It’s kind of ironic that the fitness industry—which is built around making people healthier—is full of so much unhealthy competition. After all, making it as an instructor at a top studio is almost as cutthroat a process as getting into an Ivy League school or being cast in a blockbuster movie.
That reality isn’t lost on the fitness pros themselves, which is why several of them have banded together to form Link Together, Lead Together—a new initiative that’s seeking to create conversation and collaboration between female fitness instructors, rather than rivalry.
“Our mission is for those in the fitness industry to feel empowered to help one another, instead of pitting themselves against one another,” says Zara Terez Tisch, founder of activewear brand Terez, who launched the platform in collaboration with IntenSati (the New York City-based workout phenom that combines butt-kicking cardio, martial arts, and uplifting affirmations). “We’re bringing everyone together under one roof to network, to have fun, and to celebrate what we’ve done together as a team.”
You can sit with us
The competitive vibe is notoriously pervasive at the studio level—many spots have even been known to ban instructors from other gyms from taking their classes—but it’s also taking place between the instructors themselves. “Teaching fitness has always been an isolating profession—one bounces around the city from one studio to another, and there is little opportunity to see and learn from each other,” says Natalia Petrzela, a historian and IntenSati instructor who co-founded Link Together with Tisch and SatiLife founder Patricia Moreno. “This is exacerbated by social media, which often encourages people who don’t interact much in person to compare themselves to artificially filtered versions of one other… not to mention [it allows us to] rank who has more likes and followers.”
And the competition doesn’t stop there, says Lacey Stone, a Los Angeles-based Flywheel instructor who also runs her own intensive bootcamp program. “There’s competition to have the best time slots at the studio, and then you have to have a signature body part—mine are my arms, Simone [De La Rue]’s are her abs, Tracy Anderson is known for having great legs. All the studios are trying to be better than each other, and the stars of the studios are the instructors.”
Sweat: the great equalizer?
In an effort to change the paradigm, the Link Together team launched an event series that brings together instructors from a variety of studios to sweat and socialize IRL. So far, there have been two events in NYC—which involved fitness classes taught by Moreno and Petrzela and celeb trainer Kira Stokes, respectively—and the concept will be making its LA debut on April 13. At the invite-only event, Stone is set to teach a dance-sport hybrid conditioning class, while 75 fitness pros from SoulCycle, Equinox, Yogaworks, and more will also get decked out in Terez leggings and bond over juice, a braid bar, and gift bags from Well + Good.
Judging by the response to the first two NYC sessions, the Link Together crew is on to something big. “It was the first time that a lot of these women found themselves in the same room, so they were just really excited to have conversations with women who are out there doing the same thing they are,” says Terez creative director and co-founder Amanda Schabes. “They finally have a chance to embrace one another.” Adds Tisch: “It’s hard to describe, but there’s this energy in the room… you actually feel chills because you realize everyone in here is exactly like you and sees the positivity here.”
Strength in numbers
As the series continues to expand to cities across the country, Petrzela hopes that it will spark conversations bigger than just ‘Hey, I love your Instagram!’—for instance, she’s looking forward to creating more dialogue around the anti-feminist ‘bikini body’ lingo still used in many classes, or the lopsided economics of the industry (where only a few superstars at the top are compensated well). And Stone is excited about the prospect of bringing instructors’ focus back to the reason they all got into the industry in the first place: to change lives.
“I think the instructors that are the most successful are the ones whose purpose is to help people—not to look pretty or be a star, but to make students the stars,” she says. “You want them to have the great legs, you want them to have the best arms, you want them to have the best abs. [This industry] is not about competition—it’s about helping everyone be the best they can be.” And in a world like that, everyone wins.
Need more proof that amazing things happen when studios work together? Check out the killer at-home workouts from our 2015 NYC Fitness Biathlon, featuring Barry’s Bootcamp and Body By Simone, Tone House and Shadowbox, The Movement and Circuit of Change, and The Fhitting Room and SLT.