January 25, 2019 at 10:01AM by CWC
Here’s a novel thought: What if gyms were places that people could go to feel *good* about themselves?
For fitness influencer Morit Summers, this was the impetus behind opening Form Fitness, a brand-new, body-positive gym in Brooklyn. “I wanted to make a space that was safe for people, and that people, when they walk in, feel comfortable, and not intimidated and afraid that people are looking at them,” she tells me, bouncing on a medicine ball in the corner of her space. Behind her, two people are working with trainers to the sounds of vintage Michael Jackson blasting over the sound system, and as I watch them hit the equipment, I’m jealous I didn’t bring my sneakers.
The mission to create a space like this one was personal, inspired largely by Summers’ own fitness journey that began when she was in high school. “I was 14 and I was really overweight, and I hated gym class. I was embarrassed. I had coaches put me in situations where it was even more embarrassing,” she tells me. That summer, she joined a gym and fell in love with it. She went on to study exercise science and epidemiology in college and found a career in personal training. But even when she was spending most of her life in the gym, she was still being shamed about her size. “I was always the trainer that people would call fat and say: ‘You’re not going to have clients’ and stuff like that,” she says. “But I let my knowledge take over versus what I looked like, so I had plenty of clients come to me versus another trainer because I actually knew what I was talking about. That was a big confidence boost of like, ‘No wait, I’m a good trainer and I’ve got this. It’s got nothing to do with what I look like.’”
She gravitated toward powerlifting, which helped shift her own attitude about working out: Instead of being about losing weight, it became about being strong and healthy. “[It] morphed into the idea of, ‘Wait, I’m strong as shit, just cuz I’m not a size two doesn’t have anything to do with [it],’ she says. “Now I love being strong. Yes, I’m a size 16–18 [Editor’s note: that’s an average-size America woman, if you were wondering], whatever size it is, but I own a gym, I compete in lifting competitions—my major point is that I really want to stop caring so much about the appearance and more about something outside of it.”
When I ask Summers if she thinks the conversation around exercise in general is shifting in that direction, her answer is a resounding “yes.” “I think the exercise world, it’s going to be a slower shift than I think fashion, for example, but it is shifting, which is fantastic,” she assures me. “It’s going to be really awesome.”
When looking at the fitness industry as a whole, it seems she could be right. Form Fitness is hardly the first gym of its kind—old-school franchises like Planet Fitness and Curves were ahead of their time with their messages of inclusivity, and more body-positive brick-and-mortars have begun to pop across the country—but it’s a part of a changing landscape. “I think there’s a lot of little spaces that are going to open up, and I hope personally…that the word gets spread more and more, and that people are being supported,” says Summers.
“The hardest part is just starting. The hardest part is opening the door and walking in.”
Form Fitness is a personal-training style gym that allows clients and their trainers to come up with plans that work specifically with their needs. “I think personal training is a great way to get yourself started. I have clients that I’ve been training for eight years, but I also have clients that I’ve trained for a few months and then sent them out,” she says. “The hardest part is just starting. The hardest part is opening the door and walking in. Once you walk in the door, even if you just are in a traditional gym and get on the bike or the treadmill and walk, just do that. Just start—it’s the hardest part. Making the contact is the hardest part.”
“I hope that people can see that a different body is capable of anything they want to make happen.”
And if you can’t make it to Summers’ gym, feel free to peep her Instagram feed—another place where people can go to feel inspired about their bodies, whatever they may look like. “I hope that people can see that a different body is capable of anything they want to make happen. Anything they set their mind to,” she says. “I really hope that people can see that and go, ‘maybe if I started moving, I could do that too.’”
Inclusivity in the gym is something we’re seriously excited about in 2019: Welcome to the new age of body diversity, where some of your favorite brands are getting real about sizing and shades.