Kimberly Wilson is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer as well as a body positive advocate. Her work has been featured in Brides, Travel + Leisure, US News & World Report and Essence.com.
It’s hard enough to get to the gym. What’s even harder is the intimidation of not looking like everyone else there. C’mon, it often seems like everyone at the gym is a size 0, right?
For many full-figured individuals, the greatest barrier in making a commitment to health and fitness is finding size-inclusive gym options — minus the stares, intimidation and lack of assistance for modifications.
Though not every fitness environment is plus-friendly, there are a few body positive gyms that allow you to feel comfortable within your own skin, without having to pound on the traditional gym treadmill pavement! At these gyms you can be any size, enjoy (and kill) a fitness routine, and push your body to the limit.
Spiked Spin (New York, NY)
Move over SoulCycle, there’s a new spin class in town! Spiked Spin is a weekly fitness movement dedicated to creating “an atmosphere that is non-judgmental, accepting, and most importantly encouraging of your individual journey.” With a variety of classes such as “Turn Up Tuesdays” and “Trap Thursdays,” the brand encourages attendees to be their best self on the bike, but more importantly in everyday life! In an effort to create a “for us, by us” environment, founder Briana Owens decided to create Spiked Spin, where she infuses hip hop with cycling classes that throw traditional gym stereotypes right out the window.
Studio Three (Chicago, Ill.)
Where else can you get three fitness studios under the same roof? Here, you get to choose between three disciplines: Interval, Cycle and Yoga — all which can be tailored to all fitness levels. Studio Three is the first-of-its-kind boutique fitness mecca that allows members to access three types of workouts but with a common community that values inclusivity. In fact, inclusivity is one of the gym's core values (along with openness and honesty!). While the name represents the number of studios available within their space, it also stands for your third place: home, office and the place that you sweat and seek community. The people you are working out alongside are all sizes, and the message instructors echo is not focused on weight but instead on mental strength.
CITYROW (New York, NY and Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The boutique fitness studio that offers a triple threat workout; rowing — and so much more — was founded on the idea of finding an efficient, effective workout that enables anyone to feel empowered and energized. Rowing works 84% percentof your body in just one stroke, and anyone is capable of doing it — regardless of age, height, weight, gender. It is a workout for all levels — you get out of it whatever you put in to it! You’re sure to put your body to work with this high-intensity yet low-impact burn that offers total body results.
EverybodyFights (New York, Boston, Chicago, and Kentucky and soon, Philadelphia)
Looking for a fun full-body workout that will also help you relieve some stress? Well at this boxing gym, you’ll get all of that and more. The concept of "everybody fights" is that we all have our own struggles — outside the ring everybody fights for something. As a result, the brand is extremely welcoming to everyone from all walks of life.
modelFIT (New York, NY)
Don’t let the name fool you — you don’t have to be a model to get fit here. Focusing on the people, and varying “models” of fitness, you’ll never expect to have the same workout twice here. At modelFit, there are no pre-planned workouts from the trainers. Instead, in each class, they access the agility and fitness level of the attendees to decide the direction of the workout. It’s like having your very own personal trainer!
SPEIR Pilates (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Founded a little over two years ago by celebrity trainer Andrea Speir, Speir Pilates was designed to be a place where people of all fitness levels, backgrounds, etc. could come and form a community. SPEIR’s group classes are kept small so that each client receives hands-on attention during their workout, no matter whether they are beginner or advanced. Andrea is also pre-/post-natal certified, so she can work with moms-to-be in each stage of their pregnancy, as well as new moms who are getting back into their fitness routine after baby. SPEIR’s reformer-based workouts are also great for anyone rehabbing an injury, thanks to the low-impact, toning moves.
MINT Gym & Spa (Washington, D.C.)
The nation's capital is known for its history, culture, food and now — plus-size fitness. MINT's community is welcoming for all those in the district looking for a boutique gym option, offering a variety of equipment and options. Most of the people at MINT are working professionals (ages 25 to 60) with all kinds of body types, levels of fitness and physical ability, so you’ll never have to worry about whether you’ll fit in here. Furthermore, MINT takes a very body-positive approach to classes and coaching. MINT instructors often teach about holistic health and nutrition.
Equinox (Nationwide; locations vary)
Celebrating its 27th year in business, Equinox continues to push its mantra: “It’s not fitness, it’s life.” And if you’ve ever visited any Equinox location, then you know this motto sets the tone for the entire gym culture. The people here are extremely passionate about cultivating a healthy mind, body and spirit — no matter your size, which is typically rare for gym chain so large. Offering customized experiences and classes, the people here will motivate you to want to come back day after day. And with the gym’s monthly price tag, you’ll want to to get more bang for your buck!
HK Fitness (Los Angeles, Calif.)
“HK” literally stands for Human Kindness. So much so, that it was printed on the studio’s storefront to promote their all-inclusive, radically-accepting community of people of all fitness levels and background. Founder and head trainer Steph Wilberding went through her own weight loss and fitness transformation journey (starting out as a plus-size person herself, then losing 50 lbs) and wanted to foster a culture and community that is welcoming to everyone. The classes are also very intimate (no more than 12 people per class) so she can customize routines for her plus-size members to make sure the moves are modified enough for them to be able to make it through the class.
Rumble Boxing (New York City, Los Angeles)
Let’s get ready to rummmmmmmble! Grab a pair of boxing gloves and get ready to break an intense sweat, gain confidence, challenge yourself mentally and physically — all while listening to your favorite Top 40 playlist. If you want a change to your normal treadmill or elliptical workout, then Rumble Boxing is definitely for you. The club-like atmosphere with its dimmed lights and DJ sound system, allows you to get in the zone, while participating in boxing drills and total body conditioning, with your own private area to work at your own pace. At Rumble, it’s just you versus you, while having a good time doing it.
Orangetheory Fitness (Nationwide; locations vary)
Orangetheory Fitness is an interval-based workout that uses heart rate monitors to encourage you to push yourself (based on your own fitness level) and includes three different components – interval training on the treadmill, indoor rowing and weight room floor exercises. Though intense — because the goal is to keep your heart rate up throughout the duration of the class — you’re sure to burn off at least 600 calories with just one session. Whether you choose to walk on the treadmill and challenge yourself with inclines or kick things up and sprint your heart out, you can modify the workout to make it suit you and your current fitness level. So no need to feel like you’re competing with anyone else while you’re working up a sweat — unless you want to, of course.
Harlem HIIT (New York, NY)
Harlem HIIT offers more than just affordable fitness for the Harlem community. With its $15 daily classes (offered both morning and night), you’re not only getting high intensity interval classes, led by its elite trainers Jahkeen Washington and Thomas Boatswain, but also a family environment through its base of clients that show up day after day to support each other. The intimate environment allows the trainers to tailor classes to any fitness level, but also provide individual coaching and support. Harlem HIIT’s owners encourage a healthy lifestyle for their clients through programs such as weight loss challenges and group fitness outings.
[solidcore] (Nationwide; locations vary)
If it’s good for Michelle Obama, it’s good for us! The former first lady’s former workout hub is intensified and redefined hybrid of the highly popular Pilates and bootcamp-style fitness concepts, which sculpts one’s physical and mental state. The workout is challenging, but that's the point.... to push not only your body, but also your mind to become the strongest version of yourself -- the goal at [solidcore]. It's not about being it skinny, it's about being strong and that's what attracts people of all shapes and sizes. People come for a workout that works your mental and physical state.
NEO U (New York, NY)
Ever wanted to know what the Disney World of gyms looked like? Then look no further than NEO U. The 20,000 sq. ft. fitness hub has three workout studios (offering classes such as boxing, yoga, bootcamp, etc), a NEO Cafe offering fresh juice and coffee, an apparel shop and more. Trust us, with so many options, it’s almost impossible not to love it here. And the best part about working with these world class trainers and brands? No matter the fitness level, there is something for every type of person.
SweatShed by Crunch (New York, NY)
The name alone should tell you exactly what this class entails. You are going to sweat – a lot. And for those who want to burn some serious calories, in a shame-free environment, this class is for you. SweatShed features a variety of exercises that utilizes unique equipment such as the rowing machine, dumbbells and TRX cables (just to name a few) to give participants the utmost sweat. Suitable for all fitness levels, this makes for the perfect class to start working on your summer body, because summer bodies are made in the winter, right?. This class is only offered at Crunch on 59th Street which adds to the exclusivity of this workout.
The Bod by Kym (Beverly Hills, Calif.)
Owned by Dancing with the Stars’ Kym Herjavec (who took over the space from Richard Simmons), The Bod by Kym continues to carry on the warm, inviting spirit for everyone to feel happier, healthier and stronger through fitness. Ingrained into its mantra, when you walk through the doors you’ll be greeted with a sign that says, 'Every Bod is Beautiful.’ Here, you’ll enjoy the joy of fitness through dance, no matter your age or size!
Broadway Bodies (New York, NY)
Combining high-impact aerobics with creative choreography, classes at Broadway Bodies encourage you to sing along to your favorite songs while you dance along to its choreography. So if you love Beyonce, and have always wanted to learn all her music video moves, these classes are for you (Drunk in Love, anyone?). Best of all, Broadway Bodies encourages, embodies and embraces a shame-free community as its motto. In fact, they don’t even care if you get the choreography down. It’s all about having fun while dancing to the beat of your own drum (or Drake lyric).
Upgrade Labs (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Welcome to the future of working out! With its state-of-the-art technology, Upgrade Labs will offer a workout like never before — while collectively upgrading both the mind and body. If you’re carrying some extra weight, you’ll love it here because the high-tech workouts are low impact, often seated and rarely strenuous. Upgrade Labs specializes in working with individuals of various shapes, sizes, ability and mobility, so you’ll never feel out of place here. And the bright side? You will burn fat, put on muscle, lose weight and stabilize hormones without the wear and tear of traditional fitness (no more grunting, grueling workouts – but definite, measured results).
Ailey Extension (New York, NY)
Alvin Ailey believed that "dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people." And that’s that they do here — deliver size inclusive workouts back to the people who frequents its diverse and friendly fitness community. The studio, which offers 25 different dance and fitness classes for students 16 years or older, offers classes such such as Horton (the modern dance technique featured in Ailey’s classic, "Revelations"), ballet, West African, theater dance, samba, Ailey barre and hip-hop, among others. All levels are always welcome.
FORM Fitness (Brooklyn, NY)
Body positive activist and personal trainer Morit Summers is on a mission to democratize fitness. Determined to create a community where all feel welcome and strong, Morit recently opened FORM FITNESS: a brick-and-mortar training gym based in Brooklyn, dedicated to an all-inclusive fitness philosophy. From beginners to athletes to her celebrity client list, Morit has committed her practice to creating an inclusive, motivating and comfortable training community for her clients, helping others achieve their strength goals regardless of shape, size or ability.
THE WALL (Los Angeles, Calif.)
It can be hard to break through “the wall.” In life, love and especially in fitness. Here, celebrity fitness guru Jason Wimberly wants to help. The fitness studio, which offers circuit training (“STACKED”), cycling (“WIMBERRIDE”), and recovery stretch (“STR3TCH”) there is something for everybody and every body. The gym’s mission is to help you "break through," whether it be physical or mental challenges. Unlike so many studios that simply lead participants through a slide show of exercises, THE WALL classes are designed for everyone to move in unison — allowing for greater synergy and energy to achieve one's goals.
F45 TRAINING (Nationwide; locations vary)
First and foremost, there are no mirrors at F45 Training, so that should already tell you what you’re in for here. The goal at F45 is to focus on your workout, and not what you (or anyone else, for that matter) looks like. The “functional training” gym offers 27 different 45-minute workouts at varying levels, so you’ll never have an excuse that you “missed” a workout here. Show up, and prepare to feel like your best self as soon as you walk through the door.
BodMod Fitness (New York, NY)
Who says you can’t get a good workout in in under 30 minutes? At BodMod, they will change your entire concept of fitness — the purpose is to work smarter, not harder. The studio offers only 25-minute workouts (perfect for busy professionals) ranging from strength to boxing to cardio and more. The studio is extremely friendly, inclusive and accepting, so you’ll feel right at home.
JoyRide Cycling + Fitness Studio (Fairfield County, Conn. and San Antonio, TX)
At all the Joy studios, the inclusive, positive, community vibe is a strong component of their success. It is called “joy” after all. Unlike other studios, the top riders/students are not invited to the front row to “lead the pack.” Instead, every age, fitness level, and body type is embraced and complimented, creating a strong community vibe. Even though the studios are known for high-intensity, calorie-torching workouts, the instructors make a point to know everyone in the room and offer modifications. The instructors are highly-motivating and inspiring coaches — on the bike or off. They also make a point to compliment everyone’s efforts - and connect after class (in person or via email, text or social media).
Killer Bodies (New York, NY)
What better way to work your body, then to dance your pounds away? At Killer Bodies, there is no definition of what a killer body actually looks like — as long as you’re happy in the skin you’re in. The boutique fitness brand caters to all sizes, offering three fitness formats: Killer Bodies (Boot camp); Killer Moves (90-minute dance fitness and choreography); and Killer Beats (60-minute dance fitness). It’s more than just a workout — Killer Bodies creator Meliza Fernandez (aka "Mel") delivers fitness sermons about about self love and getting out of your head to have time to yourself in her classes. Also, you don’t have to feel self-conscious if you can’t get the moves — the basement studio is dimmed, so no one can even see you!