Losing weight is the number one reason people join a gym. Traditional fitness industry messaging is full of ideas about getting bigger, smaller, more toned. The media is still full of articles about getting the perfect bikini body or ripped abs. Most people carry a degree of insecurity about some aspect of their physical appearance. So, is there space for body positivity in the fitness industry? Or are the two incompatible?
We think they can work in harmony and in fact, the fitness club of the future is a more diverse and inclusive space, filled with a broad spectrum of people pursuing equally wide-ranging goals. Here’s how it’s achieved:
A New Philosophy
A club’s relationship with its members starts from the second they start to consider joining. The messaging they encounter from that very first touch, right throughout their fitness journey needs to be about supporting them as individuals and their personal objectives, not prescribing something we think they should want.
Staff need to be trained in a way that enables them to support each individual at their current level of fitness and being understanding that everyone is different both physically and mentally and that what they want from an exercise programme has to be tailored around delivering whole-person health and wellbeing, rather than dated views on body “perfection”.
A Better Club Culture
All the modern messaging and personal training techniques in the world won’t engender an inclusive membership if the members themselves aren’t brought on board to support an accepting and welcoming culture. One hurtful remark or nasty look can be enough to completely alienate a member and stop them from coming back to the club to pursue their fitness goals.
Members need to be encouraged to be kind to each other, to help when required and to give people space to be themselves whilst they’re in the club.
Wellness That’s More Than Skin Deep
A fitness club’s purpose is to increase the wellness of its members. This means that we need not be afraid of encouraging people to be healthier inside and out, but that we need to develop a true understanding of what whole person wellness looks like and be aware that a person’s physical self is only a small part of that.
We need to be aware that so-called physical perfection can often disguise mental health issues, such as eating and exercise disorders, that can potentially be far more damaging than carrying a few extra pounds. We’re always happier to see a gym floor filled with smiles than thigh gaps and six-packs.
But in the same vein, if we see a 28-year-old step onto the Tanita monitor and register a metabolic age of an 80-year old, there’s clearly work to be done on helping that person to be healthier. If we know that a person’s current lifestyle threatens their staying well and living a long and fulfilling life, we need to offer to help. We can’t shy away from that duty out of a misplaced sense of political correctness.
The trick to all of this is to act from a place of empathy and compassion. To truly support and understand the individual, not to judge and prescribe. If we come from a place of kindness and sensitivity, we can make effective change and create a healthier member population, free from shallow physical observations, misplaced assumptions and unhelpful generalisations.
To explore a new way of working out where everyone is welcome, pop down to your local Gym Plus and try us on for size.
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