Friday, February 8, 2013

Weight “no big deal” in these fitness studios

At first glance it could be any studio. The women, dressed in colourful outfits, pile into the bright space, then stretch and bend under the watchful eye of a yoga instructor.

But eventually you can’t help but notice.
First — all the participants carry a few extra pounds.
Second — not one of them seem to give a fig.
And that’s exactly the point at this plus-size friendly gym.
In these times of chiseled torsos and size-zero envy, FitZonePlus – which bills itself as “fitness for the rest of us” – offers a non-judgmental, encouraging environment.
It’s the brainchild of Suzanne Gracan, 44, who created it in response to her own frustrations with the fitness industry.
After a serious fall immobilized her in 2001, she realized that her weight - 360 lb.- was a serious health risk.
She joined various yoga clubs but felt discouraged by the instructors.
“It was like ‘oh crap — what am I going to do with her,’” she said. “Or it was ‘oh well … just do your best.’ It was just so humiliating.”
To escape the “attitude,” Gracan hired her own instructor in 2002 and together they developed a program geared toward heavier women.
It developed a following, and in January, Gracan put aside a career in sales, marketing and administration to develop FitZonePlus.
The doors opened last March, with the studio, at Bathurst and Bloor Sts., offering yoga and Zumba classes.
“It’s a wonderful non-judgmental space where everyone is welcome,” says Gracan, who now weighs 219 lb. “Everybody feels comfortable, we relax, we have fun, there’s no stress and people get a chance to get healthy.”
And Gracan isn’t the only one targeting this demographic.
Toronto’s Tiina Veer, a registered yoga teacher, runs Yoga for Round Bodies and yoga teacher training out of the Halcyon Health wellness centre in Toronto.
She has been teaching since 2004 and agrees there’s a “size stigma” in our society and that often “women are the harshest judges of each other.”
She says she offers a non-judgmental, non-competitive environment, saving her strongest condemnations for instructors who aren’t adequately trained to help heavier women.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh wow! I've never heard of this place before but I like the idea! In the beginning of my weight loss journey I desperately wanted to see women of my size on the workout DVDs. You can see how far I've come on my blog at Thanks for sharing!