Whenever I choose a blog post topic, it is usually based on the questions we receive from our readers. But sometimes, I get inspiration by looking at the Google search trends to see the most frequently asked questions about prison.
Today’s blog post is a result of those questions on Google. I chose this topic because it struck me how influenced people in the free world are by the media and pop culture. I also asked a friend of mine who is still on the inside to contribute to this post because she became a certified fitness instructor while behind bars.
So, let’s just get right to it and answer today’s blog post: Why are inmates so muscular?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Not everyone gets ripped in prison
- Losing weight and getting fit behind bars can help inmates heal
Not everyone gets ripped in prison
As a former inmate who served four years behind bars, I was quite surprised by this question. It showed me just how influenced people are by pop culture. A common trope in movies and TV is that inmates in prison always work out and get ripped while serving their time, but the truth is, this doesn’t happen all the time.
In fact, in my experience, it was extremely rare for someone to get in shape and get “muscular” while in prison.
Everyone has a different experience in prison. The things inmates go through when they are locked up depends on the facility, the security level, and the location.
In my experience, I gained almost 100 pounds during the four years I was locked up. I actually didn’t gain any weight during my first year because I regularly went to aerobics class, I had a job that kept me on my feet for six to eight hours a day, and I was very careful about what I ate.
However, once I realized that my appeal was going to take a lot longer than I thought, I lost hope. This severely affected me mentally, and I stopped my regular workouts. I got through each day by putting on my head phones and watching TV on my bunk for hours.
The depression and lack of activity – combined with a diet that only featured packaged, processed foods loaded with carbs – led to my massive weight gain. I was far from muscular when I walked outside the prison gate.
Getting fit behind bars can help inmates heal
Even though I gained weight and got flabby during my prison stint, some inmates do have the opposite experience. My friend Mistie Vance is ten years into her sentence at WERDCC in Missouri. Here is what she told me when I asked her why inmates are so muscular.
“As an AFAA certified aerobics instructor and woman who has spent the last decade in a correctional facility, I love this question! Inmates are muscular for the same reason anyone who is physically fit is muscular – lots of hard work and determination! Inmates are just more fortunate than the average citizen in that we have plenty of time and free access to workout equipment.
That’s not to say that everyone who gets locked up comes out with a bangin’ body. I have seen inmates come in and roll out 50-100lbs heavier than they came in. It’s all in the decisions that a person chooses to make. Some people choose to lay around and eat, take enough meds to sleep their time away, or basically do nothing toward improving the person that they are during their incarceration. It’s a tragedy really, considering all the opportunities we are afforded as inmates in this country.
For many individuals though, prison is a chance to change and become productive members of society. Many of us were so caught up in self destructive behavior patterns that we couldn’t find our way out on our own. Prison is an opportunity to heal from old wounds, learn who we are as individuals, and improve our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
For myself personally, my incarceration afforded me the opportunity to be in a safe environment, away from destructive relationships and situations that were a hindrance to my healing process. My first concern was working on my spiritual healing and relationship with my higher power, the basis upon which all other healing can occur.
In county jail I did hundreds of Bible studies, attended all available services and read many spiritual books. Once I got to prison, I spent two and a half years both learning and teaching in a special program offered at the institution.
Once I had a solid spiritual foundation I began to give back by teaching “Impact of Crime on Victims” (ICVC) classes and working out in order to improve my physical health. The facility where I am housed offered daily aerobics classes and a wide variety of workout equipment, so I had many advantages in my quest for better physical health. Within a year, I became a certified instructor and began teaching a variety of aerobics classes to others in the prison with similar goals.
Unlike on the streets where a person has to pay for gym membership and find the time to work out, inmates don’t have to worry about those things. We have access to gyms, workout equipment, and literature to help us with our physical fitness goals. The only thing prison can’t give a person is the desire and motivation to do better and be better. That has to come from the individual themselves.
Just like anything in life, what you are willing to put into something will determine what you’re going to get out of it. If you want an amazing body, you can have it – you just have to have the determination to do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams.
Anything worth having in life is worth working for. Live your best life by being all you can be. Today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life.”
Do you think you would lose or gain weight in prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Inmate interview with Mistie Vance, WERDCC
In the Iowa Prison System, there are absolutely no activities for the disabled to partake in to stay physically fit. Iowa has very little funding for their prison system.
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