A message to all women: Sport and exercise outlets should be a safe space for people of all shape and size.
How many of us have given up the gym? Or have dropped off that fitness class for fear of being judged or excluded because of our shape, size and fitness abilities?
I left dance classes at 10 years old. Why/ Because I felt I was the biggest in the class and I didn’t feel welcome. It took me more than 20 years to go back to a dance class.
As a teenager and a young woman I stayed away from gyms for a long time.
I’ve often felt I was taking the space of those that “were really serious” about getting fit.
I didn’t have the notion of exercising for fun and the simple pleasure of moving my body, finding energy by doing that.
Exercise for me only meant losing weight and keeping it off.
I’ve always had to look hard to find an environment that was both inclusive and not weight-centric, where to learn about accepting my body, working with the energy and the ability of my body at that exact moment, without pushing hard at all costs.
Can you relate to this?
This is a reminder that:
- Any kind of exercise/fun activity should have both physical and mental health as it’s primary goal.
- The role of the teacher/Instructor is to meet each student where they are and create a routine suitable for all the bodies in the class.
- It’s the exercise that should be tailored to the class, not the other way around.
So, if you joined your yoga class or the gym and you felt uncomfortable, judged or made fun of for your size, shape or movement abilities, you are not the problem.
Change class, instructor or studio, not yourself!
- If you’ve felt like your course instructor or your dance teacher stigmatised people in different shape or abilities (including you!), or neglected you because you weren’t able to bend like the other women in the class, my heartfelt recommendation is to just leave that class.
- If you received unsolicited comments about your body while exercising, that’s body shaming. Those messages can stay with you for a long time unless you sit and work with them. I wrote an article on this a while ago that you can read here.
In any case, my message here is:
The problem is NOT you. It’s that space you found yourself in.
Find another class, another teacher, another gym.
I find that, especially online, you can now find great outlets where to exercise regularly. Without having to set a weight-loss goal or focus on measurements. Safe spaces where you can feel like you’re part of a new, unbiased way to be taught exercise.
This is just so fundamental to be able to take care of our health at 360 degrees.
If you’d like to recommend any teacher or course you’ve tried where you felt really comfortable moving your body without a focus on weight-loss, tag them along in the comments so we can all see the options out there.
I’ll mention here Rebecca Tomlinson (who wrote a wonderful article for this blog last month, have a read!), Andrea from Bodyfirstpt and Gillian Mc Collum for the work they do and the inclusive message they spread on social media.