“Wait. But I go to a ‘gay’ gym.” I know that’s what you’re thinking to yourself. But do you really? Or is it just known to be the “gay gym”, because it’s in a “gay neighborhood” or has a visible LGBT clientele, or maybe it’s LGBT owned but does it call itself an LGBT gym? Ok, so as Nathalie Huerta , CEO and founder of The Perfect Sidekick (TPS), stated not only are they the first LGBT gym, they’re also OUT about it! Heterosexual friendly, of course; TPS strives to be as inclusive as possible.
Walking towards TPS, the first thing I noticed from about a block away was the telltale pride flag hanging in the doorway; walking down the semi-residential block I knew exactly where I was headed. I walked into the gym, and was greeted by a trainer who was about to start a fitness class. Greeting newcomers, making connections and making people feel at home is something that Nathalie could not stress enough about their business model; community building is at the core of their values.
TPS opened it’s doors in June 2010. Nathalie said the idea behind TPS was to make a space LGBT people could be comfortable exercising. “If I’m a trainer and I feel awkward going into a gym…I can’t be the only one,” Nathalie explained, many people in our community “feel weird going into a gym” due to prior experiences, feelings of sticking out but she has noticed members “becoming more comfortable with a gym setting.” While TPS started with a larger lesbian clientele, they have been doing outreach and marketing to other GBT folks. “With marriage becoming legal and ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ going away” the time just felt right for TPS to open and expand to offer an LGBT centered fitness space.
Since then Nathalie has noticed that Trans* folks are the fastest growing demographic joining TPS, she cited the issues that other LGB people (visibility, vulnerability, locker rooms) as ones that are more amplified for her Trans* clientele; a safe space for LGBT folks may indeed be why TPS has seen an increase of business from the Trans* community. TPS’ diverse clientele has led to workshops for TPS employees to increase knowledge about LGBT health. “When we talk about health, we make sure to use the right words, for example we don’t want to say breast exam or pap smear, instead we say chest exam and pelvic exam…and when we do BMI, what gender do you put in the equations? How do you address that? I’m trying to find these answers.” These questions which arose signaled a clear need for information, and has led to building relationships with organizations like Lyon-Martin Health Services and other LGBT health organizations, like the Network for LGBT Health Equity!
TPS membership comes with open gym time, access to group fitness classes, which have been the most popular aspect of the gym, and weekly Dietitian classes (at no extra cost). With a crew of employees whose skills cross the fitness range (from yoga and personal training, body combat, body pump, and a host of other modalities), TPS offers a variety that everyone is sure to find something they will enjoy. TPS also assist their clients in their commitment to fitness. Every two weeks an attendance report is generated, and those who have not attended will get a phone call, text or facebook message to keep them committed to their health goals. Exercise works, but “getting people to come in and be consistent is the the most important aspect” of their clients fitness routine, Nathalie explains. Again community engagement is at the core of they way TPS operates. We couldn’t be more happy to hear that!