Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were somewhere out in public and you looked down to find that you weren’t wearing pants?
The relief when you wake up is overwhelming!
No one wants that kind of attention.
Same goes for fitness — sometimes the hardest step for someone is going to be walking through the doors to a gym or class. Fear of judgment can be a really powerful thing.
So for all my instructors looking to build an inclusive space — here are some things you can do to make all of your students feel comfortable and accepted.
Sometimes instructors get caught up in being technical — in other words we tend to want our students to get the most out of our classes as possible.
That’s great! But it’s also important to stay in touch with the human side.
- Be open and sincere
- Talk, laugh, and mingle
- Get to know your students
- Make personal connections
- Give positive, specific feedback
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine you’ve been taking classes for a while and one day the instructor says “Way to put in the extra mile today! What great progress!”
That’d feel pretty good, right? Not just because you made that progress — but because someone noticed your efforts.
Positive reinforcement is a way better option than the negative kind. It leaves people feeling proud of putting the time in toward their overall wellness and encourages them to keep coming back.
Be Body Positive
One really cool thing coming out of the last couple of years has been the wave of women being real women. Finally! It’s about time we embrace stretch marks, wrinkles, blemishes, tall, short, curvy, thin, and everyone in between.
Note — being body positive is not about encouraging unhealthy habits, but about understanding that no two bodies are the same.
- Welcome all body types to your classes or facility
- Focus on how fitness makes people feel over losing weight
- Be open about your own imperfections
- Lead open, positive discussions
- Be encouraging and make it known that your space is for anyone
Everyone is going to have to approach their wellness journey with consideration to their body type and where they currently are on a fitness level scale. How you create that space is going to make a big difference on who keeps showing up or not.
Help Build Connections
It’s always really cute hearing stories about how friends or couples met one another — and can be especially cute when someone else made that meeting happen. So wouldn’t it be great if you could be the reason why a friendship blossoms?
Kids can walk up to other kids at the playground and say “Hey, do you want to be my friend?” and boom — instant friends.
It’s not so easy as we age.
- Host events
- Encourage engagement
- Have a positive note wall or board
- Hold friendly competitions
- Pair people up for different exercises
- Make your space or class fun and enjoyable!
Get people excited about showing up to a health focused social hour!
Not everyone is after the same thing when it comes to fitness goals — and some people need more inclusive options.
- Hire bilingual staff or offer translation services
- Make equipment handicap accessible
- Make it easy for people to ask questions and get answers
- Have neutral facilities where people can feel comfortable getting changed
- Offer modified workout options for different needs
- Hold classes at different times of the day
- Hire a diverse staff that has different technical skill sets
- Offer childcare services (or pet watching options, who wouldn’t love that?!)
When you set your classes or fitness facility up with these kinds of considerations, you’re creating a supportive space for people — a place where they know that you care about them and their needs.
Hold your space (and the people in your space) accountable.
Encourage positivity and discourage negativity — in fact, don’t let it slide. Make it known what you, your classes, and your facility stand for. Help people check their judgements at the door.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to focus on wellness in a safe space — so it’s up to you to help create a spot that they can keep coming back to!
The more the merrier, right?