The fitness industry is a bizarre world. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real. It’s an industry that gives us license to compare ourselves to those around us; one that expects, exploits, and banks on our self-loathing. This is also a business obsessed with the most hegemonic gender ideals. Sweet Mo runs counter to these narratives, so for the most part, I am lucky to be able to forget about the fitness industry’s primary facade.
Last week, Aesch and I went out well after our respective bedtimes to attend a networking group that is new to us. After a few conversations about consolidating credit, the ins and outs of mortgage refinancing, and the similarities between technical writing and grant writing (actually quite interesting), someone came up to us, eager to chat about his fifty-rep pull up goal. Finally, I thought, something we can really contribute to!
When he made a point, he would grab my arm and linger there, fingers lightly squeezing, individually pressing, as if he were creating a mental contour of my shoulder and bicep. In the moment, I didn’t think anything of it. Some people are physically expressive conversationalists. After the 4th or 5th time, I started to think he was hitting on me. Still fine. Cute, even. I let it go.
We spoke at length. The discussion turned a corner when he began giving us tips for how to better our business by selling supplements and installing a sauna. Love the sauna idea, but where would we put it?!
At the end, he turned to me–his final suggestion–“You need to be bigger!” He explained that to market and sell a fitness business, I “need to get big!!”
I chuckled, amused. Got it. “Alright, it was great to talk to you. Very interesting ideas. Definitely some things to think about.” We left, and moved on.
During my time in the fitness industry, I’ve had some version of this exchange repeatedly. The first time it happened I’d only been training for a few months. I was starting to pick up after my last session of the morning, when one of our newest members approached. “I don’t know if I should tell you this…” He paused as I stood and turned towards him. “But, I didn’t expect you to be so small!” It took me a second to digest his words. To realize what he said out loud. “Yeah.” I agreed, slightly shocked, heart sinking. “Hah, I know. I get that all the time.” What I didn’t say was, he just echoed one of my biggest insecurities: That I wasn’t good enough to train. That I wasn’t ripped/cool/beautiful/outgoing/excitable enough be taken seriously in this business.
I decided to tell him some of the story of my body. About the hunger, the self-loathing, and the detachment. About gender transition, and depression. About fitness, and joy, and empowerment, and finally coming home to myself. I felt a rush of relief and a push of confidence. I wasn’t responding to his statement anymore. I was talking to myself.
I spoke only for a couple minutes and when I was done, he stared at me speechless, finally sputtering, “Wow, man…. I didn’t realize.”
That was one of the most important and empowering conversations I’ve had. After that, I started thinking of my body differently. The way I communicate with myself changed tone. My inner monologue became kinder, softer, grateful.
See, I realized that my body has been an amazing host to me, while I have been a terrible guest. I ignored it when it spoke out in pain or fear or hunger. I brutalized it with no days off from workouts that were too fast and too hard. I never considered what it needed. Instead, I put my desires onto it, and punished it when it did not comply. But it has stayed with me through it all. It is here, and so am I.
My body is a testament to how far I have come and to the way I have traveled–it’s been bumpy and often unorthodox, but I am my best self because of it.
So no, I don’t need to get bigger to sell a fitness business. That’s not the industry I am in. I am in the business of letting go of those inhibiting ideals. Of moving and finding our limitations because it feels great, powerful, grounding, and inspired.
Are you ready to start a new relationship with your body and with fitness? I’d love to be the one to support you! Contact me today to schedule a consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-232-1353.