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Last weekend I attended a workshop with the Body Positive Fitness Alliance, and became an Affiliated Professional. Since then I’ve had quite a few people ask me what exactly this new title of mine is all about. For quite some time I’ve sort of self-identified as a “body positive fitness professional”. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this label sometimes feels like an oxymoron. Body positivity, though it’s gained a bit of mainstream popularity in the past few years, has its roots in fat acceptance and intersectional feminism. When mainstream media (AND thin-ish/straight/cisgender/able-bodied/middle class/youthful looking/white women like me) use the term “body positivity” to make their products and services more marketable it raises a lot eyebrows, concerns, and red flags in these communities, and with good reason.
On the flip side, I don’t quite feel at home with many of my other colleagues in the fitness industry because I’m not into the whole #fitspo thing. I don’t post filtered pictures of my #abs on Instagram or follow people who do. I’m 100% against dieting in all it’s sneaky forms. Before/after #transformationtuesday photos leave me feeling very unsettled. I don’t tolerate fat talk of any kind.
Because of this little “identity crisis”, I’ve often second guessed my appeal as an instructor, a personal trainer, and an employee in the fitness industry. Isn’t that what everyone wants? A trainer with a 6 pack and a thigh gap? One who doesn’t take excuses, puts them on a strict meal plan, and proudly post their “weight loss journey success stories” on the internet for all to see? Maybe…
I’ve always enjoyed exercise, but after attending this weekend workshop I was reminded that this is not the case for everyone. The fear of being shamed based on things like body type, ability, race, gender identity, age, social class, and sexual orientation is very real, and keeps so many people from enjoying the benefits of regular movement. Turns out that having the knowledge and belief system that I do might actually make me a (gasp!) more desirable person to have on your fitness team. So if you are on the fence about how body positivity might actually have a place in the fitness industry, here is what you need to know. Whether you are looking to start working with a personal trainer, try out a new fitness class, or hire someone new at your gym, this is why a BPFA Affiliated Professional is the kind of person you want on your team.
We are aware that you might have some barriers getting in your way of entering the world of fitness, and will try our hardest to help you break them down. That includes making our space as accessible as possible AND acknowledging where we can do better in this regard. If we have control over our own pricing, we’ll consider your financial constraints too. We will meet you where you are and help you find the best-on ramp to fitness that we can. We’ll brainstorm all the modifications you need, and try all sorts of options to find what works best for you.
We get that coming to a new gym or class can be intimidating and we’ll try our hardest to be transparent, real, and kind. We’ll create a personal connection with you and all of our clients, and be empathetic and non-judgmental listeners when you need us to be. If you give us feedback on how we can do better, we’ll take it into consideration without getting defensive. We will do our best to consider all the ways we can help you feel at ease when working together.
We will make your workout as fun as possible. What are the best exercises for a strong core? We could argue that for days. The real answer? The ones you don’t hate and will keep doing consistently. We’ll listen to you when you tell us what you like, and incorporate at least some of your favorite exercises and equipment into each workout. Depending on the context in which we are working it might also include things like fun music, theme workouts, or even a game. Don’t roll your eyes. 😉 You are NEVER too old or too cool for games.
We recognize that you are an important part of our community, and will make you feel welcome right away. We’ll work on remembering your name (and eventually some other bits about your life too). When working out in a group setting, we’ll help you make connections with others too. If we haven’t seen you in awhile, don’t be surprised if we are VERY excited to have you back.
We know what our purpose is, and that we are a just a small part of your healthcare team. We recognize exactly what a personal trainer is qualified to do (plan and execute safe and effective workouts), and don’t try to pretend to be something we’re not. Unless we have additional certifications, degrees, or specializations, we will NOT be prescribing you a meal plan or helping your rehab an injury. What we most likely CAN provide is a long list of referrals of other professionals (like physical therapists, doctors, registered dieticians, etc) that we can recommend to help you with things outside our scope of practice.
We acknowledge the fact that your health goes beyond just the physical. Your mental and emotional health are of equal importance. We will take into consideration things like your learning style and your life circumstances. “No excuses” is an all-or-nothing approach that sets most people up for failure. If you need to take some time off from working out to recharge, get some rest, and take a mental health day, or just work on your financial situation, we get it. We won’t shame you for it, and will welcome you back with open arms when you are ready.
We know that you are worthy of health, happiness, and access to fitness right now, if that’s what you choose to prioritize for yourself. Right now. Not when you lose 20 lbs., or drop 3 dress sizes, or get really good at push-ups. RIGHT NOW. We won’t assume anything about you or your goals based on your appearance. We know that “fit’ looks different on everybody, and that’s something only you can decide for yourself.
These are 7 great reasons (based on the BPFA’s 7 Pillars) that you need a Body Positive Fitness Alliance Affiliated Professional in your life right now. Because as it turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too, AND workout for reasons other than burning off the calories in said cake. Fitness is all too often seen as black and white. You are either in shape or out of shape. Fit or fat. On the wagon or off the wagon. Being “good” or “cheating”. But the truth is, fitness is such a fluid thing. It looks different for everybody, and only you can define what it means for you. Regardless of your personal definition, the one thing that is certain, is that fitness should be accessible, approachable, and inclusive for all.
Do you want to find a BPFA Affiliated Professional in your area? Click here.
Want an online community of people who see fitness this way? You can join the BPFA Facebook group or the Superfit Heroes Facebook group.
Are you a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or other fitness professional who feels like you already do all of these things anyway? Learn more about BPFA Certification here. And learn more about being part of the Body Positive Fitness Finder and Superfit Hero Sponsorship here.
Want to work with Jenna J? Get in touch with her here.