I’ll never forget two remarks made concerning my physical appearance.
One of them was from a man I had a short relationship with, who thought my soft belly wasn’t “that bad.” Another came from a roommate who claimed she would have expected more obvious effects from my frequent gym visits.
Both were so devastating to my body anxieties that even more than 15 years later, I still find myself thinking about them.
The assumption that our bodies should look a specific way has long been a source of prosperity for the fitness industry, which prizes physical attributes like a tight stomach and bulging muscles that took me years to realize I’ll never have.
The ideal aim of any regimen has been held up as whiteness and body types that support gender binary customs, like as thinness for women and muscularity for males, like a carrot that so many of us will never grasp.
These prevalent norms disregard the reality that every person’s physique is unique and exclude anybody who may not fit their mold.
The “toxic ideals” that are often preached by traditional gyms are being rejected by an increasing number of fitness groups.
But an increasing number of fitness groups are rejecting what they see as the harmful ideologies that are often pushed by traditional gyms. Those whose bodies have been excluded from mainstream fitness, especially those who are Black and Brown, queer, trans, overweight, handicapped, or any combination of marginalized identities, are the target audience for their missions.
These groups advocate radical acceptance and celebrate the pleasure of movement rather than implying that people’s bodies need to change.
Oakland’s Radically Fit
Luca Page said that as a queer person of color who has lived in a larger body their whole life, they had always felt uneasy at typical fitness facilities.
Although Page has always been into exercising and loves moving her body, she stated, “I never really found spaces that felt safe to me and joyful to be in.”
They were accompanied.
Powerlifting has helped individuals realize their strength and feel encouraged to face the world, especially for disadvantaged people who are often taught that they lack strength. Luc Page
In part in response to the Oakland LGBT community’s need for a gym that accepts individuals with larger frames, trans people, and people of color, Page created Radically Fit in 2018.
According to Page, “The people we serve are frequently told that they are not welcome in many fitness spaces.” “We have a gym in which their bodies are not only welcomed but also centered and celebrated, which immediately creates a different type of space.”
For non-white members, Radically Fit provides personal training at a reduced charge and a pay-what-you-can sliding scale. Additionally, it provides programs for persons with certain body types, such as transgender and gender nonconforming individuals as well as those with larger frames.
The most popular class at the gym, powerlifting, exemplifies its goals in compelling fashion.
People are often surprised by their strength, according to Page. Powerlifting has really helped individuals to recognize their strength and go out into the world feeling powerful, especially for disadvantaged people who are constantly taught they are not strong and that they need to shrink themselves.
Radically Fit adopts a different strategy in a sector that is often driven by guilt.
“Our job is to create a space where people can challenge themselves or go at their own pace, without judgment,” Page said. “And to be there supporting the athletes.”
Brooklyn’s The Fit In
Ife Obi, like many others with corporate employment, formerly utilized exercise as a stress reliever. Obi started considering how deliberate movement might enhance general health and avoid many of the illnesses she noticed affecting the Black community around her after suffering an accident in 2015 that needed physical treatment.
“Growing up in Brooklyn, there just wasn’t a real attachment to fitness and wellness in general,” said Obi, who obtained her Pilates and group exercise certifications and later started The Fit In in 2018.
In the Brooklyn borough of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Obi built her first studio, emphasizing strength training and mat Pilates. Since then, The Fit In has grown to include two other local sites that provide barre and equipment-based Pilates in addition to an online store with wholesome foods and supplements.
Our main goal is to get you moving in a way that you love so that you can do it often. Whene Obi
Obi said of bringing exercise into a neighborhood she saw was neglected, “If you want people to move more, you have to be closer” to where they are.
Making time to work out at a distant studio In the Black community, Obi observed, “especially if you have a family, a job, and all these other responsibilities, that tends to be a very high deterrent to working out.”
In terms of their bodies and individual fitness objectives, The Fit In also wants to meet its members where they are. Obi tries to change people’s perspectives so that a holistic approach to total health takes precedence over weight reduction, which may be someone’s top priority.
Finding a kind of exercise that you love and can do regularly is our main goal, Obi added.
Obi wants to make individuals feel stronger and have more energy for their daily duties rather than encouraging them to pursue the razor-thin body standards promoted by many big businesses.
Obi added, “I want to make sure you can do that without feeling tired or sore the next day if chasing your kids is something you have to do.” “All I really care about is having a community of people, especially Black women, who are now healthier and stronger.”
Philadelphia’s Nonnormative Body Club
When Asher Freeman initially came out as trans, many resorted to weightlifting in an effort to develop a physique that matched the expectations of traditional masculinity. But Freeman gained something else from the experience that they loved far more: a sense of belonging in their body.
In 2018, Freeman left a job in charity organizing to create Nonnormative Body Club, which provides a variety of body-positive workout alternatives. “So many of us have internalized incredibly harmful narratives about our bodies,” she said.
“We need spaces that explicitly celebrate our whole selves,” says one fitness industry insider. “The fitness industry has made the majority of us feel like unwelcome intruders.” Asher Freeman
The work they undertake today, according to Freeman, relies on everything they enjoyed about organizing and working with young people — “building community, challenging systemic oppression, and empowering individuals” — but in a manner that is much more immediate and significant.
Nonnormative Body Club provides personal training, group exercise, and support for trans wellness, as well as courses on chest-binding health and preparation and recuperation for top surgery.
“My one-on-one work with clients is about finding ways to reclaim the story of our bodies and our strength on our own terms,” said Freeman.
“I always provide multiple options for every exercise in my group fitness classes and emphasize that participants are in control of their bodies and their workout,” Freeman said. Every instruction I provide is really a suggestion, I say.
As Freeman has continued to invite more individuals into the club, the necessity for explicit inclusion has been even more apparent.
Numerous customers have confided in me that they avoid exercising in public because they don’t want to be seen, according to Freeman. “We need spaces that explicitly celebrate our whole selves,” says one fitness industry insider. “The fitness industry has made the majority of us feel like unwelcome intruders.”