You should be able to walk into a personal training session and (online or in person) group fitness class/video, hell even a yoga class, without hearing the following phrases:
“Anyone eat too many cookies this weekend? Let’s work those off!”

“Come on ladies, PUSH HARDER!”

“Who’s Sweating for the WEDDING!?”

“Sweat is fat crying, right ladies?!”

“PULL IN THAT CORE. TIGHTER”

“This workout will help you blast major calories, slim your waist, and give you a nice round butt”

**This is NOT body positive messaging. This is what I would LOVE to see change in the fitness industry.**

You, the participant, should be able to walk into a training session or your favorite spin class without hearing body bashing statements, or judgements based on how you look. You should be able to engage in a healthy behavior such as exercise and not hear that you aren’t good enough or healthy enough until you look a certain way, until you have that flat stomach and that apple bottom. You shouldn’t have to hear that the muffin you ate for breakfast is the reason why you are sitting on that damn spin bike. Because really, it’s not. AND, if it is, it’s high time to work on your relationship with food, your body, and exercise.

The reason why people come to your class, now I’m talking to the trainers and instructors in the room, is because they want to elevate their mood, move, socialize, get their sweat on, live a long life, and feel healthier. They don’t come to feel like shit about themselves, because if they were, they hopefully wouldn’t pay $$$ to do that. They could literally sit at home, scroll through the #fitspo on Instagram, and pay nothing to feel like garbage. BUT instead, they are arriving to your class in hopes to feel better.

SO, we have a responsibility as group fitness instructors, yoga teachers, and personal trainers: To lift up the people who show up. We get to be a body positive leader. We get to inspire them to be the best versions of themselves, no matter what they weigh or look like. We get to use our words for positivity, if we so choose.To the trainers and group fitness people who think that it’s motivating to hear body bashing statements or comments on calorie burning, it is far from motivating. It leaves all of us wondering if we will ever  be enough. It leaves us killing ourselves trying to look like you, because you said in one of your classes that if you ate the way YOU ate, that I’d be able to look like you. And for the record, that ain’t inspiring nobody.

Since when did such a positive thing {exercise/movement} become such a negative experience? Does it stem from a lack of confidence in the instructor? Is it all about marketing? Is it a dominance thing? Is it about getting people to spend money on the idea that if I do the workouts that trainer does then I can also look like her and have this perfect life? I mean really, what are we promoting in the fitness industry? Is it health or is it hell? I don’t have the answer, but I do have some suggestions in how we can all make the gym a more body positive space.

I’m going to throw a big wrench in this conversation. I’m a personal trainer, a fitness instructor, AND a yoga teacher. I’m all of those hells all wrapped up into one 5’5″ body. And guess what? I do it all without making anyone feel like shit.

Here’s How I Do It: 

  1. I use body positive and body neutral language. I let all of my participants know that they deserve to be here, elevating their heart rates, working on their cardiovascular and muscular fitness, no matter what their size or shape is. We all have hearts and lungs and biceps. We all want to have to be able to move our entire lives. I let them know that all of us deserve to be here; exercise is an opportunity, not a consequence.
  2. I do not talk about weight loss. Don’t you think these poor people who show up to your class hear about it enough? I let my classes be a safe haven from the body negativity that is pouring it’s way into every aspect of our lives. They don’t need to hear about weight loss in my class. They need to hear that they are ENOUGH, that they are beautiful, and STRONG and loved.
  3. I do not talk about calories, love handles, or flattening your stomach. I don’t discuss how the body LOOKS, but instead how the body is performing. You don’t have time to talk about that crap when you are discussing correct form, heart rates/rating of perceived exertion, and actually inspiring people with your heart felt words.
  4. I empower my participants to do what feels good to them. To listen to their body. I let them know that I am here to guide them through the workout but I am not here to determine what feels good for them and when it’s too much for them. I empower them to connect with their bodies. Everything is voluntary and I give them all permission to do something different if any exercises do not feel good to them.
  5.  I don’t tell anyone how to live their life. I am one person in this world. It doesn’t matter what I eat, or what I do for exercise, or how many hours I sleep at night. What matters is that my participants figure out what works for THEM. I am not here to prescribe a diet to them (and no personal trainer or fitness instructor has the right or knowledge to do that anyways–stick with exercise guys) or tell them exactly how to workout in order to look a certain way. I tell them that the magic lies in determining what works for YOU and I empower them to realize they have the answers.
  6. I make exercise and my playlists fun. They deserve to enjoy their time in your class and session. They deserve to hear positive and uplifting music, they deserve to laugh and not take it so seriously. I cannot believe how many people come to a class are look petrified. You walk in, no one is talking, no one is smiling, but they keep on showing up as if someone forces them to come. Exercise should not be that way. It’s a celebration of the body. It’s a celebration of the person who is doing the activity. Not a place to shame yourself for something you ate or for the way your body is shaped. That just ain’t cool.

 

I do not take my job as a fitness instructor, yoga teacher, and dietitian lightly. I get the opportunity to make those 30 minutes to an hour the best time of their day. I get the opportunity to meet so many wonderful human beings. I get to be a positive light in an often dark world for them.

We teach and train because we want to help people. Make sure the words and language you are using has that loving intention behind it. You can be a more effective trainer, teacher, and instructor simply by being body positive, empowering, and kind. You don’t have to be the six pack, ripped instructor in order to inspire. You can be exactly as you are today, just with a different set of phrases.

“I invite all of you to listen to your body during class today. Modify or eliminate any exercises that do not feel good to you and if you have questions during class, I’m happy to assist you.”

“We all deserve to be here today; no matter what size, shape, or weight you are. We all deserve to elevate our moods, improve our confidence, and work on our physical fitness.”

“I am so thankful you all came to class today. If you take one thing from class today, I hope you decide to do things that make you feel good. No matter what that looks like. No matter how different that looks from the other person. You deserve to treat your body with love and respect.”

“This is your class. This is your time for yourself. Let yourself have fun in class today! If you wanna break out in a dance party because you love the song so much, go right ahead! You wanna sing to a song, do it girl!”

“Exercise is an opportunity. It is not a consequence for anything you’ve done in your life. It’s not a consequence of being a certain weight or shape. Exercise gives us an opportunity to feel good in our bodies, and we all deserve that.”

If you treat your participants with love, respect, and equality, you will be a much more influential fitness instructor. If you use body positive language, you might notice more people showing up to your class. You might notice people laughing more in your class. You might notice people wanting to talk more to you after class. You might notice that YOU feel better about your job. You might notice that YOU might enjoy what you do that much more.

 

So Much Love to You,
Cait*