#RepresentationMatters in Fitness Too

#RepresentationMatters in Fitness Too

I hit a plateau in my weight loss journey. During a recent check-up with my doctor, I mentioned the dreaded plateau. My doctor told me while there were medications she could prescribe to help control my appetite, maybe I’m stuck because my body has gotten used to the routine of my workout. She suggested switching up what I do or kicking up my current routine a notch with heavier weights. 

That’s how I found myself in a spin class, realizing I made a terrible mistake. As I peddled feverishly, attempting to shift pain back and forth from my butt to my feet, I looked around the room. The early morning class was filled with black women seemingly having a good time and led by a black woman. 

While spin is clearly not for me, I thought it’s wonderful there is a space in which black women could exercise with a trainer who is also a black woman in a studio that a black woman owns. 

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to find a similar space that is for me. When I started my weight loss/fitness journey, I was desperate to find a place where I felt comfortable being out of shape, clumsy, and generally unsure of what to do with my hands. I went to a bunch of places -- my local YMCA, New York Sports Club, 24 Hour Fitness, and even walked out of a couple of random Zumba and yoga classes. I always felt so self-conscious in classes with other women who seemed extraordinarily coordinated.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. While not everyone is as painfully awkward as me, it is relatable that some women of color feel out of place in the fitness world, which heralds thin, white bodies. 

The fitness world has a diversity issue. There is a lack of representation of women of color, particularly black women, and different body shapes. A study published in the journal BMC Public Health found a lack of black and minority ethnicity role models in physical activity was a barrier to physical activity for black and minority women in the United Kingdom. 

Representation is essential because it is a physical display to potential clients of inclusivity. Still, it is also an opportunity to share different perspectives of health and beauty in the fitness industry. Addressing the issues of diversity in the industry can be a first step in addressing the toxic diet culture in the fitness world that focuses on being thin. Or finding the beauty of black bodies of varying levels of strength or ability.al

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