A culture where everyone is winning all the time
Our aim with our coaching is to provide what we call uncommon care. What’s ‘uncommon’ about our approach is that we’re taking into consideration the sorts of things that it’s most commonly easy to ignore or forget about. What are those things?
Trauma and trauma-informed coaching are big topics and we’re not going to be able to do a deep dive into them in this post. At the core of a trauma-informed approach to coaching is the recognition that people come to us with a wide variety of past experiences that may have an impact on how they experience their training session. In order for us to provide an uncommon level of care, this requires ongoing attention, awareness and sensitivity—and for us to do this, we make compassion and understanding our key starting point.
Central to Reimagym’s culture is that we approach coaching as a collaboration. Our stance is that we, the coaches, do not have all of the answers—or even any of the “answers”—because it is our members who know their body best. Instead, we view ourselves as guides or co-collaborators on the journey, offering insights and suggestions along the way, where it is the member who retains ultimate control over where we go.
Trauma can often involve intense feelings of a loss of control, so we prioritize making sure our members know they are the ones in control of this journey—regardless of whether they have told us about their trauma or not. For clarity, I should note that we don’t ask for our members to share their trauma. We’re simply mindful of how common it is for people to have had adverse experiences surrounding fitness and exercise and/or more broadly surrounding their sense of bodily autonomy and safety.
As part of prioritizing member safety, we have established a culture of consent: if ever a coach is considering a touch-based coaching cue, we ask first: ‘Can I touch your shoulder?’ Moreover, we often ask for consent before offering feedback or an exercise progression.
We have made the deliberate choice to frame coaching feedback as an offer to explore or experiment with movement, rather than the more traditional framing of ‘corrections’ delivered in a very directive manner.
For example, we’re more likely to say something like ‘Hey Julie, can you sit your hips back any further for this deadlift?’ (in part because we want to acknowledge that there may be a reason we haven’t considered that the person is moving the way they are)… rather than ‘Get your hips back more!’ (which is drill sergeant-like and devoid of a sense of partnership or exploration).
Going deeper, we have made the choice to actively search out reasons to celebrate the people who are training with us—for all manner and size of accomplishments and efforts. It’s too easy for a person to go a whole day without someone telling them they’re awesome and it’s too easy to find reasons why a person is, in actuality, freaking awesome…so we’ve opted to make a point of letting our members know that on a regular basis.
Inclusivity is often framed as the idea that ‘everyone is welcome’. The tricky thing here is that aiming to create a space where everyone is welcome can all too easily lead to making a space that upholds the status quo. And the tricky thing about that is that the status quo doesn’t actually welcome everyone. It leaves certain groups of people on the margins—and that is by design.
Consequently, I want to acknowledge that we are explicitly making a point of making our space feel welcoming and inclusive for our queer and trans family and friends and for people with a wide variety of body shapes and sizes—entirely because mainstream fitness makes them feel unwelcome. Having said that, it remains the case that everyone and anyone who feels at home in our space is truly welcome at Reimagym… AND I want to acknowledge that we’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
Put another way for the sake of explicit clarity: by making sure that we create a space that is welcoming for our LGBTQIA+ community and body-positive, we are—by extension—also creating a welcoming space for anyone who has felt like they don’t quite fit in more mainstream fitness spaces. It follows from there that anyone who thinks what we do and how we do it is nice, they’re welcome to train with us.
To be explicit and clear, we asked ourselves, what tends to make our queer and trans family and friends feel uncomfortable, unseen or unwanted in mainstream fitness spaces? How does anti-fat bias show up in mainstream fitness spaces? …and we’ve set about to make sure those elements are not included in our space.
Some parts of this endeavor have been easy and straightforward: we have non-gendered bathrooms. We normalize a non-binary view of gender by inviting people to share their pronouns, if they want, at the start of every session. When slamming medicine balls into the floor, we often suggest imagining you’re smashing the patriarchy 😛
Other aspects of this endeavor are a bit more nuanced and challenging because they represent tackling thought-patterns and beliefs that we’ve often internalized without conscious consideration. We deliberately avoid common triggers such as stereotypical “gym bro” talk, unnecessarily gendered language and diet culture talk.
There’s more, but that will have to wait for another time…
At the heart of what we do at Reimagym is a reimagining of what the gym experience can be. We fervently believe that everyone deserves to have a positive experience with fitness, where they have fun, feel seen and celebrated all while surrounded by a community of people who are engaged in a similar, if slightly different, journey with their health and fitness.
Creating an environment that makes this sort of journey possible asks much. I want to acknowledge that being mindful of all that we strive to be mindful of has required us to examine a wide range of word choices and behaviors. It has been—and continues to be—work. We want to be clear: we certainly don’t think we’ve got it all “figured out”. We all swim in the same water (you know, the ‘water’ that is the multiple and intertwined systems of oppression and dominance that infiltrate our conscious and unconscious minds with flawed and dehumanizing belief systems) and we acknowledge that we’re going to make mistakes. And we’re going to get it wrong. And we’re going to learn (and unlearn) and do better next time.
It is this exceedingly worthwhile work that allows us to provide a space where people can give fitness another chance, or a first chance, and, ideally, where they can find a version of fitness that they enjoy doing!
If you’d like to work out with knowledgeable coaches who will work collaboratively with you to find the best versions of exercises that work best for your body and your goals, all while cheering you on and celebrating you every step of the way…we might be for you. If you like the idea of being part of a community of people who have all had less than awesome experiences with fitnessing prior to coming here, we might be for you. If you understand that fitness, tutus and glitter make for a magical combination, we might be for you. Try us out!