You look ridiculous and everyone’s staring at you: Cheap tricks for crip fitness

January 13th, 2012  |  Published in Doh! and ouch, Stumpblog  |  10 Comments

By Saint Pikachu

If you’ve taken my advice and gotten your busted ass into the gym

…there – did you survive?

Can you make it through another day? Or did you succumb to complications of terminal self-consciousness and the shame of looking like a goof?

Don’t be fooled by my intoxicating internet charisma and love of dirty jokes – in life, I’m actually quite shy, and like most shy people, I find the thought of being stared at or laughed at positively mortifying. That can make working out in public especially challenging – my body moves differently than most bodies, which tends to attract attention.

And while that attention is almost always kind and well-intentioned, hearing “Are you doing OK, ma’am?” from the sweet little knock-kneed freshman pressing 50 lbs on the next bench over kinda deflates my fantasy of looking like Grace Jones in Conan the Destroyer. Or maybe Lou Ferrigno, with better hair.

Of course, self-consciousness isn’t just the domain of the crippled. Really, anyone whose body looks different – very large or very small, older, in some way not like the manic spandexed Hitler Youth that seem to populate most gym ads – can feel a bit intimidated or awkward in the gym, especially when just getting started.

Thing is, the best way to shake that self-consciousness – the best way I’ve found, at any rate – is to confront it head-on by doing something that looks bizarre and letting the normals stare. Making a spectacle of yourself, in other words.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite ridiculous exercises for crips and gimps and other weirdos.

The “equipment” for each is cheap or free, and especially beneficial to crippled folks. The “exercises” are silly and fun and they will kick your ass. I have (oh GOD) included pictures to illustrate. Caveat: I’m no expert in wellness or exercise or anything else, so if you wanna try any of the dumb shit I do, please be careful.

Ball Smackin’

Whatcha need: A SOFT medicine ball, like the one here. This one’s 10 lbs, but they come lighter and heavier. I got this one for $15 on sale.

Whatcher gonna do: While sitting, toss the ball as high as you can and catch it as high as you can. When you catch it, slam it to the ground. (If you do it right, your cat should walk out of the room in disgust.)

Alternatively, try tossing as you squat (how’s that for eloquence?). (Don’t knock over the Christmas tree, or you’ll get yelled at – trust me.)

Crip Approved: Because the ball is soft, it won’t hurt you the way a traditional dumbbell or kettleball will if you accidentally hit yourself with it or drop it on yourself. I’ve bashed myself in the face with this sucker plenty of times and gotten only light bruises at worst – a dumbbell would have broken my nose.

What else can you do with it? Any exercise you’d do with the same weight dumbbell: throw and catch with a partner, terrify your pets, etc.


Whatcha need: A box big enough to kneel in comfortably. Boxes are available at packing stores, warehouses, and fine liquor stores throughout the country.

Whatcher gonna do: Kneel in the box, lean forward, stretch arms and place hands on the floor in front of you, pull self across the floor. (Purple fedora optional, but recommended.)

This is also a fun one to take outside and use to scare folks at the park. (“Ooh, I gotta make it to the swings before Jimmy Tennerman or else I’ll never get a turn!”)

Crip Approved: This is great for when your legs are too weak or sloppy to use safely. Plus, you’re already on the floor, so you needn’t worry about falling.

What else can you do with it? Fill it with something heavy for lifts, get a bunch and have a box fight with a partner, bring your groceries home from Costco.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Whatcha need: A rig and a tree. This rig is something called a speed trainer – I picked it up on clearance for $20. You can also make your own rig with bungees/resistance bands and a weight belt (tie bungees/bands into a long rope, tie one end of your bungee/band rope to tree, put on weight belt backwards – flat part over your stomach, buckle in the back – and tie the other end of your rope to the belt).

Whatcher gonna do: Run/walk/shuffle away from the tree as fast as you can. As you get further away, the resistance of your rope will increase, making it harder to stay on your feet.

(“Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA? Is that what you’re telling me?!”)

Crip Approved: Walking with any sort of resistance is great for both strength and balance, and with this the resistance increases gradually, allowing you to rest or move as slowly as you need to.

What else can you do with it? Turn around and play tug-o-war, construct an ill-advised but really cool giant catapult.

There you have it, my lovelies – some activities sure to help you get strong and entertain your audience all at the same time.

Because honestly, that’s what your self-consciousness really is: stage fright. Not the fear that people are looking at you but the fear that they don’t like what they see.

If you look different, for whatever reason, folks are going to look at you – you’re always going to have an audience. So you’d better give them a good show, hadn’t you?


  1. Maggie says:

    January 13th, 2012at 6:32 pm(#)

    I love this!!! :)

  2. Kat says:

    January 14th, 2012at 1:32 pm(#)

    Great article. I’m currently dealing with a foot injury and wouldn’t have thought of doing ball tosses from a chair (or stability ball). Thanks!

  3. Paula says:

    January 20th, 2012at 10:56 am(#)

    OMG! Sneaking reading this at work, and trying to keep my urge to laugh out loud under control! I’m failing miserably. Very good stuff-thanks for this!

  4. Stacey hudson says:

    January 26th, 2012at 4:08 pm(#)

    LOL! This one makes me laugh. Really cute and funny!

  5. Stacey hudson says:

    January 26th, 2012at 4:09 pm(#)

    I agree no matter what you look people will always stare at you either they think good or bad just feel sexy and awesome gossips will fade away!

  6. Jennifer says:

    January 31st, 2012at 1:04 pm(#)

    Great article Saint Pikachu! I’m dealing with a neuro issues myself (might be MS, but who the hell knows) and sometimes my legs don’t work so well either.

    I’ve taken up swimming again, and just did deep-water-fitness for the first time, which was a blast! I just told the instructor when he was coaching me to do a certain kick that my left leg just didn’t work well enough, and did a modified flopping around motion instead. I also went with my sister-in-law, which meant much joking around ensued. Doing an activity with someone who understands why your body is a bit spastic is good for comic relief. I was actually surprised at what a great workout it was.

    I’m going to meet with an athletic therapist tomorrow to design some weight training workouts for my gimpy new body and I can’t wait. This article and your last one about getting your crippled ass to the gym have been an inspiration to me, so many thanks.

  7. Haddayr says:

    February 5th, 2012at 11:20 am(#)

    Another terrific article on this; thanks! I’ve also found that if you just keep showing up at the gym, people get used to you and stop staring — even if you use bright red crutches.

  8. Anthony says:

    March 25th, 2012at 6:41 pm(#)

    The Hitler Youth comment made me laugh so hard. Funny article with great tips.

  9. Megan Jones says:

    April 10th, 2012at 11:15 am(#)

    These are some really clever ideas. I am able bodied, but when I first started going to the gym I was so self conscious about people watching me use the machines incorrectly. I finally discovered that most people are pretty self involved at the gym, so even if I might get a weird glare or smirk people just go back to their own workout.

  10. paul says:

    April 19th, 2012at 2:42 am(#)

    I broke my back and both ankles 10 years ago. Its left me with a gimpoid walk and terrible balance. You just have to get over it. With things lke swimming and rowing or alot of (selected obviously) weights stuff, I love it when you knock out a killer workout or big lift, and then get up and limp away. The expressions on faces of the leg extension/pec dec crew is reward in itself. Great blog, laugh at yourself- you’ll feel better, I couldn’t agree more.

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