Black folks and the gym (or lack thereof)

Exercise, along with eating healthy food are two fundamental practices that lead to healthy lifestyles. I am willing to bet that on a whole that Black folk could be doing a lot more to improve our diet. Of course, part of this is problem is due to not having access to grocery stores like Whole Foods but this post is about the lack of people I see at the gym. Ladies first…

If I had a dime for every time I saw a Black woman at the gym, I wouldn’t have enough money to get a meal from the Mc Donald’s Dollar Menu. Of course, just because I haven’t observed something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist but let’s keep it real, Black women on the whole just don’t like the gym. But there has to be something deeper than Black women wanting to maintain their hair because I know Black women who have perms and still keep a regular workout schedule. I often hear that Black women don’t like men looking at them and would prefer to workout by themselves. But this can be by-passed by going to gyms that have gender-specific days so that you don’t have to worry about impressing members of the opposite sex.

And while I applaud Black women who prefer to workout using exercise DVDs, it is too easy to cheat yourself by just turning off the tape. More importantly, many gyms have equipment that focus on specific areas of the body.

In essence, I am very worried that because Black women don’t feel comfortable going to the gym, their health will invariably suffer as a result. So how can we get more Black women (and women of color) excited about exercising and joining the gym?

Don’t worry fellas, you are not off the hook because even though we will take time to play basketball and occasionally lift weights, we eat like crap. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen guys work out and then pig out on pizza or fast-food. Then these same guys wonder why they can bench press 275lb but have a beer belly. And how can you smoke and try to force yourself to play eight games of basketball? Nevertheless, the main reason men workout is to try to impress women but we have to get to a point where our inspiration for exercising is not solely dependent on women.

It’s all about balance and exercising is an important aspect for gaining a certain measure of inner-peace. But I’d like to know what inspired you to maintain a healthy lifestyle and how have you tried to inspire others?

Stay up fam,

Brandon

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16 responses to “Black folks and the gym (or lack thereof)”

  1. Brother Smartness says :

    When I think about the amount of time we spend trying to mold our bodies to impress the opposite sex, I wonder how much time we are taking away from ourselves. We step out of the gym with biceps and pecs on swoll and yet inside we have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It’s all very superficial but the price we pay is remarkable. Now I’m not advocating for abstinence from the gym. I’m simply agreeing that when our motivation is to impress and get accepted, we lose a bit of ourselves with those pounds.

    I try to eat right and make sure my heart rate is on point. I can see myself having a belly in a few years (which is not always indicative of bad health), but again my heart will be on point and I’ll be able to run around with my kids when the opportunity presents itself.

    I’m glad you wrote something on this because health is a big problem in the black community.

    Keep doing your thing fam!

    Brother Smartness

  2. Natasha says :

    I certainly agree with what you are attempting to provoke with this topic…but I am one of those black women you described…I prefer to work out at home. Turning off that video is not an option. After all, I am doing this for me, and I’m worth it.

    Sure, in retrospect, it is easy to turn off that video, but it is just as easy to decide not to go the gym. Either way, motivation and self-control is the key. Realizing that working out is not just another thing to add to your to do list, but that it is your ‘me time’…and more so, it is as much a necessity as brushing your teeth and ironing your clothes.

  3. Free says :

    I belonged to a female gym. I hated 2 things about it :not enough women who looked like they needed more excersise (in other words: a lot of pretty chicks showing off their latest workout gear – in an all-female gym!), and too pricey. I used the treadmills and a few other pieces of equipment. I finally went out and bought a treadmill for my house. Cheaper & covers what I need. Now, the things we eat… still working that!

  4. ms mimi the mocha soulchild says :

    ms mimi says….

    As someone who was a former bulimic, anorexic and has struggled with weight issues, but works out regularly I have a few things to say about this.

    I think that the anti-obesity folks have got it all wrong. This is not just about “lifestyle” changes. This is about changing our lives, our hearts and the way we live and relate to each other. It is about changing our culture and the way we view women.

    Firstly, that it isn’t only Black women who have a problem with the gym. You know what would really make me more comfortable at the gym? If guys would stop looking at my booty! I recently was working out and some dude, who must have a fascination with big breasts stopped in front of my machine and stared at me. He actually seemed shocked when I corrected him. The gym is a not a meat market folks!

    I think in our culture that we have to stop thinking about exercise as something that needs to be programmed to death. We are naturally an athletic people. You gotta move. I could care less how we do it, but we have to make time for it. I work 14-16 hours a day, and last night i went to the gym at 1:00 am. I don’t suggest that for everyone, but we have to commit to some kind of movement in our lives.

    While I enjoy membership in the gym, I know that many black people enjoy dancing, and other activities. The key to making the workout work for you is being consistent, and let’s face it. We won’t be consistent doing something we don’t like. That’s how you get excited.

    I’ve only met a few people who like exercise…I mean really like it in my life. Most people tolerate it. The best folks find something that is a workout but feels like fun.

    The way we change how Black women relate to exercise quite frankly, cannot come from men, because it is tied all up with other issues. The change must come from women.

    As Black women we are responsible for everyone, and that leaves very little time for us. Brothas need to understand that. I’ve seen some “helpful” brothers try to encourage their girl to get fit by making her feel it would make her more valuable to him and it really isn’t encouragement it is control. It cannot be something you want for her, it has to be you supporting her in her own efforts and goals.

    We also must consider cost and safety. Many women of color cannot afford a gym membership or the babysitter when they need to go. If you are the man in the life of a woman who is trying to make a health change, perhaps offering to baby-sit so she can get a little “me” time would be in order.

    The other thing is that we need to learn new ways of cooking our foods that are healthier. I’m now a vegetarian, but I find if I deprive myself I don’t do as well. If we eat healthy 80% of the time and then allow ourselves to enjoy richer foods 20% of the time, we’d be a lot better off than trying to be perfect.

    A heavier woman could work out regularly and eat a relatively good diet, but immediately assumptions are made about her level of commitment to her health just based on appearance.

    Finally, I think that a lot of us eat foods with a low nutritional value on the go because our lifestyles are so hectic. We also eat because of issue we have with our feelings. Poor physical health is often an indicator that something in our lives is unbalanced. But it is often treated like there is a personal deficiency in that individual.

    Society expresses the desire to control women and make us be what it wants us to be by the emphasis placed on weight. Look at the language used in diet commercials. Get it under control. Control your weight. Manage your self. The slick ads try to make it appear as if it is a matter of self control, but it is really a matter of conformity control. At some point after your best attempts to be physically and spiritually healthy, you have to accept that you may never have Halle or 50 cent’s body, but you can love your body and others can to.

  5. Sixftladyj says :

    I guess i’m one of the few minorities that do work out at a gym at least 5 days per week. I also lift weights and do light bench pressing. I love doing this and have been for years and don’t see myself stopping. Slowing down some yes, but stopping NO. I can also understand a woman’s plight about the hair. But my health is much more important then my “doo”. It’s a matter of what your goals are concerning your health and how much your willing to invest in this. With someone that can understand working out, it is a lifetime committment.

    Very good post and thank you for allowing me to express how i feel on this subject..

  6. ms mimi the mocha soulchild says :

    BTW: I’ve seen quite a few guys with eating disorders, bad body image, and gym issues, as well as white women. It is an equal opportunity issue box!

  7. Ywegetup says :

    We as Black folks have to make working out a part of our daily routines. We must learn the law of cause and effect. Meaning, if I eat this food this effect will occur. If we don’t learn to love ourselves even at a young age when our bodies are tight and fit, time and gravity will pull down the biggest behinds and chest. Study White people they don’t make excuses rain or shine they will get their workout on. We drive nice cars and wouldn’t dare put a low grade gasoline in it. We have nice cars and take better care of it than our own bodies. >THINK<

  8. Brandon Q. says :

    First off, thank you all for posting your comments, they are much appreciated. I will try to hit a couple points from what others have said.

    Natasha-Working out at home is fine and if it works for you I am exceedingly happy. But my post was more so targeted towards those who don’t have that motivation and would read comments like yours for inspiration.

    Free-Do you work out the same now as you did when you had a gym membership?

    Ms Mimi-Girl, you are going to make me write another blog you wrote so many good points.

    I disagree with your conception of anti-obesity because if you are implying that anti-obese people look down on overweight people, then I think you are seriously mistaken. But when obesity reaches the point where you cut short your years and bring about serious health problems, then yes I am anti-obesity.

    The guys at the gym is a serious problem and I would suggest joining an all-female gym (talk to Free) or a gym that has gender specific days.

    And yes Black people dance and dancing is good exercise. But where do Black folk dance the most? The club. And what else is at the club? Drinking and second hand smoke and/or weed. So the dancing thing only goes so far with me.

    And for the boyfriends that encourage their girlfriends to workout is a good point that I will investigate that in a future post.

    And yes, cost and safety are two major issues Black women have to deal with. However, if you think about what you could cut back to afford an extra 20-30 a month, it really won’t break the bank. I know not everyone can afford that but there are also some community colleges that you can use without having to pay anything EVER!!
    Safety is a big deal and that is why I suggest women trying to workout in the early evening or having a male workout partner who you know has your back.

    Sixftladyj – How do you wear your hair and how do you keep it up while working out 5 days a week?

    And the common theme I have heard from everyone is that it starts within so this post was not an attack on the sisters or the brothers but we need to step our game up when it comes to our health. Exercising and eating right go hand in hand. Let me know what kinds of workouts you are doing? I would like for working out to become as much a part of our daily discussions as much as the new song on the radio and I thank you all for helping that process.

    Thanks again,

    Stay up fam,

    Brandon

  9. ms mimi the mocha soulchild says :

    Thanks Brandon:

    It is all love. I thought your post was great, and thought provoking. I get very passionate about this issue.

    I don have a different perspective, because I am looking at the issue from a wholistic health POV, but I am not for bad health habits. I am a gym nut myself. I just think we should think about the why’s as well as the shoulds. Because in the end you tell folks what the should be doing all we want but people normally don’t repond to shame without dealing with the why.

    That is not an excuse, but it is a reason. After you confront the issues, bottom line 75% of health is a choice.

    Keep droppin hot ones…

  10. Brother OMi says :

    we gotta freak the system

    1.the YMCA has a program call the Welcome program where they allow families to sign up for a price THEY PICK . our family of four (about to be five) pay $15 a month to use their facilities.

    2. many cities have community centers that charge MUCH cheaper rates. (if you live in NOrfolk, VA, holla at a scholar)

    3. we buy our food from asian markets (not the ones in the hood but the ones in chinatowns, etc. or where asians congregate). we save loads of $$$$.

    4. it is not easy to get off pork and red meat, but we gotta do it.

    5. join groups like mocha moms where folks get together and promote health. Every other sunday , we put together veggie pot lucks called Unity Feast where we just get together and eat healthy foods, listen to music and bring our babies.

    there are so many things we can do. but i think the best advice we can give is to surround yourself with folks who want to be healthy.

  11. Brother OMi says :

    two more words:
    Martial Arts !

  12. April M. says :

    I used to be on the drill team when I was younger and that was the beginning of me wanting to be in shape. I was naturally muscular when I was a teenager, but lost it at 21 when I became pregnant with my beautiful daughter. I weighed 115 when I got pregnant and then weighed 200 lbs. when my daughter was born. My husband knew how high energy I used to be and reminded me I can get in shape if I put my mind to it. I am black and my husband is german and he loves me so much he wants me to be healthy for me because he knows how miserable I was about being overweight. We started working out at golds gym together and I lost 8- lbs from stretching first, doing 45- minutes of cardio on the eliptocal machine everday and I lifted weights for my arms and legs now I look like america’s next top mom and I lovee it. I am 26- years old and I am looking good most people do not know I have a child because the way my body looks. The things that helped me besides working out at the gym were taking redline a weight loss supplement, not drinking soda, drinking lots of water while working out and throughout the day, no- fried foods, no candy, more fruits and vegetables, eating for energy not for fun, only time you should eat for fun is one day on the weekends if you follow your diet throughout the week, and not eating things high in sodium, using garlic-salt or accent instead of iodonized salt, baking food and not eating red meat more than once a week. This is just to give an idea on what might help other black women work out and be successful at it. I still go to the gym everday, it is apart of my day and I love it and GOD is my trainer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. April M. says :

    I used to be on the drill team when I was younger and that was the beginning of me wanting to be in shape. I was naturally muscular when I was a teenager, but lost it at 21 when I became pregnant with my beautiful daughter. I weighed 115 when I got pregnant and then weighed 200 lbs. when my daughter was born. My husband knew how high energy I used to be and reminded me I can get in shape if I put my mind to it. I am black and my husband is german and he loves me so much he wants me to be healthy for me because he knows how miserable I was about being overweight. We started working out at golds gym together and I lost 80- lbs from stretching first, doing 45- minutes of cardio on the eliptocal machine everday and I lifted weights for my arms and legs now I look like america’s next top mom and I lovee it. I am 26- years old and I am looking good most people do not know I have a child because the way my body looks. The things that helped me besides working out at the gym were taking redline a weight loss supplement, not drinking soda, drinking lots of water while working out and throughout the day, no- fried foods, no candy, more fruits and vegetables, eating for energy not for fun, only time you should eat for fun is one day on the weekends if you follow your diet throughout the week, and not eating things high in sodium, using garlic-salt or accent instead of iodonized salt, baking food and not eating red meat more than once a week. This is just to give an idea on what might help other black women work out and be successful at it. I still go to the gym everday, it is apart of my day and I love it and GOD is my trainer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. April M. says :

    I mean to put 80- lbs but I missed the zero that is why my message is on twice I had to fix my error. SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. April M. says :

    This is really my success story and I wanted it to be motivating to other young black mothers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. April M. says :

    It took exactly 6- months for me to lose the weight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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