In Conversation with Lisa Marie Hall & Sarah Ryder, founders of Queer Kilos
All over London it seems the queers are taking to sports fields and climbing walls and boxing gyms in high numbers. Clubs and sessions are being set up specifically for queer people, with an emphasis on being able to explore sport in a safe environment free of homophobia and transphobia.
One such project is ‘Queer Kilos’, a new group strength training session for LGBTQIA+ women, female-identifying and non-binary people.
The project has been set up by Lisa Marie Hall @lisamarietheartist and Sarah Ryder @bearfitness4 @sarahryderpt. The partnership is all about creating a safe and empowering space for the LGBTQIA+ community to learn about strength training together, have a go at lifting some weights and meet like-minded queers “who want to feel strong inside and out”. Sarah, a queer personal trainer, will be guiding the sessions, which are open to any ability and strength level. Plus, they promise they play better music than Gym Box!
The first session is taking place 10am-12noon on Saturday 5th March in Victoria, Central London. There are 24 places available, entry is £15 to cover the venue costs, and there will be a chance to chat & mingle over coffee, juice, and pastries at the end. You can sign up via: http://www.bearfitness.london/book-in and go to the Group Sessions page
We catch up with founders Lisa and Sarah to find out a bit more about Queer Kilos, and the ethos behind it.
Lisa says, “Sarah has been my PT for 7 months now and she’s taught me an enormous amount about what strength is, in the body, mind and heart. I started working out again after months off over Covid in the hope it would lead to weight loss and to recalibrate a very tired and burnt out body. But what I got was a new interest in weightlifting and how it made me feel powerful and strong but also how it taught me to rest and rehab the body - a balance of action and care - something I am rubbish at doing! Bit by bit, exercise stopped being about losing weight, and became about gaining strength and acceptance. As this progressed, strength started to seep beyond the muscles and into my wellbeing as a whole.
But the world of fitness, even with an uptake of women doing weightlifting, is still so heteronormative. It thrives on the masochistic language of fighting, domination, destruction, and pain. But is true strength born out of these qualities? I don’t think so.
Queer female-identifying people are still left on the outside of the growing buzz of strength-related sports and there is still the frustrating societal conflation of ‘lesbians' and male-dominated sports like boxing, football, and rugby. I asked a fellow queer friend who lifted weights if she knew of anyone else to share in our fitness chat…she didn’t and nor did I. So Queer Kilos was created in response to this. An event that creates a safe space, free of judgement and accessible to all ability levels, that can bring together a community of LGBTQIA+ women, female identifying and non-binary to train together and motivate each other - people who would otherwise be the outsider in a gym or class.
The aim is to make our community stronger by starting with nurturing the strength in ourselves - sounds corny but it’s true...Sarah taught me that so I blame her!
Here’s a quote from her that I’ve found super useful when working as a Sleep Ambassador and Wellbeing Facilitator in the film & TV industry, but very relevant to Queer Kilos:
“True strength is being vulnerable, open and willing to accept we are all a work in progress and that we will never get ’there’ but we will be relentless in trying to enjoy the ride.” - Sarah Ryder, Bear Fitness @bearfitness4
We speak to Sarah about sport as a safe space, why strength training and community:
Sport hasn't also been a safe space for queer people. What would say to people who are worried about re-engaging with sport?
For a lot of people their first interaction with the world of sport and fitness begins in school. A notoriously difficult place for queer people not only that you are with your same sex, getting sweaty and understanding your body. But you have the added trouble of getting changed in changing rooms. For a lot of queer people this can (and still is) a minefield. For the cherry on top of this fantastic mix. The sports team 'banter'. Nowhere else (bar a couple of gyms I've worked at) has the banter been so relentless and queer focused. The chance to leave this behind as soon as possible for a lot of individuals means the anxiety of returning to the world of sport & fitness is not just a case of the 'motivation' to get fit. But asking those to return to some significant childhood trauma. For those returning to or even thinking about returning to the wold of sport and fitness seek out places that are upfront and welcoming of queer people. Attend queer specific events - such a queer kilos. And always go with a friend. Sounds corny but I am competent and spend a lot of times in gyms but sometimes you want to have that buffer in a new environment and a friend does just that.
Why strength training? What drew you to this sport, and why would you recommend it?
Strength training has many different forms and styles. I think it is very easy when it comes to training to have and to seek out dogmatic approaches. I have always had the goal of being fit for everything. Which by its nature means I am a jack of all trades. But I can do most things well. I think this way of training is liberating. I want others to feel the same way. Being able to celebrate your body is what strength training is all about. It doesn't really matter what the weight on the bar is.. it matters how you feel. I think a lot of time we don't get the chance to just feel strong and powerful - and strength training does just that (not all the time... just to manage expectations, sometimes you feel like a kitten trying to lift a house). But the goal of getting strong and celebrating what a fantastic machine our body is I think has to be up there on one of the gifts of (not just training) but life. I grew up playing and competing in many sports and I am very grateful for the opportunity and strength training/conditioning was just part and parcel of life. There wasn't the chance to decide if I would do it. It was ‘your body is this adaptable impressive machine - go see what it can do’. I want everyone to feel that sense of empowerment - rather than the message of take up less space.
What do you think that doing sport and strength training as a group can do, as opposed to doing it solo? What does the community element bring?
There is nothing like exercising with others. To be in a group of like minded people lifting/moving/sweating is just a delight. I have forged every friendship I have through fitness and training and my life would be empty without it. A supportive group can build you up to lift that weight you thought you couldn't or even to think in a way you hadn't done before. We know how hard it was to be away from our communities during lockdown. So use this as a chance to enjoy your fellow human. Training is hard, working out is hard. The only way to make it easier is to not go at it alone...perhaps a message not just for training but for our lives too ;)
To join the community, and start your Queer Kilos journey, sign up here today: http://www.bearfitness.london/book-in and go to the Group Sessions page