I received this email last week:
"Hi Michele, I am a plus size woman and want to know what programs you would recommend for someone interested in becoming a plus size personal trainer." -Kathryn
I have to be honest, I wasn't immediately sure what she was asking off the bat. Trainer certifications are largely based in knowledge of proper exercise form, safety and programming... but I couldn't for the life of me think of any one certification that requires its candidates to maintain a certain "look".
It does go without saying that there are certain pressures which exist in this industry that make us professionals feel like we have to fit a certain mold, sure. But Body Positive Fitness Alliance is going against the grain of this industry by nature. We stand for making fitness accessible and approachable for everyone regardless of where they are in life and we urge the world to take pride in what they can do vs. what they look like.
We've found in our BPFA Trainer Resource group that what we are instilling in our clients directly carries over to how we lead our own lives. After all, we as trainers are just as human as our clients. We feel the pressures from society to be smaller and to take up less space the same as they do. We understand the struggle of being judged for what we look like and not who we are or what we can do. We can argue that we even experience these pressures more than the average person because this industry is vain in nature (the whole reason we are working to change it!).
So Kathryn- I've polled my amazing group of trainers around the world who are working toward making the fitness industry a more positive place. Here are some of the answers we came up with for you:
"So do we wonder which colleges are best for plus sized students? Um. No. Any course you take to make you a CERTIFIED trainer. 6 years with NASM and none of the applications ask for weight or size." -Michele Tolman
"As a plus-size RD, I have garnered respect regardless of my size based on a few principles - 1) I know my shit, 2) I'm anti-fragile, 3) I'm transparent about my own journey which creates a strong connection with my clients and a deep level of understanding. I am sure I have critics, but I can't hear them over the sound of everyone else who loves me... " -Brenda Murdock
"I have always been a plus sized personal trainer/fitness pro, and I have never once been question because I know my shit and I carry myself in a way that lets people know that I'm serious. I don't doubt myself and it shows!!" -Kristy Fassio
"If you look at any of the big training certs, none of them come with some sort of size qualifications. I've always found this idea that we need different programming for someone who is plus sized perplexing - and when I see it in fitness journals, it's eye roll inducing... Give people the information and support they need and most of them won't give a hoot about what size you are." -Nikki Naab-Levy
"I'm very clear about my journey. Struggles and all. Insecurities in my appearance and the "ideal trainer look". It took me a long time to let my fucks go. This community has helped with that. Suggest they do a program like NASM and to surround themselves with folks like us. I always tell my clients 'I'm trying to be the healthiest version of myself too'. It's not about taking up less space. As we know. It's about health, sustainability and movement. In most cases you HAVE to 'walk the walk, talk the talk"' but in no way do you need an ideal look." -Danielle Lohmann
"Finding folks like Erin Brown and Go Kaleo - Amber Rogers made me think about my own internal dialogue, and there were some changes I needed to make. I don't want to hand my baggage to a client!" -Megan Martin
"...in my opinion your size takes a backseat to your coaching skills and anatomical knowledge. When I took my Eating Psych Coach training, I learned so much about how to coach people. How to hold space for them. How to listen. How to love them without judgment. If you can focus on doing those things, you can't miss. My teacher once told me, 'you only need to be one step ahead of your client in order to help them'. It's true." -Cyndi Springford
"I waited seven years to become a trainer because I was worried about having 'the right look'. There have been times I've faced very open discrimination and criticism for not looking the part, and have seen the same happen to other female trainers (not the guys, seems their appearance is irrelevant).
But the longer I'm in the industry and experience all the variety it involves, the more I realize that there's a whole world outside that Insta trainer. It's just hard for those not in the industry to see when that's how trainers are seen in media."- Bree-Danielle Wyatt
"I faced all of these same struggles and self doubts! All I can say is DO IT. Passion is the first step. So what if someone doesn't want to work with you/hire you because you're not the norm? You probably wouldn't jive with them anyways. Like I said, the more I've been able to share my knowledge, which came through my certification as well as personal knowledge, the less people seem to care. I try not to let any insecurities influence how I act or present myself and in return, people don't see them. They see someone who is caring, accepting, knowledgable and willing to help." -Megan Pratt
John Madden, arguably the best football coach of all time and one of the most successful individuals in the football industry.
Never coached a single losing season and has an estimated net worth of $200 million.
If you want to help others, go out and do it.
Learn as much as you can, be the best possible coach you can be.
If you're wondering what the trainers who contributed above look like and how their appearance plays into their professional lives, like us on facebook to follow our new series debuting this week called What a Trainer Looks Like.