One of my favorite things about working out is the feeling of freedom it can give you. If you’re a runner or a bicyclist, this can manifest in rather literal ways—the open road before you, the tiny spot behind you marking how far you’ve traveled. But it’s not just about the physicality of being free. A good run, a solid lifting session, or a sweaty HIIT workout can change your perspective, opening up your mind to the possibilities not only of what your body is capable of, but the world around you as well.
All that being said, for many, the world of fitness can be far more limiting than freeing. In gyms, on social media, and in other fitness-dedicated spaces, the focus on what our bodies look like can make it hard for those with bodies that don’t conform to narrowly defined norms to feel like they belong. For far too long, people with larger bodies have been met with limitations, judgment, and intimidation in spaces designed to help us all reach our potentials.
That’s why I’m so excited to introduce our first editorial package of 2022, the Future of Fitness Issue. In this digital issue’s articles and essays, when we say future, we’re not talking about the latest fitness trackers or streaming workout equipment. We’re talking about the people who are changing the landscape of an industry that has, for too long, excluded many. Over the past few years, thanks to the body positivity movement as well as other thoughtful explorations that have challenged complacent ideas about weight and size, we’ve seen an important shift in how we discuss larger bodies. But fitness spaces can be a final frontier in a particular strain of body discrimination, where anti-fat bias and weight-related stigma are entrenched in our collective understanding of what it means to be “fit.” It’s time to break free from this limited view. The future of fitness is about making space for everyone to feel welcome. So in this package, we’re celebrating the people who are helping get us there.
For the digital issue we partnered with activist, yogi, and all-around fearless fitness personality Jessamyn Stanley, who is our January cover star. Stanley has been a champion of yoga for all for years, and I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time. Stanley and photographer Beth Garrabrant do an incredible job illustrating the issue’s feature article, journalist and author Kelsey Miller’s The Relentless Reality of Anti-Fatness in Fitness. It’s an excellently researched backstory on just how deeply our fitness ideals are rooted in anti-fatness. You can also catch Stanley as one of our inaugural 2022 SELF Future of Fitness Advisory Board members; for this year’s class, we chose 10 trainers and experts who are working hard to end anti-fat stigma in the fitness world in order to make gyms, clubs, and the overall world of wellness much more welcoming to all. And Stanley, one of our regular SELF columnists, has also written some great advice on the practical ways trainers, gym owners, and other fitness professionals can practice meaningful fat allyship in her piece 6 Ways Fitness Instructors Can Check Their Anti-Fat Bias.