Community check-in: We still have work to do
By Takia McClendon
When Kiera and I first started City Fit Girls, we hosted workouts in a studio in Germantown and on the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After two years, our workouts grew to include a weekly group run that meets in Dilworth Park, right outside of City Hall in Center City Philadelphia. What started as a group of friends looking to stay fit and/or lose weight has grown into a strong community of women from all walks of life, all races, paces, ages, body types, sexual orientations, income levels and more.
Our online community extends even farther with 10,000+ followers on Instagram and occasional pop-up group runs in New York City, Camden, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
It’s been five years since we brought this community to life and we’re happy about the progress that we’ve made to help women become more active and more comfortable in their bodies but in a city as diverse as Philadelphia, we still have a lot of work to do.
The stats on Philly:
According to Census 2016 estimates, 44.2% of Philadelphians are African American, 14.4% are Hispanic or Latino and 44.8% are white. Yet, African American women tend to make up a small percentage of participants at our weekly group runs. Latina women and Asian women make up an even smaller portion. When we moved our workouts out of Germantown and traded our weekly bootcamps for group runs, our community continued to be diverse in age and body types but less diverse in racial background.
Groups like Latinas in Motion, Pretty Girls Sweat and Black Girls Run! are doing amazing work in Philadelphia and beyond to get more women involved in running and other forms of physical activity. In fact, a 2016 Wall Street Journal article credited groups like Black Girls Run! for helping more black women cross the finish lines at 5Ks, half-marathons, and marathons across the country. But in a city as large and diverse as Philadelphia, we can all do more to address health disparities in Black and Latino communities.
Let's build a stronger community
This community is strong, but we’ll be an even stronger force when our community is representative of the city we workout in and run through. Our goal is - and has always been - to make physical activity more accessible for all women no matter their race, pace, age, body type, sexual orientation, income level, etc.
This summer, Kiera and I will be working on programming to get more women, and specifically, more women of color moving in Philadelphia.
We’ll start by hosting more pop-up workouts like ‘Track Tuesdays’ at Temple University in North Philadelphia or bootcamps in Fairmount and other Philadelphia neighborhoods. Look out for hikes in Germantown/Mt. Airy through the Wissahickon Trails and other pop-up events throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods that are often not catered to by Center City Philly’s boutique fitness scene. And since we LOVE a good workout at boutique studios from time to time, we'll continue to work with them to provide free or low-cost events for women in our community to ensure they're accessible to everyone.
To all the groups, running leaders, trainers, activists, public health professionals, etc. who are currently working to make health and physical activity more accessible to ALL women, you are appreciated and your work doesn't go unnoticed.
To all the women in our community, thank you for being a part of the journey. You’ve helped us create a safe space for women athletes who can feel accepted no matter their bodyweight, body type, speed/pace or ability. Without you, we’d never be able to reach as many women that we have but as the title of the blog says, we have more work to do. We (yes, you too) have the opportunity to inspire, uplift, encourage, and motivate more women than you could have imagined possible. I am hopeful that we will continue to grow City Fit Girls, empower more women and make this community more representative of our city.
Takia McClendon is the co-founder of City Fit Girls. She's a shoe expert and manager at a running store in Philadelphia and a Certified Level 1 USATF Coach. Follow her online at @takiamcclendon.
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