There’s nothing like that moment you walk into your favorite studio, cute Spandex in tow, ready to take on a workout and get moving. But now, more and more of us are heading to boutique classes in search of something bigger than just a good sweat.
Now more than ever, clients are coming through the doors of popular studios looking for “the works”—a mental and physical release that goes way beyond a motivating playlist and an energetic instructor, according to top trainers at Terez’s Linked Not Ranked summit at Rise By We (WeWork’s new in-office wellness club) in New York City.
“Boutique fitness is becoming the intersection of fitness, feminism, mental health, women’s rights,” Well+Good senior editor Jordan Galloway said Saturday, as she led a panel discussion that included SoulCycle’s Stacey Griffith; feminist writer, filmmaker, and activist Jennifer Baumgardner; and Molly Carmel, founder and director of The Beacon Program (dedicated to helping you find sustainable approaches to healthy eating).
“It’s becoming like therapy, masked behind a 60-minute cardio session,” Galloway says. And instructors have an important role in creating a space for openness and body positivity, the group agreed—but how do you do that, exactly? For starters, you get the conversation started, which is exactly what the Terez event was meant to do.
“Being able to bring together an incredible community of women leaders in the health and wellness industry to openly discuss their rawest and realest feelings about their personal experiences is both priceless and rare in the fitness space,” says Amanda Schabes Zeligman, co-founder and creative director of Terez. “It’s been such a special opportunity to open up the conversation about where the fitness industry started, where we are now, where we are going and how we have the power to shape history, together. The energy in the room is so powerful, so real, so beautiful.”
How can you get more than just a sweat sesh out of your workout? Here are 4 expert-approved ways to make the most of it.
1. Acknowledge that yes, the experience is bigger than just the workout
The instructors in the room were all on board with the idea that by 2020, most studios will have mindfulness training of sorts that goes hand in hand with the education of each workout method. “I am with your brain and your soul,” says Carmel. “If you work out, that’s great it’s so good for you. But please, not for recovery from an eating disorder or weight loss. There’s this piece, where the instructor has such an important job in restating this message.”
Baumgardner adds: “We are so often encouraged to be compartmentalized, but fitness can be a path toward integration…And it’s not just great for your health or how you feel. It can be great for society, and for the history going forward. Healing the history that we’ve created.”
2. Create safe spaces
Making studios a place where you can leave everything at the door is becoming increasingly important thanks to the high-stress, politically charged (thanks, Twitter) world we’re living in today. According to Griffith, one way instructors can increase inclusivity is by not alienating class goers (even inadvertently) by using their platforms as a soapbox to sharing your personal POVs.
“There’s a whole intimacy that happens with your music and your people in that room,” says the SoulCycle master trainer, who told the group a story about how difficult it was for her to keep her head held high in class the day after the last presidential election. Without addressing what was on everyone’s mind, Griffith was able to help foster a deep, unifying energy in the room on that day, simply by just being there together (all while wearing a pro-Hillary tee under her sweatshirt).
“There are other ways for instructors to maintain that intimacy without addressing really deep, sometimes controversial issues,” she believes. “Remember [instructors], it’s only your thoughts and views directed out at people. They don’t really get a chance to respond.”
3. Stop your quest for finding a bikini body, and focus on building your best body
More and more wellness sites and magazines are (finally) silencing their “ultimate beach bod” cheerleading-slash-bullying—something Well+Good has intentionally avoided from the start. Instead, the dialogue is shifting toward body positivity. For Griffith, this trend directly influences the way she speaks with the clients on and off the bike.
“We don’t talk about weight loss, we talk about muscle, we talk about the myofascia, we’re on more of a kinesiology template,” she says. And Galloway stressed the importance of inclusivity, and that big names like model Ashley Graham and yoga star Jessamyn Stanley are helping many to remember that healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.
4. Stop over-exercising
With an abundance of boutique options in major cities, more and more women are hitting multiple classes each week—and sometimes each day. But the group agreed that over-exercising is detrimental, not just for your body, but also your mindset. “Hurting ourselves more by over-exercising, that’s not a way to get healthy,” says Carmel. “It’s our responsibility to change that dialogue.”
Like other instructors, Griffith touched on the communication she gets from a handful of riders on the regular, looking for support in all areas of life. While she assures them they’re not alone, she also consciously refers them to experts who know how to handle their specific issues. “Be authentic,” she advises. “Come from your own truth, and let them know you care.”
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