Oakland gym empowers community – Laney Tower – Medium

Isis Piccillo/Tower Staff Writer

Queer body positive exercise space Radically Fit emphasizes movement for health, not looks

Personal trainer and gym founder Lindsey Page shadowboxes during a “Baes Who Box” class on March 25. Page established Radically Fit to create a safe and welcoming workout space. Photo by Toni Cervantes.

Jab, cross, uppercut, cross.

Holding up her gloved hands, Lindsey Page smiled as her boxing partner Ivon Hernandez threw punches during a “Baes Who Box” class at Radically Fit, the Oakland gym Page founded in July, 2018.

Located near the Fruitvale BART station, the gym was created to serve people who often don’t feel comfortable working out in typical exercise spaces.

“We center the needs of the most marginalized people in our broader queer community,” Page said. “That’s specifically people of color, trans folks, and bigger-bodied and fat-identified individuals.”

The focus of the gym is to empower people through body movement, as opposed to a focus on looks or changing the aesthetic of the body.

“Only in the past three to five years have I switched the lens in which I look at exercise,” Page said. “Instead of a way to lose weight, I’ve started to look at it more in the way of assisting in my mental and emotional health.”

For people who do not fit into the typical gym aesthetic, the prospect of exercising in public can be intimidating.

“Working out is really an intimate thing,” Page said. “People don’t realize how intimate sharing a space with other people is, and how vulnerable you are when you’re here and moving your body in front of other human beings.”

Experiences growing up made her painfully aware of the necessity for welcoming and inclusive gyms, since she has struggled with body image her whole life, she said.

“I am a person of color who was adopted from Guatemala,” she said of her adoptive white family. “My whole childhood was surrounded in whiteness, and was centered in whiteness, and that, unfortunately, translated to a lot of body dysmorphia.”

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by a consuming obsession over perceived physical flaws.

Striving for body positivity has been an uphill battle for Page, and one that she foresees struggling with for the rest of her life. She credits being surrounded by supportive people for her success so far.

“Getting centered in my queer community really helped me shift,” she said. “There were people that were finally telling me that we don’t all have to look skinny and white. ”

Since mirrors can activate body image issues, Page intentionally constructed her gym without them.

“What you should be learning is how a movement feels, not how it looks,” she said. “That’s the way to ensure that you’re patterning correct movement. Because our trainers are really, really good at what they do, I feel safe enough that we don’t need mirrors here to ensure people’s form.”

Her experiences have driven her to create a space that is free from judgment and accessible to people of all lifestyles.

A monthly gym membership is not financially accessible for everyone, so the gym has the option of a sliding scale membership. Hernandez said there is a connection between the gym’s driving philosophy and financial flexibility.

“I even use the sliding scale,” they said. “This community takes you as you are and however you come into the gym — your mood, or even what you can offer that month monetary-wise.”

Hernandez named classes with challenging high-intensity interval training as their favorites.

“Those are the ones where I come out like dripping in sweat. And I’m just gonna make a little sweat angel on the floor,” they said.

Ivon Hernandez encourages gym owner Lindsey Page during a boxing class at Radically Fit. Hernandez was introduced to Radically Fit through a free community workout in June of 2018.

The gym hosts free community workouts once a month and sometimes brings in special guests afterward.

So far, one of Page’s favorite experiences at the gym was when Virgie Tovar, a fat-activist and author, came to speak.

Hearing Tovar talk about her experiences growing up brought up feelings that Page said she had never really been able to conceptualize until hearing her talk.

“Just sitting next to people that were just silently crying because they were finally feeling like somebody was speaking their truth was a really beautiful thing,” she said.

In addition to the joy and fulfillment of running Radically Fit, Page has also felt the toll of the responsibility of starting her own business.

“Taking charge of making sure that I am exercising every day and doing things that feel really good for my emotional and mental health” is her reason for participating in classes such as “Baes Who Box,” she said.

Seeing the positive impact that Radically Fit has made on its members keeps Page motivated.

Community has helped her understand that “people find your body the way it is, in its brownness, in its powerfulness, and it’s biggerness, beautiful,” she said. “If only we could walk around the rest of our lives and feel like we’re in this space,” she said. “I think that would be really liberating.”

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