An exciting shift has been building in our fitness industry, where we are focusing on building fitness spaces and businesses that are inclusive and diverse. Why is this important? So that we can attract, recruit, and retain people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and body types. By doing so, we are working towards a more resilient industry that can make a greater impact on promoting fitness, health, and fulfillment for all. A more diverse team boosts your business’s competitive advantage by making your company and services more attractive to a larger audience.

Leaders, particularly those in executive roles, need to understand the importance of their actions as a powerful motivator for their company and brand. One important shift, which can bring significant gains to our industry, both on an individual and collective level, comes from diversifying our expectations and definitions of success for ourselves and our perspectives on who we hire and why. This article will explore mindset and operational shifts to support you in contributing to the inclusive fitness movement and the benefits of doing so.

Diversify your Expectations

Sometimes we become preoccupied with revenue goals and performance metrics of our business. Diversifying your resources, beginning with your talent/employee base, will open opportunities to attract more people of diverse backgrounds to your business. This shift contributes to a more holistic business strategy that acknowledges the unique backgrounds and needs of everyone, thereby demonstrating your understanding that success is different for every person, and it allows you to be more equitable in your expectations. An important attribute to cultivate to help you in diversifying your expectations is empathy. Exercising empathy and having a beginner’s mindset can support you in building connections, particularly with new clients. For example, recognize that for a new client or first-time gym member just getting in the door is such an accomplishment and deserves recognition.

Diversify your expectations for yourself and for others even within your business – especially setting too high expectations. This involves communicating with your staff and collaborating with them to create strategies for managing your core values of your business. At canfitpro, we value the creation of a Caring Community that supports inclusiveness, honors diversity, and respects individual needs. This is crucial for optimal performance in our roles and responsibilities.

Keep Learning

Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your organization means always being open to learning and unlearning. This learning is not always easy, but it is necessary.

At canfitpro, DEI is critical to our operations, hiring practices, courses, and events. Explore some of our previous blogs on our website, including these articles and many more, to start and continue your learning journey: I Didn’t See Myself Reflected in Yoga, So I Made My Own Space, Re-education & Re-definition: Why and How Fitness Creates The Infrastructure for Both,  and Creating Inclusivity and Safe Spaces in your Fitness Club.

Keep on learning and lead by example. Be the champion of learning at your organization and encourage your team to join you at learning events such as the canfitpro Global Conference & Tradeshow in Toronto August 8-10th.

Get Feedback from a DEI Audit

Feeling safe and comfortable is important for mental and emotional health. Nurturing inclusive spaces is crucial for this reason. Sometimes we are unaware of practices or behaviors that make certain groups feel like they don’t belong, due to our own biases and blind spots. This is why seeking an external viewpoint can be highly advantageous.

It takes courage to ask for feedback. Numerous companies are seeking consultants to assess and advise on DEI improvements. It’s great to see many fitness professionals pursuing advanced trainings and education in this area to support this important work, which is so beneficial for creating change in our industry. For your audit, it is ideal to have someone who is well-versed in DEI and has a good understanding of our industry to give you the most thoughtful and rigorous feedback.

Practice Deep Listening

It’s important for individuals to feel heard and valued within their community. There are many ways to go about this. For instance, conduct a company survey or host a town hall. Enhance your deep listening by following these best practice tips for active listening: be present versus gathering responses in your mind, avoid talking/interrupting, acknowledge what you heard by paraphrasing back, and ask more questions then simply giving information/advice. When individuals feel their voices are acknowledged and perspectives respected, they will feel more included in your business’s overarching narrative. This is what builds a stronger culture and more loyalty to your company and brand. Your clients and customers will feel a positive impact from this intangible connection.

Final Thoughts

Motion is essential for building and sustaining movement. Even the tiniest stone thrown into the water can create a large ripple. Imagine your organization at the heart of a ripple, with the power to build momentum, creating change and making a greater difference. Time and practice are necessary. As fitness professionals, we are aware that a total body transformation cannot be achieved with just one workout. Each session holds its own value, but when combined, these workouts can have a transformative effect. How can you contribute to the inclusive fitness movement in your business over the next 10 months? Take a S.M.A.R.T. goals approach as follows: Set one goal specifically focused on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in your business. Then select one to three actions/steps that you can commit to daily/weekly/monthly. Continually reassess your S.M.A.R.T. goals to determine how realistic it was and adjust accordingly to keep MO’ving forward towards your specific goal. Ask your staff to join you on this mission and invite them to provide feedback. Feedback will help you stay accountable and focused. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. Celebrate the small steps towards success along the way.

Maureen (Mo) Hagan
Maureen (Mo) Hagan

Maureen (Mo) Hagan is COO at canfitpro, and a global fitness ambassador recognized for her leadership in the fitness industry that spans almost four decades. She is an international award-winning fitness professional and her passion for moving people extends beyond the fitness industry as a licensed physiotherapist and with her work on the Canadian National Board of Directors for Prescription To Get Active.