APPROACH & PROGRAM DESIGN
The program design reflects the founding intersectional feminist values of the organization in four interrelated pillars of action, which together create a space for human dignity:
The gym is a space of affirmation. The program is designed to help participants identify achievable goals. The gym encourages people to track and celebrate their small daily milestones, and in so doing, lays the groundwork for confidence-building and a recognition of strength. With such incremental progress goals, the emphasis is not on changing the body, but proving to one’s self what the body can already do. Thus, the gym is a place where people can reap emotional reward for their effort and experience a sense of control over their own life.
The gym is a space for consciousness-raising. The program is designed to raise awareness in several ways. First, the gym becomes a platform from which to disseminate information about healthy lifestyles, generating awareness of choices. Second, the gym becomes a space for athletic practice, which in turn requires mindfulness and self-awareness of the body. Thus, the gym is a place where people can learn about their own bodies. Third, participants will be offered the opportunity to reflect on their own journey, to celebrate reaching goals, and to story their lives so that they can build on their own strengths and vision for their future. In this way, the participants will also be able to raise awareness of others.
The gym is a space of acceptance. The program values strength, agility, endurance and mobility, not simply the aesthetics of the body. We promote diverse fitness goals and urge participants to think beyond what they see in the mirror. For both men and women, mainstream popular culture tends to emphasize particular gendered beauty standards at the expense of good health. However, few people can achieve and maintain this ideal form over their lifetime. For this reason, the program cultivates an antidote to narrow thinking about the body. Athletic practice provides a spectrum of alternative metrics by which participants may understand the worth of their body. Thus, the gym is a space where the diversity of bodies is celebrated.
The gym is a space to build community, one lift at a time. The program emphasizes the need for collective strength to confront injustice. Achievement of athletic goals requires teamwork and trust. We encourage participants to ‘spot’ one another inside and outside the gym, and to support both the effort and the accomplishments of other participants. Sport becomes a shared interest and a basis for collaborative social interaction. Thus, the gym is a space of resilience and reciprocity, not just individual development.