Fitness

This Is Why Geek Fitness Communities are so Important

As a kid I didn’t completely fit anywhere. Not in my neighborhood, at school, or in the Xbox Live party. I was a kid in her cheerleading uniform, bragging about my standing broad jump, sitting next to the kid wearing a wizard costume playing Magic the Gathering. There were geeks and there was fitness, but there was no such thing as geek fitness. I was only getting up early for dance class or to watch Pokémon. I wasn’t sorry about who I was, but I knew I was different. I’m a black ciswoman, first-generation American on one side, and I’m a pretty big geek, a nerd, a dork, and…an athlete. I’m also the founder of Geek Girl Strong, an inclusive health coaching community for people who, like me, don’t fit into just one box.

I knew I didn’t fit in but I didn’t understand the extent to which I was an outlier until I became a P.E. teacher. I mostly taught grades 6–12 and witnessed many of my students, especially the girls, go from priding themselves on their ability to get As and score a home run in kickball to choosing between the two, in order to focus on sports or excelling as a student.

At the heart of this pressure to fit in as an athlete, for kids and adults alike, is the mainstream narrative around wellness. When you hear the word wellness or even athlete, what do you picture? We’ve been taught to picture the thin, white, able-bodied, gender-normative people most often depicted as the height of health and fitness, in pop culture and advertising. They’re could-be former varsity athletes, professional dancers, or Olympians. This narrow representation intimidates many people into believing that should they choose to begin a wellness journey, it would be lonely.

Pushing back against the mainstream narrative of wellness is one of the reasons I started Geek Girl Strong.

Our community is made up of girls, women, nonbinary folks, and our allies who believe that wellness should be inclusive and holistic, encompassing what I call the triforce of wellness: exercise, nutrition, and mental health. When it comes to fitness, GGS offers both private and small group health coaching, personal training, and pole dance lessons, and my monthly Fangirl Health Club, a 90-minute session that includes a warm-up, a movement lesson, a cooldown and a wellness Q&A where I address questions and open the floor for discussion among attendees. With GGS it’s not just about your workout, it’s about learning as we go, asking questions, and being curious about movement and learning what our bodies can do. When it comes to nutrition, I help teach my clients how to read nutrition facts labels and I take them on grocery store tours. And our focus on mental health is, I believe, what distinguishes GGS from other fitness programs. I believe that being someone who speaks openly about living with a mental illness and advocates for mental health care has made it possible for GGS members to speak openly about the importance of caring for their own mental health. I have assisted many clients in their search for therapists and support groups. We also talk about how we relate to characters in our favorite fandoms through mental health. ("Harry Potter totally has PTSD too.")

And when we work out, we let our geek flags fly.

All GGS events have a theme and everything from the warmup to the playlist to the moves themselves go with the theme. I’ve led workouts based on everything from 1984 and Fallout to Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Deadpool, and Jessica Jones. Attendees are encouraged to wear fandom-related gear and we begin each session with an introductory circle where we say our names, pronouns, and answer a question related to the day’s theme. The Star Wars–themed question was: “Light side or dark side, and why?” This allows folks to bond over shared interests before exercising in front of one another. Because many of the attendees are new to exercising and/or group fitness, breaking the ice in this way can really help them feel comfortable.

My goal is to continue creating fitness spaces for self-identified geeks who feel they don’t fit into wellness culture.

As a friend put it “geeky folks are a cross-section of people with different abilities, races, and body types; people that are often left out because they’re not the “norm.” Geeky culture bridges gaps and allows for marginalized people to access almost anything”

Making a workout geeky opens the door to someone who might not have come through it otherwise, then go out into the world with the new found confidence that a successful workout can provide. Making workouts accessible to a wider audience doesn’t require me to reinvent anything, I only need to think about how to make my classes relatable to the people I want to reach.

I’d love for my clients to think about starting a wellness journey the way they’d think about creating a character for a video or roleplaying game: We’re building the best characters we can to survive, outliving our enemies. We’re all in this huge campaign together, from the first roll, to the epic battles and beyond.

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Self – Fitness

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