard to keep teens busy. There is always something going on, – after school, during lunch periods, on the weekends, during breaks – always! My school, in particular, required all students to pick up an after-school activity and play at least 3 seasons of sports. So high school Jamilah, excited to be in this new environment, did 3 seasons of sports – fencing, volleyball, and tennis- and joined a dance company for all 4 years. At the time, these activities were things just fun to do after school or ways to spend more time with my friends. Now as an adult, I have realized how much those activities impacted my physical, emotional, and mental health.
My first try at college was a very stressful experience. The classes were extremely difficult, the social atmosphere was almost non-existent, and the school culture was pretty toxic. In addition to these things, I often overloaded my class schedule, participated in work-study, and organized multiple clubs while tackling personal issues of anxiety and trauma. Needless to say, I had very little time or motivation, to participate in sports or regular exercise. Although, in retrospect, my weeks always felt better after I took a random Yoga class or walked through the Arboretum. And my favorite mental escape was to bike wherever my legs took me. The bikeability of small-town Ohio is probably the only thing I miss about the Midwest.
In 2020, I decided to come back home. However, for obvious reasons, there were very few opportunities to get out and do anything. I found that taking long walks, volunteering to do grocery runs on foot and gardening helped me clear my head and recenter myself. At this point, it should’ve been obvious to me that fitness and movement make me happy, but the fitness industry never catered to people that look like me so I assumed I didn’t belong.
Over time, I built up the confidence to put myself out there, but there was a beautiful community that helped me along the way. A close friend of mine decided to start an amazing community around body inclusivity called the Unplug Collective. Through this site and related social media, I heard stories from other people who felt like I did and made me feel less alone in the overwhelming world of slim-bodied expectations. I started going to the gym on occasion to get familiar with the equipment, do what felt good, and get comfortable in the space.
Now I am a regular at my local Blink Fitness and have been going more regularly for over a year now. It has been the best habit I have picked up in life. I don’t feel right when I skip my gym days. It gives me a huge boost of serotonin every time and has become my emotional outlet.
In the past 3 months, I have started a weight training journey that has further boosted my passion for exercise. I do lots of research to be sure I don’t hurt myself and am getting the most out of the work I put in. I work alongside a trainer at my local gym (by the way, if you have a Blink membership you have a free personal training session you can redeem anytime!). He has given me some great guidance and helped me reach my goals. TikTok has also been a great resource for fitness tips and community. It is imperative, however, that you choose the right people since the fitness world can be toxic and fat-phobic. Here are some of my faves:
- Cranon , an inspirational, black woman weightlifter
- Nataleebfitness , black woman helping gym newbies feel comfortable
- JPGCoaching , gives great gym tips, dispelling fitness trends
- FormerFatGuyFitness, gives great recommendations for high protein meals
- Callherkarenbby , rare, but necessary, thick girl gym-speration!
If you ever need someone to talk to about fitness or the gym, I am happy to make virtual gym buddies. I currently have a 275lb deadlift and 180lb squat (and climbing), so I think I have a bit of credibility on progress over time. Just remember, there are 100s of reasons why someone wants to get into the gym or fitness in general. Weight loss is not everyone’s goalpost and definitely not mine.