Blog 24 – Racism in Strength and Conditioning
Believe it or not, after Blog 21 Kimmy (my partner, better half, and editor in chief) challenged me to avoid writing blogs regarding all things COVID-19; feeling that some of us (including me) have topic fatigue. “Let your blog be the place that members can go to take a break,” she said. And with that I gleefully wrote a blog about the how meditating increases GAINZ, BABY! I was on a roll. Ready to smash your brains with strength science and fitness facts for the entire month of June… And then… our attention shifted, and we have all been called to a higher cause.
Blog 23 was written to be clear that PDX Strength as a business and its coaches believe that Black Lives Matter, and that it is our role as a community-based facility to lead by example. We also made the challenge to our members to get involved in capacities, which they feel comfortable. Fast forward to Blog 24, and we are learning just how impactful gyms can be within a person’s life. (It’d be this author’s contention that this is a reflection of a person’s chosen third place or safe space in their lives. When that place fails to follow through on its social contract, it creates great harm.)
My first example is here: https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/29275739/iowa-strength-coach-chris-doyle-put-leave-ex-players-voice-negative-experiences.
The University of Iowa Strength and Conditioning Coach is accused of being at the center of a toxic and racist culture within the football program. While the head coach has not been met with the same accusations, all of the players acknowledge that team culture starts in the strength and conditioning facility.
My second example, and a little more directly impacting our world is here: https://www.businessinsider.in/retail/news/gyms-and-brands-are-canceling-partnerships-with-crossfit-after-its-ceo-tweeted-an-insensitive-comment-about-george-floyd/articleshow/76251744.cms.
While PDX Strength is not an affiliate and never has been, we are CrossFit-adjacent or -inspired; our programming is based on their methodology; many of our coaches are certified by CrossFit; etc, I, for example, started coaching at an affiliate in Denver and much of my formal education in the strength and conditioning space are through CrossFit’s HQ. Kimmy and I even met in a CrossFit gym.
With all that said, we want to be clear that we do not condone the harmful, insensitive, and ignorant words and actions of Greg Glassman and will continue to challenge ourselves to make a more inclusive space for all people.
It’s frustrating to now feel like I am just writing blogs denouncing racism. Not because that stance isn’t vitally important, but because our stance is being consistently undermined by large, racist influencers in our industry. As James Baldwin says, “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
We understand that all of these conversations can trigger our members in different ways, and remain open to conversations that allow us to grow individually and together.