Calling Out My Own Industry

This won’t be long, but it’s been on my mind for a minute so I’m going to run it by ya’ll. We all have had moments where we have had to workout coddling a wounded part–an injury or a healing part. It’s a pain to make the adjustment. We want the healing to move faster Or we give up, kick back and then return.

My training included cues and methodologies for those returning or those who are fitness challenged. That often included folks who were medically obese or new to fitness. We have modifications for chronic back issues, tender necks and knees. Great, that’s all well and good.

But, that harbors the assumption that you can make a choice to lift a weight, stand in a class, raise an arm. Which brings me to my call-out. The fitness industry is ableist. From the way facilities are designed, to the techniques we propagate in classes, it’s clear that able folks are favored.

It took a long time to fit equipment to women’s bodies or to bodies of folks who had smaller dimensions. We are still struggling to accept non-barbie models as our fitness instructors (I am luckily blessed by all of you). The industry’s goal conflates healthy to a standard looking fit body. We’ve worked on expanding that standard with some success, but it’s still the exception. The model with the larger waist teaching yoga is glaring. Jessaymn Stanley has done a lot to inform and change that scene. Public facilities like the Y accept qualified fitness instructors who don’t fit the model

But we are so so behind. Not only as individuals but also as institutions. People of other sizes is one thing. Ableism is another.

When I started teaching Barrelattes, I met a Y member name Leia Cash. I could tell right away that she had a dance background as every movement was precise and graceful. Later I learned that Leia teaches movement and dance to foks with Parkinson’s and their families and caregivers. She is trained specifically to address the movements and perceptions of those with Parkinson’s and it’s not just an adjustment here and there but a body of knowlege. In another club where I subbed, a member with prosthetic arms took off her prosthesis and used blocks to support her body in a plank. I don’t know if she figured that out or if a well-informed instructor did. It allowed her to participate in my entire pilates practice,

Having modifications in class is great for the ailing able body, but unless we are more adaptive, we are cutting people out of our community. A wheelchair ramp is great for those in chairs to gain access, but where are the knobs, cables, weight pins and more? The list of what we haven’t done could go on. While this is not my area of activism (you can go to DREDF), it is my area of concern and sensitivity. Like Leia, I want to learn adaptive cuing. And if there is one person in my class who cannot perform something because of their structure, I would find one-on-one time to share some adaptive techniques.

This is a whole world and I’m peeking in and trying to grow my awareness. Accommodating everyone feels monumental, as an instructor and as a facility. But here’s a thought. Let’s bring new minds and bodies to the training and designing table. Instead of imagining that we get it, let’s learn. Here’s a great class being taught by Kris Saunders-Stowe. The inclusivity in this photo should guide us to greater inclusivity on training teams, boards, facilities administrations, certifying agencies, everyone in the industry

I’ll get better in my practice, offer folks adaptive movements and positioning and educate myself on working with Abilities. I hope that while the industry has a moment to step back and meditate on who they are and whom they serve, the realization that we’re not inclusive enough will have broader meaning. It will be better for the members, the community, the industry and for ourselves.