8 Gyms Where Fitness Is For Everyone (Men's Health)

Posted: Apr 24, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in Men's Health on April 24, 2023.


8 Gyms Where Fitness Is For Everyone

By Ben Court

Walking into the place where you work out should feel great.

Whether you're there to build strength, tune up your cardio, or sweat out some stress, you're working on becoming be a better version of yourself. The last thing you need is to be judged or mocked or side-eyed because of the way you look, the way you talk, or the way you move or anything that may signify that you are somehow "different."

Fitness should be for everyone—obviously. These eight trainers are ensuring that everyone can get the life-changing and life-enhancing benefits of fitness. That means leaning in to the opportunity to train people who are neurodiverse and may need unique kinds of motivation or a quiet atmosphere. Or creating protocols to train people who use wheelchairs and need specialized equipment and exercises. Or working with trans people who prefer to exercise with a trainer who embraces all body types and has an open mind to the gender spectrum. Or creating a free fitness class in a marginalized community where there are no gyms. These stories—and others—reveal insights that can help all of us on our own fitness journeys and also enable us to be better allies on everyone's fitness journey.


RICKY MARTIN started a free fitness class that now reaches 7,000 people.

Ricky Martin, a trainer and community-outreach worker in Richmond, realized his people were suffering: He saw high rates of obesity and diabetes—“[We all had] family or friends who were dying”—and little structure to help folks begin a fitness journey. In 2014, he created a pilot program to instruct people how to teach a group fitness class. “The volunteers came from underserved communities, and they looked like people in those communities, and so they had a heart for it because they understood the urgency,” he says. Ten women showed up for the first session and learned to teach a class Martin developed with the American Council on Exercise. It requires no equipment and mixes calisthenics and core moves.

Then Sports Backers, a local nonprofit that encourages active living, teamed up with Martin to scale the program and give it a name: Fitness Warriors. It grew and grew; so far it’s offered as many as 60 free fitness classes weekly in the greater Richmond area. Martin says the challenge is that students in a class often have a diverse range of abilities, so instructors need to be able to adjust for, say, an elderly obese person as well as a fit young man recently released from jail. One of Martin’s favorite workouts is a 10-10-10 ladder of jumping jacks, situps, and pushups, all moves that can be easily modified (on your knees for easier pushups, clapping for harder). His personal record is 2 minutes, 43 seconds. He says the group typically does it in under seven minutes, with participants cheering each other on to finish.



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