More on Goals

Blog 39 – More on Goals…  

So not to beat a dead horse, but we are ramping up our fall activities with all things gym. That includes defining and understanding our own personal goals. This is now my 3rd blog in 4 weeks on the topic, and I’m going to re-stress how personal I believe your goals should be. I (and every coach at PDX Strength) do not get to dictate what is best for you or the path that you should go down. But while we can do the best we can, sometimes failing and learning like everyone else, we are all influenced in some way by the system or culture of fitness. While we have all benefitted from the socialization of exercise, we have also been harmed in some form by what Ilya Parker, founder of Decolonizing Fitness*, calls “toxic fitness culture.” 

Here is a working definition from Parker in his blog “What is Toxic Fitness Culture?:” 

…Social characteristics, language and habits that promote/reinforce ableism, fatphobia, racism, classism, elitism, body shaming/policing, LGBTQIA+ hatred under the guise of fitness and wellness.

Toxic fitness culture relies on two distinct groups to be situated on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. One group consists of the able bodied, thin/toned, (edit: conventionally) attractive, young, cisgender, heterosexual people who are assumed to be the gatekeepers of what it means to engage appropriately in & embody fitness.

The other group consists of folks who carry marginalized identities that drastically remove their bodily agency limiting them from accessing fitness in ways that meet their needs and feel supportive to them.

Toxic fitness culture is rooted in white supremacist ideals regarding health, ability, size, gender, age and beauty. Toxic fitness culture and diet culture are intertwined, with both placing blame on an individual for the ways their body shows up in this world….

From a different blog by Parker, “Some Example of Toxic Fitness Culture:”

  • The promotion of fitness the sole purpose of weight loss.
  • The belief that fit has a look.
  • Personal trainers unwilling or unable to modify exercises that support your unique body.
  • The belief that you’re not working hard enough if you haven’t achieved thinness.
  • Personal trainers who aren’t registered dietitians giving diet advice.
  • Personal trainers who don’t believe you when you need to stop and encourage you to push through pain.
  • The belief that beating your body up makes for a good workout.
  • Only being seen as an “expert” because you are in a smaller body.
  • Having a limited view of what fitness is.
  • Believing working out is more important than listening to what your body needs.
  • The belief that your body has to get smaller/toned when you engage in fitness and if it doesn’t you’re doing something wrong.
  • Being coerced or shamed into working out.
  • Thinking diet and exercise is the only way to take care of ourselves.
  • Cultivating fitness spaces that AREN’T accessible or affirming to a diverse group of bodies.
  • Making fitness overly complicated to show authority or expertise.
  • Personal Training Certifications that don’t offer education on working with body diverse populations…

So, why do we need to be aware of this, especially when defining our goals? Because it is easy to fall into cycles of self harm in the name of fitness, exercise, and all things wellness. We may feel compelled to move towards a specific goal, and even argue with ourselves that we would never fall under a spell to such influences. But, again, if our goals are not deeply personal, we will NEVER achieve the outcome we think is on the other side. So, again, I’ll ask you – what are YOUR goals?

– D

*More information about Ilya Parker and Decolonizing Fitness can be found at, on the Decolonizing Fitness Podcast ( – also available on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud) or other recent podcasts such as or 

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