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Welcome to 2021 - The Movement Series Part 1

We made it to 2021! WOOHOO! Now we need to survive this year. Let’s face it, it's been a very trying 9-10 months. There is some real hope that 2021 will end much better than it started. At this point we’ve had some time to adjust, and it feels to me like a corner has turned. Throughout 2020, it felt very hard to plan more than a week out, sometimes even planning beyond the next day was hard. Now, it feels like we can begin to plan for the future again. It’s gonna be a rough road, the vaccine is not getting out as fast as folks had hoped, and things in DC are a bit hairy.

Every January the world is filled with new resolutions and plans to change and better themselves. I’ve never been a resolution person, though I think it’s hard to completely ignore the “new year, new you” commercials that take over our screens at New Year’s. But this January feels like, “Ok, I can start looking towards the future and rebuilding life. Soon I’ll get to see friends again, soon I’ll get to go to the movies again, and ever so slowly we will inch back towards something closer to what we were before. Not the same, life is never exactly the same after a change, but similar. And I hope the changes that come are for the better.”

The point of all this rambling is that, for me, there is a desire to get back to some regular exercise and movement. It feels like most of my movement has been my right index finger clicking repeating on the refresh button of various news sites. So I've been looking around at some options for moving my body a bit more. I want to get some muscle and flexibility back, and my endurance has left the building entirely.

While the diet and fitness industry are happy to advertise to us and take our money, they are often not very welcoming or accepting of actual fat bodies in their spaces. Not to mention years of diet/fitness industry trauma can make many of us wary of any attempt at movement, especially in front of other people. I HATE exercising in any way in front of anyone. I’m expecting mocking, or condescending encouragement, and both feel gross. Basically this means I need to work out at home, but I live with 3 people. One of them is my partner so that's ok but, exercising in front of the other two? Nope, not gonna happen. (Even though they are my friends and lovely humans.)

This means I am going on a search for some of the best at home movement options available right now. Life affirming, welcoming spaces and workouts without judgment or expectations that I need to get smaller. One of the silver linings for this year is that with everyone working at home, and many gyms closed or at reduced capacity, trainers have gotten creative and found ways to reach folks in their homes. So, that great trainer you heard about from your friend in another state, who is great with larger bodies, they may do Zoom classes now! The options have significantly expanded for all of us! In fact, there are so many great resources now, that I’m going to do a series of posts on the topic!

Part 1: Online Classes

I think Online classes may be the greatest fitness options ever invented. You get some companionship and camaraderie if you need it, you get a great trainer and all the energy they bring, but you don't have to leave your house. It feels more personal and is certainly more varied then than a workout DVD. No commute, no awkward pre- or post-class convo for us introverts, or pre- or post-class mocking like in elementary school gym class. (Hmmmmm, Which is worse?)

There are some fantastic options out there now. If I had the time and money, I would try them all out for you. But since I can't, here's the best of what I’ve found based on reviews, recommendations, and research. Bonus, many of these classes are offered by bigger folks! One of my favorite things these days is fat folks getting certified and starting their own fitness businesses! YES! It’s so nice to see a big girl kicking ass and leading others and not a skinny chick that I could never and would never want to be. Just a note, I leave out yoga focused programs, because that can, and probably will, be its own series!

All of these are body positive, believe in Healthy At Every Size (HAES), and do not focus on intentional weight loss. Classes are either run by a fat person, or explicit in their openness to all bodies.

Sarah is a Personal Trainer, Plus Size Model, Motivational Speaker, Blogger, Former Miss Plus Canada, Body Positive Advocate and Fitness Expert on Cityline. She started her platform to offer a safe space for fat people to workout. She offers live and on-demand classes. Classes do not require any special equipment and have plenty of modifications. There are a couple price points, one offers access to on-demand and live courses and is currently $97/month, the other is just for on-demand classes and is $47/month.

Courses include:

  • Full body conditioning classes

  • Upper or lower body specific classes

  • Cardio

  • Core focused

  • Yoga

  • Boxing

  • 30 minute quick workouts

If you want to check her out, she’s got some free workouts on YouTube.

Jennifer Portnik has been a plus size fitness instructor for longer than most people knew you could be a plus size fitness instructor. She made headlines in the early aughts when she successfully sued Jazzercise for weight based descirmination, and forced them to change their requirements around how instructors look. Basically she is an OG plus size fitness badass, and you can workout with her on Facebook for free!

She hosts regular live free “get up and dance,” 30 minutes classes in her private Facebook Group. She wants to “inspire you to stay active”. Classes are for all fitness levels and abilities. Recent past Live’s are in the group, in case you missed it. She's warm, upbeat and knowledgeable. The classes are easy to follow along with and gentle on the joints. She chats a lot, especially before things get going. But she’s charming, the classes feel good, and you get to workout for free with a pioneer! Just ask to join her FB group to get access.

According to their site, “The mission of Positive Force Movement is to make elite, top-level coaching and wellness services available to people who have historically not felt welcomed by the fitness industry in a way that honors the full selves and identities of all who seek our services. Our vision is to build a world in which all people who have experienced systemic marginalization have the opportunity to develop a joyful, playful, and empowering relationship to movement in a way that honors the holistic needs of each person.” LOVE THIS!

They have three membership tiers, starting at $17/month for access to some of their on-demand library and 1 live class a week. $49/ month for access to all live and on-demand classes, and $207/month to add 4 monthly coaching calls and a customized program. They also have a drop-in price for live classes.

They offer two types of classes:

  1. Circuit training focused on functional strength

  2. Mobility and strength training

They do have some free classes as well as specific exercises on their YouTube channel. The video quality sometimes leaves something to be desired, but the videos show their commitment to inclusivity and diversity.

Body Positive Fitness is a team of awesome fat personal trainers. The website is bright and welcoming, showing photos of a wide range of body sizes. Their offerings are comprehensive! They look like the fat exercise community of my dreams. Based in Ontario, Canada, their virtual options are available to anyone in the world. They do have a studio, currently closed due to COVID, and in the Spring will offer outdoor classes again. But for those of us outside of Ontario, there are A LOT of options.

Virtual Courses include:

  • Full body exercise classes

  • Yoga (by the amazing Fringeish who I mentioned in this previous article)

  • Lifting

  • Running

  • Stretching

  • Boxing

  • 30 Minute classes

  • Core work

Their monthly pass is rather pricey at $199. But they do offer 5,10 and 20 class passes that you can use at any time, and they have drop-in pricing. They also have a sliding scale available. All the classes are live (part of why they are more expensive) and purposely kept small so the trainers can help everyone individually. They also offer personal triang, personal program development, and 6-week running programs from beginner to 10K.

But what really makes them really different is their commitment to their students and creating a safe welcoming community. They have virtual social nights, game nights, a book club, crafty nights, multiple facebook groups for different interests, and regular Zoom chats to debunk fitness myths. For those in the area, they plan pool days, biking and hiking events, well not right NOW, but when it's safe again. Additionally, they have an anti-racist stamtent with a BLM resource page!

They are focused on healthy, energizing movement and are loved by a lot of their members. I’ve seen multiple people recommend this group and talk about how safe they feel in the class and how amazing they feel afterwards. Honestly, just reading about them makes me want to move to Canada!

Ok, this one is a little different, but I loved it so much I had to include it. This is the site for Jaime Hines, an ”Educator and plus-size fitness professional committed to creating intersectional communities that celebrate diversity, promote self-exploration and foster healthy relationships.” She has burlesque and performance backgrounds and teaches a plus size focused pole class at Defy Gravity Pole and Aerial Arts Studio in Urbana, IL. Side note, her class there is available online, “Online Fluffy Kitty Liquid Motion”. They also are very body positive and have some other great classes.

Through her website, she offers 3 movements classes each week: Midweek Magic on Wednesdays, WERQ Dance Cardio on Thursday, and Saturday Night Stretch. Wednesday and Saturdays’ classes include a little bit of witchyness. From the website “Classes may incorporate simple rituals, astrology, lunar work, oracle cards, candle magic and more”. She also offers private lessons. And her group classes are all $5 each! Super affordable!

These are just five or some of the great online movement courses out there right now. I could easily add another 15 options. Is there someone you love that I missed? Let me know. Stay tuned for Part 2 in my Moving My Fat Body Series.

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