Equality and Body Positivity in Fitness—Chrissy King's Story
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By any standard, Chrissy King is considered an inspiration. In the fitness world, she’s not only a success story but a force to be reckoned with. She already achieved her financial goal to be earning as much as a personal trainer and coach as she did in her corporate job. Now, she’s making a difference by promoting diversity and inclusion in the fitness space.
Years ago, Chrissy had a job she loved but eventually found unfulfilling working for the Department of Veterans Affairs. There 10 years and in upper management, she made a difference helping homeless veterans. Her entry into the fitness world was driven by the common and societal pressure to lose weight. It was a slow evolution that evolved into an interest in getting stronger. She found she had a love of powerlifting, with the way it made her feel and the redirect of positive focus it gave her other than “losing weight”.
“My only focus when I got into fitness was that I had to lose weight,” King said. “There was no thought of weight training. I was always known as the weak one in our family. When my first trainer told me that we were going to lift weights I said, ‘I don’t want lift weights, I want to lose weight.'”
Before long she realized she had found her niche in powerlifting. Over time, she learned to be comfortable with her body and comfortable with her relationship with food.
In 2015 she was approached by the gym owner where she trained. He could see her dedication and motivation, and knew this was the makings of a great trainer. Through discussion, he convinced her to start changing lives as a personal trainer.
Working long days of sometimes 17 hours, Chrissy didn’t leave her office job at first. Instead, she trained on the side for nearly 3 years. She knew she loved fitness but she also had a safe salary that didn’t happen overnight. In 2018 Chrissy took the leap into full-time personal training.
As Chrissy would say, “Once I make a decision, I’m all in.” So, after a free 6-week course on personal training in the online world, Chrissy fully dedicated herself to networking with other online coaches and fitness influencers. She was like a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge she could from them.
She didn’t stop just with training clients. She took her knowledge of fitness and applied it in as many areas as she could, creating multiple revenue streams. She started writing for other publications, held educational sessions, and committed herself to her craft.
Her fitness hard work paid off and in 2019, about one year after leaving her 9 to 5 job, Chrissy was making more as a personal trainer and online coach than she had at her day job. The story could end here. But it doesn’t.
Throughout her time as a fitness coach, Chrissy noticed the lack of diversity and inclusion, and the number of microaggressions and even blatant racism and homophobia within the industry. Microaggressions, which are defined as the everyday, subtle interactions or behaviors that communicate bias toward historically marginalized groups, are exactly the opposite of what fitness should be about - total wellness for everyone.
While working on some writing projects, Chrissy Googled images of “Women doing pushups”. What did she find? Hundreds of thin white women doing pushups. None of them looked like her and so many others.
“It’s important for people to see themselves represented. When that doesn’t occur, at the minimum, it can lead to feeling not valued. And at the maximum, it can feel like an erasure of identity.”
Before the recent events that led to a resurgence in media coverage to the Black Lives Matter Movement, Chrissy realized she could make a difference greater than she ever imagined. For her, the momentum behind fighting for inclusion and diversity has been building.
“I’ve been talking about this for years. Back in 2017, I started writing about this, and there wasn’t a lot of conversation taking place about how it relates to the fitness and wellness industry. That needed to change because racism is a public health issue. There have been studies done on how racism affects Black peoples’ health: higher rate of heart disease, higher rate of breast cancer, and high blood pressure.”
She sees a large picture dedicated to creating a fitness space making people of all colors, ages, sizes, gender, and sexual orientation. Fitness should be for everyone and everyone should have access to wellness in environments in which they feel seen, celebrated, welcomed, and embraced.
“Social justice has been the heart of what I do since I was in college. Moving into fitness as a business and networking, I noticed that most of the presenters were white males. And when I looked at the covers of the various fitness magazines, I noticed there were always white women being featured.
“Add to that the focus on a particular body type and I realized that the industry was focused on a particular kind of person and mainstream fitness wasn’t addressing the lack of inclusion within mainstream fitness.
“I understand what a positive impact fitness can have on peoples’ lives. If we’re not creating an environment where people of all backgrounds feel welcome, we are alienating people from something that can have a positive impact on their lives."
In essence, Chrissy has been supporting a more positive wellness environment long before 2020. “This isn’t something new for me, it’s just that people are listening now.”
A lot of people are listening to Chrissy now.
She’s gained national notoriety and her following has skyrocketed. It was only in mid-2020 when she realized the impact she was making. She posted an Instagram Story post asking if the fitness community wanted an anti-racism webinar. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Chrissy went about the usual operations for hosting these webinars. Something was different this time. Within the first day, she already had 5 times the number of enrollments on her sales page that she normally would get for workshops such as these.
This is when she first realized where her fitness and anti-racism journey was taking her. Chrissy says she is pleased with the receptiveness the fitness community is having toward her push for inclusion. But, it’s a difficult journey and one that requires a lot of self-awareness and willingness to bear discomfort during the process. “Having the conversation is easy but the work after is the hard part.”
What does the future hold for Chrissy? The sky’s the limit as she continues writing, conducting corporate training, and now partnering with ISSA. But, in an ideal world for Chrissy King, her efforts would lead to the resolution of these issues and a welcoming fitness environment for all.
Chrissy jokes that this type of resolution would leave her without a job, but a type of unemployment that would have been worth it.
Check out Chrissy King’s recent feature on the Today Show.
Credit: Today Show-NBC
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