As a trainer and coach it is in my job description to push people to their limits and help them reach their fitness and health goals. I take this role very seriously and there was a time that I believed this meant that more is better. I used to train 6 days a week and go hard every single day because I thought that was the best thing for me. Over time, however, I have developed a more relaxed approach in an effort to lower stress and inflammation and I want to help you find a body positive gym or trainer that works for you. I like to go hard 3 days a week and do things like weightlifting, yoga, or walks the other days with two planned rest days where I do nothing. Exercise is an amazing thing and has so many benefits but the body sees it as a stressor so finding that perfect dose for you is key. Too much can cause injury, hormone issues, and major stress to your body so we have to be careful not to overdo it.
Unfortunately, many gyms and trainers follow the no pain no gain philosophy and they do not consider the issues that forcing exercise and pushing people too hard can cause. Phrases, like ‘sweat is fat crying’ or ‘train insane or remain the same’ reflect an all or nothing fat-shaming culture and sadly I have heard trainers and coaches use these and many more. There needs to be a healthy balance and there is definitely a way for a trainer to be positive and push someone past their comfort zone while still keeping that person’s goals and individual needs in mind. Are you looking for a gym that accepts you no matter what your body type, allows you to modify without shaming, and makes you feel like a superhero every time you finish a workout? The search for a new gym that will make you feel this way can be daunting but the Body Positive Fitness Alliance has designated 8 pillars of Inclusive Fitness Practices and these can help to guide you in your search.
The Body Positive Fitness Alliance strives to make all gyms and all trainers more focused on body acceptance and realistic mindful exercise for all types. Their 8 Pillars are as follows:
- Accessibility: Our spaces are physically accessible and our practices are for all bodies. We consider your financial, communication, learning, safety and other access related barriers to fitness.
- Approachability: Our attitudes are positive, realistic, and predictable. Our processes are transparent. We acknowledge our own privilege is a barrier between ourselves and those we serve.
- Enjoyment: We provide fun moments and experiences to help you associate challenging physical work with happiness and success.
- Community (my personal favorite): We create conditions for meaningful connections between individuals undergoing similar experiences. We are leaders by example and we protect our communities’ values.
- Scope of Practice: We acknowledge our professional and personal limitations and do not prevent you from seeking a higher level of care for conditions outside our scopes of practice. We implement evidence based practices and follow guidelines from major professional organizations.
- Full Health: We ensure your experiences are safe and enhance your overall quality of life. We do not intimidate or shame; rather appropriately challenge you with consideration for your mental, emotional and physical health.
- Body Positivity: We do not assume your ability based on what we do or do not know about you. We create and hold space for you to exercise autonomy over your body, our relationship and your experience.
- Growth: We prioritize growing as professionals to better serve you. We regularly self-evaluate our practices and their alignment with the Eight Pillars.
In reading these pillars think about what kind of gym environment you are in each day. Does it serve you? Or, do you leave feeling less than? Do you find yourself thinking in all or nothing terms and doing extreme things to fit into that culture? Do the coaches encourage extreme measures for weight loss and promote unhealthy relationships with food just to look a certain way? If so, it’s time to re-evaluate. Plain and simple. Life is too short to be somewhere that makes you feel less than. I am partial to Orangetheory Fitness and we offer one free class to check it out but there are tons of options out there for everyone and it may take some time to find the right fit for you. The most important thing is that you have to enjoy it and your main motivation cannot be for the burned calories or aesthetic benefits or you will not stick with it. Exercise should be enjoyable and make you feel good so get out there and find movement that works for you friends!