Edmonton fitness groups band together to offer LGBTQ specific training regimens
In the next few weeks, a new fitness program pilot is launching that will focus on the needs of LGBTQ folks, particularly those who are trans or non-binary. The Edmonton LGBTQ Fitness Program is a partnership between the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective (EMHC) and Blitz Conditioning, a local personal training studio.
The project has its genesis in Em Lamache, a personal fitness trainer at Blitz. After graduating from NAIT’s Personal Fitness Trainer program, Lamache wanted to work with the LGBTQ community and went to work at Blitz to make that dream a reality. While participating in Totally Outright (an EMHC project that brings together masculine identified LGBTQ folks to do community projects), Lamache tossed around the idea of a group fitness project for LBGTQ folks. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, Lamache focuses on the training, Blitz provides the space, and EMHC provides fundraising and administrative support.
The goals of the program are twofold. The first is to create a safe and welcoming fitness space, as going to the gym can be difficult and potentially dangerous for trans and non-binary people.
“We recognize that trans and non-binary individuals are most likely to encounter barriers to fitness, particularly as it relates to finding change rooms that are safe for them and align with their gender identity,” says Brook Biggin, the founder of EMHC.
Lamache notes that there are physiological changes to take into account when someone is undergoing hormone therapy.
The organizers are very respectful of pronouns, preferred names, body shape and size, and other considerations that might not be taken into account in traditional fitness spaces.
The second goal is to explore the effects that physical exercise has on the wider LGBTQ community.
“Our community is at a disproportionately higher risk of mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety,” says Mathew Thomson, the EMHC Social & Physical Health team lead. “It’s been pretty well documented for a few years now that physical activity can really help manage mild to moderate depression and anxiety.”
The hope is that the pilot can begin to quantify the effects that access to physical exercise has on physical, mental, and social health and encourage other cities to adopt similar programs.
The program is slowly rolling out over a number of phases. The beta phase began last month and was a three week trial where participants came together three times a week for an hour of exercise. The beta phase allowed the program to work out any kinks and by all accounts was a success.
“So many people came to me afterwards to tell me they have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time. That it was the first time they felt safe in a gym,” Lamache says.
The second phase of the project will begin in late August or early September, and is planned to be a six month pilot. The hope is to keep this project either free or by donation and as such, EMHC is rolling out a crowd-funding campaign to cover remaining costs.
The goal is to raise $4,500—this would keep the pilot afloat for the full six months and ensure accessibility for participants. Any shortfall would need to be made up through participant donations, which is less than ideal. Ultimately, the hope is that the pilot can be a springboard to launch an on-going community fitness initiative.
For information on how to donate or participate in the program, check out yegmenshealth.ca/fitness4all or the EMHC Facebook page: facebook.com/yegmenshealth.