As someone who has fairly recently been the New Fat Girl at the gym, I've definitely got some ideas about things I wish had been different. Let me preface this by saying that, prior to joining my current gym, I had no real fitness experience. Outside of PE when I was in school, occasional jags of walking-as-exercise and who can forget the "Abs of Steel" videos, I started from absolute scratch. I had no idea how to do anything outside of work a treadmill. I've still got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I'm light years from where I started.
Here's my list of what helped, and what could have:
1. Classes - Basic, beginner, "welcome to your gym, here's how to use it" classes. Anything and everything from how to work the equipment, how to build your own routine, how often to do what, basic gym etiquette,
how to choke out a door slammer without being noticed etc. You know, all that stupid shit that Gym Rats don't think about because they already know, but a newbie is going to feel intimidated by.
2. Workout Nutrition - Look, fat people know how to eat right. Honestly. It's a rare fatty who hasn't scoured article after article, book after book in search of that elusive "magic bullet" that's going to fix their scale. I don't need someone to talk with me about basic nutrition. However, as a Fitness Newbie, having someone I could talk to about fitness related fueling would have been super. When you're trying to lose weight and gain fitness, there's a fine line between refueling your body and eating back all the calories you've just burned. Having someone to talk to that is knowledgeable in all the various points of workout fueling (i.e. and won't just push whatever the gym's selling that day) would have been awesome.
3. Group fitness classes - I am a big fan of these. My gym offers yoga, spin & X-Bike, group interval training (think the Curves model), group strength training, aqua aerobics, step, zumba, pilates, boot camp, kickboxing, on and on! People who are fit may not have a use for many of these classes because they're already doing their own things, but those of us just getting started can get a great workout in and learn a lot about what we can do, how to do it and what we enjoy from classes like these. And I know quite a few Gym Rats who use these classes for cross training and to otherwise round out their routines.
4. Personal Trainers - I believe that sessions with qualified personal trainers should come standard with any new gym membership. Until I did the Body Fit Challenge at my gym last year, I had no idea how far I was from pushing my limits. I did more & went harder for our personal trainer than I ever would have for myself, and it really opened my eyes to what I was capable of and what I needed. I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs to be shown this when they start out.
5. Mentors - I'm not sure how this would work in the Real World, but we all know that, most of the time, there's a benefit to having a Gym Buddy. Especially if a newbie was paired up with someone more experienced, that might help that new person to feel more comfortable at the gym, as well as give them the motivation to come back regularly.
6. Ban infomercials & commercials about gimmicky weight loss & fitness products. I got stuck watching some commercials for these things recently, and, really, that shit's pretty convincing. Until you think about the body mechanics of what they're trying to sell and realize that it's not really going to work out the way they say it is. And I love it when they try to sell spot reduction devices, like for your abs or your arm waddle. You're right, it doesn't matter how many crunches you do, your abs will still be under that pudge until you learn to eat right. That slidy thing is not going to fix that for you.
7. Totally unrelated related rant: I believe the whole Paleo diet thing was created by Whole Foods to sell more of their expensive crap. Also? If you're doing Paleo and drinking coffee or looking for a Paleo-friendly pie recipe... I'm pretty sure you're doing it wrong.
I'm still no expert at the gym or about working out. I try to remember to stay outside of my comfort zone and I try to work out consistently. I make myself a training plan because I do have goals that I want to work towards. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I feel a lot more confident than I did when I started. I think starting a fitness program is intimidating for a lot of the people who need it most. Can we change that? I don't know. A lot of that fear is in the individual's head and we can't fix that. But maybe we can make getting started a little less scary and lonely.