Diversity, fitness, health, Wellness

Black in Boutique Fitness

As you can tell, It’s been a whileeee since my last post. In light of the momentum of the black lives matter movement, I made the decision to take time away from this blog and aid in amplifying the voices of activists and organizers across our nation.

This was imperative–for attention to be shifted fully to the issues of police brutality and racism in this country. I felt that fitness could wait, but I was wrong. Wrong in leaving the issues of discrimination and racism in fitness unaddressed. I haven’t yet discussed my workout preferences or “go-to” options, but I have experienced and seen quite a bit as a Black man in predominately-white fitness spaces.

“At many of these studios and gyms, the sad reality is there are zero BIPOC in leadership roles or even in positions of visability.”

For years, I have been a proponent of boutique fitness studios (i.e. Corepower Yoga, Barry’s, Soulcycle) and benefitted from the intensity, energy, and cleanliness across the board. At many of these studios and gyms, the sad reality is there are zero BIPOC in leadership roles or even in positions of visability. In studios I’ve visited across the country (especially on the East coast), the only black people on staff were members of the cleaning staff. Personally, I have been the “diversity hire” in the past and it came with a lot of frustration and later suppression of my discomfort. To correct this lack of diversity, I have tried to move up the ladder to corporate roles along with voicing my concerns, but all attempts were overlooked. Time and time again, I saw individuals being promoted to assistant managers, instructors, or corporate roles. Maybe once or twice were they non-white.

Even when an opportunity comes to climb the ladder within fitness, BIPOC are faced with more hurdles than their white counterparts. A friend of mine did make it to the instructor level at Soulcycle and her experience(s) were appalling. The company’s actions towards her were contrary of the inclusive and accepting culture they claim to foster. Individuals at the corporate level deliberately ousted her for not fitting the mold they felt she should be in. I’ve also heard numerous stories throughout the years of black instructors being expected to have a certain teaching-style, music, or vibe because they were unknowingly hired as the “token black instructor.”

To be real, when it comes to these workout options you do get results (1 hour and you’ll be down 800-1,000 calories), but that is no longer enough to justify paying into to companies that are all talk and zero action. I truly hope that this recent allyship isn’t a fad or a marketing ploy and strides will be made towards creating actively anti-racist and diverse spaces. I believe in the workout(s), but the community aspect–which is a pinnacle in terms of marketing and drawing individuals into these spaces– is currently a fallacy.

To sum things up, gyms and boutique studios must do better or they’ll continue to deter BIPOC. Aside from the cost, I think the questions regarding low rates of membership for non-white individuals have now been answered..? I’m extremely proud of my former employer, Barry’s for being quick to admit their faults and create a plan with actionable steps towards the inclusivity and “family” aspect they believed they had.

Money talks, and clients must hold these studios accountable and demand BIPOC leadership, concrete action(s), and true safe havens for everyone.