Gym anxiety can be daunting for the LGBTQIA+ community. Here’s what fitness professionals should consider to meet the needs of all clients
Gym anxiety is a common experience for many, but some experts in the fitness and wellness industry have begun to recognize and address the specific anxieties faced by those in the queer community and working to create and promote a more inclusive space.
Some gyms, such as Sacramento’s Queers and Allies Fitness, offer personal training programs, nutrition coaching and sports massage designed to be inclusive for all members. Education is also essential: the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is working to ensure that those in the LGBTQIA+ community will experience a welcoming and inclusive fitness environment.
“We strive to achieve this by being the first health and fitness organization to offer health and fitness professionals education and training in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI),” said Amanda Cass, ACE Fitness chief operating officer.
ACE offers several EDI education resources, including courses, webinars and LGBTQIA+-specific live conversations so fitness professionals will be equipped with not just the knowledge but the tools to serve individuals who have not always felt welcome in a health or fitness setting.
“Our flagship course is offered for free to current ACE Certified Professionals and a low cost for all others,” Cass said. “This course equips health and exercise professionals with the tools to use empathy, inclusive language, and person-first care when working with clients.”
Fitness for All
As ACE works to educate fitness professionals in a variety of ways, practitioners would be wise to consider deepening their understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community in order to better serve all fitness clients.
According to Mariah Rooney, MSW, LICSW, co-founder and co-director of Trauma Informed Weight Lifting, it is an absolute necessity that fitness practitioners be sufficiently trained in inclusion in fitness.
“Movement is for everybody,” Rooney said. “But we certainly, I think culturally, have made that not very true. We have done a lot of things in a toxic fitness culture.”
Rooney references the concept of the “fitness-industrial complex.” According to Rooney, the fitness-industrial complex is based on a capitalistic system that has found ways to monetize fitness and movement but does so in an exclusionary way. It’s a notion that fitness trainers and professionals should digest and consider.
“It’s a way that shames and excludes certain people or pressures certain people to move in certain ways and not others or to shame them into participating in fitness and movement so that they can conform to cultural standards,” Rooney explained.
It can be difficult to acknowledge that, in many ways, the call is coming from inside the house – the fitness industry. However, Rooney and others who are working to elicit change and acceptance believe that the first step is recognizing that this framework exists, even if they’d prefer a more inclusive model.
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