In the current social climate, it’s hard to think about caring for yourself when there are so many others to step up for.
How many times have you put down the newsfeed of horror stories this week, pulled out the yoga mat, and wondered, “What’s the point?”
I’d like to tell you what the point is, but the fact is that I’ve been in the same mindset. And it feels deeper than a mindset — more like a thick, suffocating mindswamp.
To get out of it, we do have to step up. And yes, I could hand you a bunch of adorable Youtube trainers to help cajole you back into shape, but that’s not what I’m here for.
I’m always analyzing online fitness culture to find the best resources for myself and clients. That’s why I’m here to showcase five fitfluencers of color who will not only rekindle the fitness fire in your heart, but hopefully in your glutes as well:
1. Trap Yoga Bae.
If you ever felt that yoga was a little too ho-hum for you — or like me, prefer some serious bass to Down-Dog to — then Trap Yoga Bae will fix that.
A little backstory: I came to yoga through my fair share of white, bendy little instructors who OMmed their way through asanas, set to the requisite Himalayan sound bowls and chants. And I mean no disrespect to them at all! (Especially when one of them was the world’s oldest practicing yoga instructor. No exaggeration.)
But then I trained with Melissa Gutierrez of SmarterBodies, a grandmaster in her own right, whose philosophy is so successful because it emphasizes how “yoga” is no longer the traditional practice it was designed to be. We are no longer in ancient India, and therefore should not be about conforming to those ancient ideals.
That’s when I found Britteny Floyd-Mayo on Instagram, aka Yoga Bae, who takes nontraditional yoga to new levels. To describe her effervescence isn’t so much the “bubbly” sense of the word, but rather the fusion of effortless essence.
And this quote is what gets me:
“I found that by stepping out of what I thought life should be and stepping into my purpose and figuring out who I was, I found an entire community that had been left out of self-care. And now I get to champion them. Yoga studios are generally full of these white, thin women, and there is an entire community of people out there who are curvy, black, brown, tall, short, big, queer, or generally just different who never felt accepted in the yoga community. I get to be the beacon of hope for those people to say yoga is fun and free and whatever we want it to be. We can celebrate who we are with no judgement. That’s when I knew I had found what I was meant to be doing.” — Britteny Floyd-Mayo
And bless her for it. As soon as we can gather in public places, I’d suggest hitting up one of her events to kickstart your own self-care and self-recovery.
Traditional yoga has its place, and always will. The endlessly populated #yoga hashtags on Instagram will make sure of it. But TYB has the right idea about making a practice work beyond the preconceptions within that linkable pound sign. Yoga is about movement for your needs — no matter how unorthodox.
2. Hannibal for King.
Meet the guy who doesn’t look or sound like anything you’d find in a fitness club — because he’s not.
Hannibal resonates on a personal frequency, since my own fitness background comes from exactly this kind of training. Pre-barbell escapades and taekwondo, I matched my workouts with my demi-nomadic lifestyle. The only equipment was the mind, the body, and the nearest jungle gym.
I find intense relief in watching Hannibal’s videos because he embodies the guys I used to watch at those parks: true devotees of the human body. Quiet, methodical, and just look at the way he moves. You can tell that he just knows his body on the kind of intuitive level that most of us have to literally study from a book in order to internalize.
Hannibal is physical evidence that you can acquire self-mastery through simple — brutally simple — consistency and perseverance. Those two concepts act more effectively than any diet pill.
His humility is therapeutic. Give him a listen, marvel at his abdominals, and head to the nearest park after quarantine is over.
3. Melissa Alcantara.
A single mother who transformed herself to a degree that seems superhuman, there’s very little to be said about Kim Kardashian’s personal trainer that hasn’t already been covered by the pop media.
Therefore, I invite you just to look at her pictures:
Let that inspire you. If you can see your face carved in those washboard abs, then it’s because she’s proof that anyone can change themselves into what they truly desire.
4. Mo Matli.
How can you not like someone who has over seven thousand followers on Instagram, but still responds instantly — with smiles! — to an inquiry about being featured?
As a queer trainer myself, I was initially drawn to Mo Matli because…
To be honest, she makes the #queerfitness hashtag look dang good. But what drew me further was her YouTube video about diet, in which she explains in the most down-to-earth and matter-of-fact way how appearance is linked to — of all things! — hydration.
Now that’s the kind of advice and mentality I can get behind. Keep things simple, and make them work for you. The attitude on her channel isn’t to shred you up or stress you into fitness. Rather, her message is to let personal growth come as a result of wanting to change yourself, for yourself:
“I think my philosophy around fitness is quite simple; it’s all about effort and effort and feels different on different days, but you have to keep pushing. This way, you know that you can always rely on yourself to get things done.” — Mo Matli
She also has a video in which she documents water fasting, which I don’t recommend if you have any issues around food or deprivation, but can be an incredible tool for healthy individuals. Fasting is a highly stigmatized practice that merits greater discourse, especially when science is proving that taking a break from food can impart some serious health benefits.
Madame Mo — as she’s called on Instagram — hails from South Africa, which is another reason to follow her. There’s fit people outside America, folks. And dang good-looking ones, who know their stuff.
5. Semet Fitness.
Am I biased? Absolutely. I saved the best for last.
Juan Martinez literally found me on a subway and walked me down Broadway, asking, “Is this what you want to do with your life? Personal training?”
And sobbing past the bubbies at Zabar’s, I said yes.
Boy, have I learned from this guy. Every time we’ve reconnected, it’s been a lesson in something new, exciting, and goshdarn useful. From breathwork — get a load of hypoxic breathing! — to strongman conditioning, Juan’s expertise is informed by his continual hankering for more knowledge, as he seeks to master his limits in spite of ever-more-difficult challenges.
Juan doesn’t play around — except he’s always playing. Whether it’s testing the parameters of his own body, or by teaching fitness online to School in the Square, his practice is a reminder that the “work” part of “working out” is optional.
Take a breather. Indulge your inner child on the playground — even if it’s an indoor one. If you’re stuck in quarantine, and struggling to find enough stimulation when you’re used to heavy loads or machines, then his experience is essential.
When you’re genuine, it’s not “social media.” It’s service media. — Juan Martinez
Now for honorable shoutouts! #amplifymelanatedvoices.
It’s impossible to pretend that the above list covers everyone worth paying attention to in the fitness world. Frankly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe you know someone else who merits acknowledgement for their awesome abs, incredible transformation, or clapping handstand ring pushups (because it’s only a matter of time, Juan).
To nominate a fitfluencer of color who’s near and dear to your heart, post their Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, or other website handle in the comments and I’ll add them here. Doesn’t matter how long after this article is posted, I’ll keep updating it as names come in.