Letter to the Editor: Fitness classes as an escape from judgement


Photo submitted by Jackson Firer.

Jackson Firer, Guest Contributor

By complete chance, I was able to have my voice heard on a topic that matters to me. An odd Monday morning where I found myself at local Global Grounds coffee shop, I overheard two women talking about the lack of male participation in UWL’s REC fitness classes. Well, as male who has participated in REC fitness classes for three years, I thought I would offer my perspective. Julia Van Fleet was kind enough to interview me and reflect my thoughts in her article, “UWL fitness classes working towards more balanced participation.” 

In response to that article, another student wrote a letter to the editor (“Size Inclusivity Issues at the REC”) acknowledging the lack of gender inclusivity (mainly men’s lack of participation) in fitness classes but made it a point that the REC has neglected to ensure size inclusivity as well. 

In response to that letter, which argued that UWL and the REC classes it provides do not offer enough support to create an inclusive environment for all, I had this to say:

It is definitely true that young men dominate the recreational center at UWL, and it can be intimidating. It is also true that the entire building could pose to work on creating more of an inclusive environment for people who struggle to get into fitness, or for people who want to get involved but don’t feel comfortable. But that is one of the main catalysts of any fitness place. No matter how inclusive of an environment is created, fitness is driven by a desire to improve upon yourself; and at a place where machines are designed to improve your look, you’re going to face some discouragement. 

As individuals, that’s something we all have to overcome. But when it comes to fitness classes at UWL, I have participated in enough of them to know that each one includes structured supports to help any and all students participate at their desired skill or physical level, without facing judgement from other people. You do not have to follow a strict plan of action or reach a certain level of achievement in any of the classes, nor is there an atmosphere where students are pushed beyond their limitations. 

The few people who join fitness classes join to better themselves first and foremost, as well as join to feel part of a group of people all working to participate in the same goal or activity—to exercise and become more mentally and physically in tune with their bodies. If anything, the fitness classes act as a refuge from the normal “gym” atmosphere which accompanies any normal workout facility. 

My advice is this: Find your niche or be prepared to face some adversity while you work on improving. The world, but especially a gym can feel judgmental at times. Work on finding your place and make it feel comfortable to you. For me, UWL’s fitness classes have always been my place to escape judgement. 

Letters to the Editor do not reflect the beliefs or values of The Racquet Press.

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