For many women, finding a space where you feel comfortable, supported, and encouraged can be difficult, especially true for women of color, and in a place like New York City where gentrification is tearing historically black communities apart, these safe spaces are desperately needed. TheFitIn is a community of women, led by founder Ife Obi, who teach and attend fitness classes and share their wellness tips in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Ife admittingly does not have your typical office worker-turned-trainer story. Her fitness journey began as a young adult in Brooklyn who saw the effects of poor health in her community. “When I was growing up, there was no TheFitIn,” she begins. “All of the fitness studios were in Manhattan where they could charge fifty dollars for a class and make a quick profit.” Most of the health and wellness business models that are used in New York City favor wealthy patrons and are concentrated in majority-white neighborhoods. As Brooklyn continues to experience severe gentrification in areas close to Manhattan, neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy are still exempt from the phenomenon of having a yoga studio on every corner. “Communities with the least amount of resources are the most in need,” Ife says. “I wanted to bring fitness to my community. I want to teach my people that health and wellness is not just the gym.”
TheFitIn is divided into two; one part encompasses the gym (TheFitIn Bed-Stuy) and the diverse list of classes taught by Ife and other impressive instructors, while the other is a community board-esque website where “Fitters” can post fitness, fashion, and food tips related to the neighborhood or general health and wellness. Using these services together help to break down the barrier of the “lack of attention” that goes into teaching Bed-Stuy community members about healthy living. “In Manhattan, most people in a Pilates class won’t look like me. And for someone new to fitness, that can be intimidating.” Through her practice, Ife wants to show that people of color are more than capable of succeeding in the fitness world and that her space is a reflection of the talented Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
Both parts of TheFitIn build community and create bonds that Ife says wouldn’t have happened otherwise. She’s developed her success formula, with the most critical point being a strong support system. “You’re more likely to succeed when someone is holding you accountable,” Ife says, strongly elaborating on her first point. While she considers herself an introvert, TheFitIn family fills her overwhelmingly with passion. She often says to reserved new members, “there are sisters in wellness who are willing to support you.”
There are very few women who are as compassionate, strong-willed, and generally easy-going as Ife. Every word she spoke was brimming with hope and a genuine desire to create change. TheFitIn entirely lives up to its name, as Ife goes above and beyond to make sure everyone she crosses paths with feels like they are welcomed and valued.