feminism · fitness · fitness classes · health · inclusiveness

What’s the top thing you would change about the fitness industry today? (Group post)

Image description: Tracy’s minimalist home workout gear: overhead shot of running shoes, a cloth basket with a tennis ball and workout bands and a few other indiscernable items, set atop a yoga mat on a wood laminate plank floor.

When Sam and I started the blog back in 2012, we were committed to offering feminist thoughts on fitness and to trying to incorporate our feminism into our fitness lifestyles as we approached our 50th birthdays. Now, as we approach our 56th birthdays in the next couple of months, we continue to reflect on the ways the fitness industry could be friendlier, more inclusive, and more approachable. We are both super pleased that we have managed to carve out and support a community of others who are seeking an alternative to the usual messaging.

I’ve been doing the virtual Superhero workouts with Alex (for more info, check out ABH Movement) a few times a week, and on Friday evening she had a team happy hour on Zoom. She sent around four questions for us to ponder before we met, with the plan to discuss them. We didn’t make it to all of them (because by the time we did a full round where we each talked about when we first started doing fitness classes, happy hour had already spilled into 90 fascinating minutes). But Kim and I thought the final question would make a great group blog post: What’s the top thing you would change about the fitness industry today?

So I did the thing we do: I asked the Superhero team and the blog regulars for their answer to this question. And here’s what people had to say.

Nicole: I would take away the nutrition advice that some gyms provide. I don’t think there is a good way to do it in that environment. Also, it should be illegal for the instructor to say “did you indulge a little last night? Hungover? It’s OK, that’s why you are here!” No, I’m not here for that at all. Ever.

Tracy I (me): If I could wave a magic wand I would banish “weight loss” as a fitness goal from the entire industry. I would replace it with learning to believe in yourself and to love (or at least neutrally accept and value) and trust your body and appreciate it for what it can do, whatever that may be. Also: to encourage other women along the way to do the same. No comparing (I wrote about comparing back in the day)! ❤️

Cate: So many things– I’m 100% with both Tracy and Nicole on this — but I’d add I’d strip out any admonishment or encouragement to focus on anything except form. I have been lucky enough to find some amazing coaches — like Alex — plus yoga teachers and spin instructors who really understand how to support people to work for the next dimension while also emphasizing form, safety, alignment and the specific strength, needs and possibilities of your own body. But occasionally I wander into a class — like at the Y, or with a spin substitute — whose whole coaching is “harder!”. I went to a “boot camp” class at the Y a few years ago where the (20 something) instructor mocked me for doing my lunges slowly and carefully. This is obviously damaging for individual bodies and psyches, but also, I think, one of the biggest things that turns newbies away from fitness.

Sam: Oh there’s so much I would change if I ran the zoo. (Sorry, I can never resist that line from Dr. Suess.) But the most important thing for me would be a much greater emphasis on inclusion and diversity. I want room in my fitness world for people of all races, and genders and ages and physical abilities. Along with inclusion and diversity, I want to end the assumptions about who does what. I want more women in the weight room and more men in the yoga studio.

Coach Alex: As a coach, I desperately want everyone to know that if you don’t enjoy something, you don’t need to do it to “get in shape”. There’s this notion that certain movements/ways of exercising are most effective or necessary for the progress you want to make, and that’s simply untrue.

So many people struggle with developing a consistent and healthy relationship with fitness because it’s either a chore they feel they “have” to do OR they are fearful of starting in the first place (fitness is scary and intimidating). The reality is the fitness industry promotes fad diets, exercise trends, and equipment that ultimately will keep you hopping on and off the bandwagon- but if you find movement you LOVE (whether it’s weightlifting, Zumba, a sport, cycling, etc…) then THAT’S what’s going to keep you coming back. If you do burpees because you think you have to (but you hate them), you’re going to dislike that workout and dread coming back. I wish more people knew that just the act of MOVING is enough to keep you healthy and make fitness gains, and once you find a form of movement that sparks joy for you, that’s where the fun really starts 😜❤️

Chippy (Virtual Superhero teammate): What id like to change is that women are allowed to have muscles and that doesn’t make you unattractive. Those muscles take a tremendous amount of work and are beautiful. Strong is beautiful and there needs to be a cultural shift that goes with that for women 😊

And we’d love to hear from you. If you could change one thing about today’s fitness industry, what would it be?

3 thoughts on “What’s the top thing you would change about the fitness industry today? (Group post)

  1. I would love to remove the automatic assumption that you are in the gym to lose weight, that getting fit is ultimately because you want to lose weight, and any reference to weight loss being your goal unless you have specifically turned up with that goal and stated it outright.
    And, even if you have turned up with that goal and stated it outright, I’d like gyms and fitness instructors and personal trainers and the whole industry to encourage people to chose different goals based on skill sand abilities and fitness improvements!
    I’d like the fitness industry to be about fitness, and not weight loss, I’d also like the industry to recognise that strength and muscle gains are valid goals for women as well as men.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Three years after my daughter was born, an acquaintance played with the idea of a doing a boot camp class. I signed up right away and she bailed. No regrets. The classes and faces have changed over the years. What has kept me at it for a decade was a good friend who enjoys this with me and some kind and supportive instructors who have helped me celebrate movement and a stronger, healthier mind and body. Funny enough, I scratched my head at the thought of being part of the fitness industry. Fitness is a personal experience for me and my biggest wish is that it finds more people like me much earlier in life. My awkward teen self would never have imagined that I really love being active. I feel the societal pushes to look a certain way, to be a certain weight, to dress in name brand workout wear. That is a daily exercise in mindfulness. I feel grateful for and wish for more Alexes in this crazy world, who support me, keep me excited to show up, and inspire me to do my best in this journey to take care of my body.

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