Can Gyms Be A Safe Space? This Personal Trainer Thinks So

Photo: Courtesy of Jocelyn Bold.
Walking into a gym or workout class can be intimidating, no matter who you are and how much experience you have with fitness. There are all the sweaty bodies, the judgmental trainers, the tight clothes, and the scary pieces of equipment. And if you're one of the 67% of women who are sizes 14 and up, these anxieties can be compounded with the feeling that you don't belong in a fitness setting.
This is an experience that Morit Summers, a NCSA-certified personal trainer and CrossFit trainer with a degree in exercise science, is all too familiar with. As we've said many times before, you can't tell how healthy a person is just by looking at them, but that didn't stop people from questioning Summers' expertise, simply because of her size. "That's kind of where my fight against this came from, everybody being like, Why should you be a trainer when you can't do this?" she says. "And I'm like, What are you talking about? I'm a great trainer. And yes I can."
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Summers began training clients out of a large upscale chain gym, then quit in the beginning of 2017 to train people out of her 300 square-foot apartment. The more she talked to clients and other personal trainers, the more she saw a need for a safe space for people to work out. So, she looked for a space to rent, and this month she opened Form Fitness, a personal training studio in Brooklyn Heights.
The mission of Form Fitness is to provide strength and movement for all, regardless of what your body looks like or your relationship to gravity, through one-on-one personal training sessions. "We want people to come in and feel comfortable just learning how to do anything: learn how to do a squat, maybe how to do a pushup, maybe how to just do a biceps curl," Summers says. "Whatever it is they want to learn, we want to teach them." Physically, the gym is tucked away around the corner from Equinox and across the street from SoulCycle, so it's very private. The space is small, but perfect for one-on-one training. In the future, they plan to offer workshops and online programming for people whom personal training isn't financially feasible.
If a "safe space" for fitness sounds idyllic and almost too good to be true, Summers aat down with Refinery29 to explain how gyms can be size-inclusive, and how to fight your own nerves.
Why do you think people get so intimidated when they walk into a gym?
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"There's always going to be the thought that people are looking at you, and immediately judging you, and that's probably something we place on ourselves, but it happens. What we wanted to create was this space where you can come in and feel comfortable. The people that run this gym or personal training studio have been through that struggle themselves. We truly understand it, so we can make you feel better about it.
"The other thing we're really trying to promote is, come in and learn with us. Walking into a gym, one of the reasons you feel so intimidated is because you don't know what to do — how should you know what to do? We want to provide the opportunity to learn. If you're someone who can't continue to train on a regular basis, that's okay, tell us you want to learn. We want to teach you the basics so you can walk into the gym feeling more confident about it."
It seems like slowly other industries are catching on to the concept of body positivity and acceptance, but do you think the fitness world ever will?
"There obviously is a shift in fashion, [but] the fitness thing is going to take a lot longer. The reason being, for so many years it's engrained in us that fitness has to do with looking good, and still majority of people work out to look good naked. Great for them — we're not discounting that, do what you want to do — what we're trying to say is that's not for everybody. I want to work out because I feel really good, and I like being strong, and I want to work out because I can work out too. I'm on Instagram, and see all these women and men that are plus size — or whatever the word might be — working out, and I'm like, this is amazing. That wasn’t happening only a couple years ago."
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I want to work out because I feel really good, and I like being strong, and I want to work out because I can work out too.

Morit Summers
What advice would you have for someone who is still nervous to go to a gym and work out with a trainer — even if it is a "safe space"?
"Just try and just start. What we get a lot is, people will inquire, but then I think people get anxiety about it, and don’t follow through. Once you walk in the door and start the session, I can basically promise that you will be okay. It really is taking the step to walk in the door, shake the person’s hand, and say, let's just do something.
"No one who works here, I can promise you this, is going to push the person to the point of throwing up or shaking. No one is crying, that's not how you get fitter. We want to push you if you want to be pushed, but we're only going to push you to where you need to be pushed. Everybody has anxiety, and we truly understand it because we've had it ourselves, but we want people to feel comfortable here."
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