It might have taken a minute (or several), but when the initial shock of Donald Trump’s presidential victory finally wore off late last winter, many players in New York City’s fitness scene decided it was time to develop their political muscle. And a new movement being dubbed ACTIVEism has been getting stronger ever since.
Opting to channel their anger into action, studios and instructors have hosted events to call attention to—and raise funds for—causes threatened by the Trump administration over the past few months, turning their jump boxes and yoga mats into soap boxes for progressive reform.
“It’s about bringing the positive aspects of fitness and yoga out into the world of politics that’s surrounding us.”
“I chose a career in fitness because I felt it had so much untapped potential for social change,” says Sadie Kurzban, founder of 305 Fitness—which is leading the charge as the most politically engaged workout spot in the city. “It was my subversive feminist fight, and now it’s my life’s mission to empower people, especially women, through movement.”
In addition to sending out public statements and information on activism to clients, Kurzban has executed multiple fundraising initiatives for Planned Parenthood, including a limited-edition “Nasty Don’t Quit” tank that sold out quickly. Members of 305’s community attended the Women’s March together on January 21 and are now participating in “100 Days of Resistance” at the studio, which involves tasks like sending postcards to House Speaker Paul Ryan and signing petitions. Kurzban’s also engaged her fitfam in the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ causes—and she’s not alone.
Keep reading to see how NYC’s fitness community is flexing its political muscle.
“Like many people, I feel like I want to do more, I need to do more,” says Shauna Harrison, a yoga instructor from San Francisco who teamed up with Emily Torockio, an instructor at Y7, to host a Muscle+Flow: We Rise event, which donated its proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “In other words, it’s about bringing the positive aspects of fitness and yoga out into the world of politics that’s surrounding us.”
And ACTIVEism is gaining momentum as studios become safe zones for people feeling marginalized and threatened within the current political climate: Rally+Rise (an organization created by Well+Good deputy editor Rebecca Willa Davis) hosted a day of Planned Parenthood fundraisers at fitness spots like Bari, ModelFit, and New York Pilates. There was an Exercise Your Power (IntenSati-meets-activism) workshop, a Pleasure as an Act of Resistance event at Brooklyn Strength, a How to Activate Your Inner Activist talk at Lululemon’s HUB 17, and Making Moves for Planned Parenthood at Studio 26.
“Whether these issues affect how much better your squat is today than two months ago is not the point; whether someone feels safe and legitimized and respected and loved and welcome is.”
But the movement also raised a question some members of the fitness world find hard to answer: Do politics belong next to plank poses? According to ACTIVEism proponents, it’s impossible for them to separate the two.
“All of these issues affect the mental health and well-being of [the] people that walk in our doors and teach in our studios and gyms. Women’s health, health care, [racial] profiling, marriage equality, and on and on and on,” Harrison says. “Whether these issues affect how much better your squat is today than two months ago is not the point; whether someone feels safe and legitimized and respected and loved and welcome is.”
And many in the business of sweat are willing to stake the health of their companies on that fact, too. “As a founder, I believe that my ethical and moral responsibility to stand up for the right thing matters more than our bottom line,” Kurzban says. “I would rather use our platform to do good than to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and no one gets upset. People will get upset! You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.” Time to get cracking.
Fired up? Learn how you can start your own activist group, and meet the organization that’s helping more women get elected.