I recently read a blog post on SweatNet by Tom Gallagher that really pulled at me. A post about the word “inclusive”. It seems to be a standard word thrown around in the Charlotte fitness industry these days. How can you appeal to the mass? Be inclusive. As a former college athlete and now personal trainer, I would say feeling included at a workout is easier for me than the average person. I am good at most things that someone will ask me to do even if I haven’t done it in awhile. When it isn’t easy, my natural competitive nature drives me to engage and figure out how to at least fake that I can keep up with people.
I train a wide variety of people that come to me individually or in small groups because feeling included isn’t easy for them. When I first started to hear that people didn’t feel included at these self described “inclusive” workouts, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Maybe they were overexaggerating? Maybe they were just having a bad day? Maybe if they went back again it would be better? I like to give things the benefit of the doubt.
I decided to go with some of my athletes individually to workouts. Something we both agreed we wanted to try. We both would go in with an open mind and a friend. No solo anxiety going on here. I saw it first hand. I saw the feeling like “Charlotte fitness is SO inclusive, yet so exclusive.” My heart dropped. I’m a mom. I feel such empathy for everyone. Every adult was once a child. Every human should be treated with the same respect.
So, what are some examples of what I saw?
- “We welcome all pace levels” on a group run. In my mind that means the person organizing the event should be in the back. No one but the person that asked people to be there should be in last. How inclusive is it to say we welcome all pace levels? Yet, how exclusive is it for you to run off and leave the slowest person behind?
- “All exercises can be modified”. But does anyone in the upper tier of fitness ever stop to do the easiest modification? I’m a victim of this when I participate in class. I tend to push pace to keep up only to watch my form deteriorate. When someone new comes to a workout, why don’t I ever consider slowing down to work out at their pace to make them feel included? Again, how exclusive is it for us all to be doing the hardest version of an exercise while the new person struggles with the easiest modification.
- “Let’s stick around and socialize after a workout” or “Let’s meet this week to go to XYZ workout”. Sticking around to socialize is a great idea as long as you make a conscience effort to engage with said new person. Invite them to sit down with you. Ask questions about them. Follow through with your promise to meet up at another workout. How can you feel included when there is a private group text/WhatsApp message/email chain that you haven’t been added to?
These examples are not things you have to do. Some gyms/trainers want to be exclusive. They have no problem saying that. I commend them for that. At least they are honest. However, as we evolve, we must consider our actions as it relates to our words. Thank you Tom and various clients of mine for opening my eyes to this. It has been way too easy for me to coast along with a blind eye, not even paying attention to this. I know I’m not perfect, but I am aware. The first step to change is awareness.