Race And The Fitness Industry

Race And The Fitness Industry

By: Gerell Webb

I pride myself on being able to train anyone, everyone from the “soccer mom” who has never touched a weight to some of your favorite entertainers, professional athletes, and everyone in between. My client roster is comprised of a diverse group of people varying in race, body type, lifestyle, and background. I am intentional about providing an inclusive environment where the only requirement is that you want to get better. If the answer is yes, then you are welcome. The gym is the definition of equality. We are all equal when we walk through those doors. Two hundred twenty-five pounds is 225 pounds, no matter who you are or what you believe.

Either you can lift that shit, or you can’t. That’s all that matters. Or is it?
The question we are attempting to answer in this article is, does race play a role in the fitness industry, and if so, what is its function? While the gym is a place of equality, the fitness industry is not. That’s just my opinion. What images come to mind when you think of the perfect embodiment of health and fitness? To narrow it down, what do you physically see? Is it a particular race?
Hair color? Height? Weight? Look at your favorite fitness magazines or popular #fitspo accounts. You will likely find an overwhelming representation of young, blonde women touting thin but aesthetically pleasing bodies – lean and shapely with just the right amount of muscle. On the other side, you may have very few people of color that operate in that space, and those that do are often looked at as being the “token” black or brown person; still, that vast majority of the fitness industry appears to be White. It seems that the fitness industry wants Black Culture but not Black people. This is confusing to me because Black and Brown people have the highest rate of health disparities, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The African American population alone has spending power projected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2024. So, with all this information, why wouldn’t the fitness industry’s marketing ads target African Americans and encourage them to get healthy? Recent studies show that Blacks and Asians (excluding Chinese) were the least active ethnic groups in 2021. I think that it is a misrepresentation that BIPOC( Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) have less of a desire to work out. Instead, could it be possible that these groups feel excluded and underrepresented, which as a result, makes them uncomfortable in those spaces? For example, I am the only black trainer in the gym where I currently train clients. For perspective, there are about 12-15 trainers in total. The gym I do my workouts is also predominantly White. I can easily walk in and be the only Black person in the room. So, that means I spend most of my time in predominantly white spaces. I am a confident guy, but I also understand how that may intimidate some and make them uncomfortable. So, they end up avoiding it together.

Now let me be honest. My Community, the Black Community, can also be divisive. Divisive in the sense of labeling something a “Black Owned Business,” which is meant to be a celebration but can come off to others outside of our Community as unwelcoming. FUBU For Us By Us. Divisive in our refusal to participate and show up to things outside of our Community.

We have to show up and set ourselves up to make sure that we are being adequately represented.
I’ve given you the problem but not the solution. Believe it or not, the answer is simple but challenging to practice or walk out. Simple, meaning it’s an easy fix. The hard part is convincing you to do it. True diversity and inclusion leave no one out, not even the white patriarchy. Take a look at your circle of influence and your day-to-day life. If all those people look like you, think like you, and have the same political and religious beliefs as you. If they are all straight or all gay. You need to change your circle. We need people around us that offer different perspectives, life experiences, and different sets of beliefs and that we challenge our way of thought. That is how we grow. That is how we truly learn to accept one another. This is how we become a community, not the Black or White Community but just the Community. Fitness is for everybody. EVERYBODY. I hope that one day we can all see ourselves represented equally throughout the fitness community. The more we embrace and accept each other and all of our differences I believe the Fitness industry will have no choice but to follow.
So let’s go to work!

Follow Gerell on Instagram

NFM Staff
Author: NFM Staff

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