By Louise Green – In 2008 I gave birth to my son; three months later I decided, despite my leaking boobs, the tail end of postpartum and weighing in at my all time heaviest weight of 242lbs, that this was the perfect time to become a personal trainer.
Upon acquiring all my certifications I opened my business, Body Exchange, and I dedicated my services to the plus-size woman. Since then, I’ve trained and interacted with thousands of plus-size women and helped them realize and achieve their athletic goals, at any size. And, through this journey I’ve come to own my own story as a plus-size athlete. Together, we continue to crush societal perceptions of what bigger bodies are capable of simply by showing up and doing the unexpected.
Here’s what I’ve learned from stepping into the game plus size:
One: An Athlete is an Athlete
Over time I’ve come to define myself as an athlete and I consistently refer to the courageous women I train as athletes as well. The Oxford Dictionary defines an athlete as: “A person who is proficient in sports or other forms of physical activity”. Nowhere, in the meaning is there a descriptive of body size, mention of professional, paid, athletes or Olympians. It simply refers to proficiency. My interpretation, coupled with what I consistently see in my world, is that anyone who laces up and gets out there is truly an athlete. Regretfully, it is the media and marketing message that has painted its own picture of athleticism and has left a cross section of athletes out of the conversation. That is a critical mistake on many levels.
Two: We are Walking Billboards
If we can’t see plus-athletes in media or advertising we only have our community environment to seek this visual cue. Active athletes of size are a vital visual representation in the public eye, after all “how can we be what we cannot see”? I’ve learned to take my position as a trainer and plus-athlete seriously. I had a profound experience when 15 years ago my first run leader was plus size, she changed my entire perspective on what is possible. From this experience, I’ve learned that by showing up we are someone’s hope for inspiration.
Three: Owning My Story Changed Everything
When I first became a fitness professional, I couldn’t see anyone else in the fitness industry who looked like me. As a result, I felt like I didn’t fit and kept myself small. Brene Brown has a brilliant quote: “You can either walk inside your story and own it or you can stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” The moment I started to own my story and be proud of who I am, everything changed. I realized that my success lies within my differences. I may not look like other athletes or trainers but that’s what makes my approach different and inspirational.
Own it, even if in the beginning you walk alone.
Active athletes of size are a vital visual representation in the public eye, after all “how can we be what we cannot see”?
Four: The Honor is in the Finish
I am no math genius but physics will prove that heavier mass will move more slowly: momentum = mass ? velocity. It’s not meant to be insulting, it’s just science and often this is true when I am running or cycling in races. I’ve come to accept that my body can only go so fast. Yet despite this, I am still an athlete and I’ve trained the same distance as everyone else. I’ve also come to accept that pace is only one form of measurement and that there are many other measurements to celebrate. It isn’t the speed in which we finish, it’s the showing up for your life, getting out there and finishing. That is honorable.
Five: Not Everyone Is Going to Like It
Back in 2012 I had a major media piece published that received some backlash around the concept of my business: fitness and adventure exclusive to plus-size women. The word exclusive caused a big hoop-la and suddenly the headlines went international that my gym was “banning skinny people”. There is no ban per se but for once I wanted a place where the plus size demographic could feel safe and included when it comes to fitness. To many people, despite a person’s efforts and accomplishments, carrying extra weight is bad and if you fall into the “obese” category it can be flat out damning. There will always be haters and regardless of what you do or say, they are always going to have a hate on. I’ve learned their opinion is none of my business and isn’t part of my amazing journey. Next.
Six: I Can Do Anything
The human body is an amazing machine and I’ve learned that it can do anything that I train it to do. I’ve also learned that when women find the right support and environment, they are capable of anything. This shows up in my own personal experience as an athlete and consistently while I am coaching my clients. Often it is our mind that gets in the way and not our body. But I’m here to tell you this: if you have the desire to achieve your athletic goals, you can, I see it everyday.
It’s my strong belief that if we could see a better representation of diverse bodies in fitness and sport physical activity would become more approachable for everyone. I hope that as a collective front we continue to walk as billboards, own our stories with pride and believe that we can do anything. Life is limitless, at any size.
About the contributor
Louise Green is a globally recognized “fit and fat” voice at the forefront of the Body Advocacy movement. She is a successful plus-size athlete, personal trainer and the Founder of Body Exchange; a fitness platform dedicated to plus-size women, with 6 Canadian locations. Green is additionally a writer, speaker and international host of health retreats. Her work with thousands of plus size women was the catalyst to writing her groundbreaking book, Limitless, offering the public a new perception on size diversity and athleticism. Her goal is to abolish weight-stigma and support every “body” to pursue their athletic dreams. You can find Louise on Facebook, Twitter or her blog, LouiseGreen.ca.
All photos courtesy of Body Exchange