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NBSV 133


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 133

Justice Roe Williams of Fitness4AllBodies on deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan Podcast, episode 133. I'm here today with Coach Justice Roe Williams, an author and the executive Director of Fitness4AllBodies. We talk about how and why he started the organization, our work in the fitness industry as social justice work, his upcoming book, and much more.

Hey, welcome to the show. Thank you for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Today I'm honoured to speak with Justice Roe Williams. He's a poet, writer, author, and now editor of his upcoming anthology, “Deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex, How to Resist, Disrupt, and Reclaim What it means to Be Fit in American Culture,” being published in 2023 with North Atlantic Books. This is a unique book project that takes the journey of diverse bodies from coaches to fitness enthusiasts and their experiences of the fitness industry and what it means to create inclusive movement spaces. Justice is a certified personal trainer, head coach at Kettlebell Justice, founder of the Queer Gym Popup and Body Image for Justice, and executive director of Fitnes4AllBodies, based in Boston. Justice is a trans body-positive social justice activist who continues to create safe spaces for all bodies across the globe through his work with Fitness4AllBodies.

He advocates for fitness being for everybody, and trainers and fitness professionals using their status as gatekeepers to act as a shield to protect their clients and create safe, affirming practices and spaces. A key component of his work has been working with people of all backgrounds to address and dismantle toxic masculinity and how it operates within white supremacist patriarchal culture.

Justice also offers diversity and inclusion consulting along with speaking engagements. His work has been featured in Refinery 29, Good Housekeeping, NPR, Pink News, Boston Neighborhood Network News, and more. Follow Fitness4AllBodies on Instagram and join their learning community on Patreon, where they offer workshops, movement sessions, panel discussions, and much more. All these links are available at our show notes, Let's get to the discussion.

Hey Justice, nice to see you. Thanks for coming on the show today.

Justice Roe Williams: Thank you for having me. So grateful to be here.

Karina Inkster: Well I know you as the instructor for an amazing six-week course that I took. That was through the company that you founded called Fitness 4 All Bodies, and the course that I took was called, “Deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex," which I would like to talk about. But first, can you start by giving our listeners a little bit of background on Fitness4AllBodies, like how it came to be and what you offer?

Justice Roe Williams: Oh, definitely! Fitness 4 All Bodies actually is the evolution of an idea that began with my work with trans-masculine individuals who felt depressed in their bodies and wanted to find an aesthetic that made them feel comfortable in their skin, in a world that tries to erase otherness in other bodies. I wanted to empower my community, being a trans man myself, and I’d been studying the male aesthetic since I was a teenager. Watching men, you know, because I grew up in a woman's body, in a female body. I was born in a female body, but never felt, you know, throughout my life, I was the oddball, the awkward person, the person that just didn't make any sense. And, you know, it's okay. I love myself because that brings me to who I am and his work and why I do this work. So back to it, it was called Body Image for Justice, the work. You'll notice that there's a lot of justice around.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, I've noticed that as a theme. I like it.

Justice Roe Williams: So it was called Body Image for Justice. And then at work, what I basically did was I implemented some workout sessions with trans-masculine individuals, but found that trans men of colour weren't feeling connected within the wellness industry, weren't going to doctors. They were getting their testosterone pretty much illegally off the streets because they didn't feel like they had access. Or having those deeper dialogues and conversations about honouring our bodies and talking about our body experience didn't happen culturally relevant to our black and brown bodies.

So I began doing a lot of conversations and discussions with trans-masculine individuals that expanded to the whole trans community and it built my language, my ideology. It changed my ideas about bodies. It changed the way that I view my own life journey and the work, my purpose, my activism, the work of helping others find the love that I've always embraced in my own journey. And find that within ourselves, we as trans individuals polish our armour in a world that definitely wants to erase us.

So from that work I did the work of conformity, I felt. I felt like trans men were asking me to create an aesthetic, but not to build in the bodies that we have and learn to celebrate where we're at in the skin that we're in, and look at ourselves, to see our journey, much like a butterfly and a caterpillar, right? So a caterpillar starts on the ground and learns all this data and information, and just moves with it, moves and flow, ebbs and flows. And then there's a lot of conflict when you go from caterpillar to cocoon and in that cocoon there's a lot of conflict. You're changing from the data that you collected on the ground to move beyond that and fly, right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: So I'm teaching trans individuals to love themselves regardless of the skin that they're in, changing from conformity and performativeness to just our authentic selves and understanding that journey. Not navigating in binaries, but just being, right? And adjusting ourselves where we're polishing our armour and building in spaces as our authentic selves so that people can be exposed to us. So from that work, I found that fitness and body image is not something that just affects me as a trans individual thinking about gender, thinking about my body, and thinking about the ways that I'm trying to find safety and conform. That performativeness doesn't just happen within my body, but it happens within all bodies and the ways that we have internalized who we are, the ways that we have learned to be in this world, but also the ways that we find power, find voice is connected to disarmourment.

And so when I think about this, we have to change that disarmourment to knowing this, that vulnerability is a powerful space to be in. And you're not disarming me. I am sharing my authentic self with you and that is a gift, right? And so when I tell trans people our authentic lives, our authentic selves are gifts, we are the embodiment of a revolution. We deconstruct the binary, we deconstruct the white supremacist idea of gender, which puts us up one against the other. Men versus women. There is no such thing. We're collective, we are connected. And in that, there's a blur cuz there's layers in all of our lives. Even if you see yourselves as a cis person, there are layers in that identity of cisness that moves beyond what someone told us cisgender is, what someone told us transgender is. There's always a blur, there's layers.

But back to the work. So moving from Body Image For Justice, I found that body image is that connector. We're talking about race, we're talking about class, and we're experiencing this separating of a larger community and not seeing ourselves through the lens of collectiveness. In some sense, I believe that we connect to each other in this idea of body image, because there we see we're all told how to be in our bodies, what our bodies are supposed to look like, and how we internalize these ideas on an individual basis. That experience is what that collectiveness is, right? That collectiveness connection of understanding that someone is telling us what to do.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: But that is not who we are. So Body Image For Justice was bringing in a larger community so that we're exposing ourselves to each other and understanding this collective connection of conscious, right? This collective conscious of understanding we’re being force fed ideas. Now we have to learn from each other about what those force fed ideas are.

Karina Inkster: Right. That’s part of what this course was that I took through Fitness4AllBodies.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes.

Karina Inkster: There's so much importance to the layers that you talked about. And yes, I feel like deconstruction is gonna be a general theme, just generally deconstructing a lot of different concepts. But in this case, you just mentioned ideas that we were force fed around presumably what gender is and ideas that we were force fed about bodies and how they should exist in the world. So where do these ideas come from? I mean, this is something we looked at in the course, all the different systems of oppression - and there's lots of them - that exist in pretty much everything. We focused on the fitness industry. But you could talk about housing, education, the medical system, anything, society at large. But where are these ideas coming from and who's force feeding us all this stuff that we're deconstructing?

Justice Roe Williams: There's two authors that I love and I've built my life on. I feel like I'm extremely connected to both of these ancestors, right? And keep in mind there's a lot of authors, but these two come to mind when you ask me that question. The first is bell hooks. I always bring my ancestor bell hooks in because she helps us to understand the largeness of it all and gives us this framework. And what bell hooks teaches us and tells us is that we live in a white supremacist - and I added this ideology - cis hetero. But if bell hooks in her engaging in conversation brings this up all the time. So I'm just gonna say I added it because I don't like to say someone said something that they didn't. But also that in her work, as we evolve in time, she spoke about the separation of these ideas.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: So cis-hetero-patriarchal-capitalistic society. So that is the overarching umbrella that we live in and that all of the ideas and norms and values that we as a larger community in society on this land, I'm gonna say the United States, which was colonized by who they were colonized by, because that looks different, right? Where the land was colonized looks different, right? Even in America. So on the West coast it looks different. And the East coast it looks different than the Midwest. It looks different because it's who colonized that area. And normally that is what constructs those systemic norms and values through that colonization. And those who are the colonizers, that's who I'm saying are the “them/they,” right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: When we say them/they, because people's like, who are they? Who are them? We gotta look back in history always because history gives us not the drive, right? But it helps us to put in perspective the intention.

Karina Inkster: Interesting.

Justice Roe Williams: Why was this done? For who? For what? And we often find cis white men in the mix of that.

Karina Inkster: You mean for whom and for what?

Justice Roe Williams: Yes.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Interesting. So I was just speaking with a journalist, Stacy Lee Kong, about decolonizing our fitness practices and our wellness practices. So this is something that goes along with what we learned in the course that you put on. How would you suggest that listeners, or folks in general who are somehow related to the fitness industry, start chipping away at some of these concepts? Like what can we actually do to acknowledge these systems of oppression, first of all, and then have an effect on either just ourselves as individuals or something larger like the fitness industry?

Justice Roe Williams: When I think about shifting the narrative of anything, I believe that is social justice work and social justice work is a lived experience for me. It becomes a ritual. And what does that look like? In order for it to become a ritual, I have to be willing to unlearn some things that have framed who I am in this very day that may not fit. It may fit in your keyhole in your door at your home, but it won't fit in my keyhole at my door, right? So in order to get into my keyhole, you gotta go and figure out what is the key. The only way you're gonna get the key is from the person that is the owner of the house, right?

Karina Inkster: Interesting. That's a really cool analogy. I like that.

Justice Roe Williams: So in order to do that, you would have to like build and come outta your house, right? And learn and be in community.

Karina Inkster: Asking questions. That was a big theme. Asking questions, not making statements, meeting folks where they’re at.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. It means that understanding that the key for you is not the key for me. And you have to be open to unlearning some things that we were told in the ways of engaging with each other and sometimes engaging with ourselves. Cuz we find by unlearning with others, it gives us the capacity to expand who we are.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Justice Roe Williams: It gives us the okay to be exactly who we are. We don't have to perform anymore.

Karina Inkster: Interesting. So when you say lived experience and that it's a ritual for you, does that mean you've incorporated this into your day to day life? We're not just chunking it into, okay, now I'm gonna do some social justice work. It just is ingrained in who you are and what you do. Is that a correct description?

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. I think that is correct. I like that. That's like spot on. I mean, I also would add that there's even layers to that because some people say, well, I mean I'm black and that's kind of true. I mean, if you look at me, I am black and being affected by a lot of oppression tends to make you like, know some things, you know what I mean?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: But also if you're not black, you kind of don't know those things, right? And so there's a tendency that people tend to do. They tend to learn from one person and they'll take that in, right? But they'll spit it out as if it was their own without making it their own, if that makes sense. So when you Columbus somebody, people know you got a whole bunch of ideas and you're trying to - kind of like a fitness trainer, right? When you go to them your Perform Better - and I’ll say it just like this cuz we'll make that blend of fitness - you go to your Perform Better conference and you're all excited, you're with other fitness trainers, You're like, yeah! And they is like, you're going in and they're teaching you things about the body and they're teaching you all of these exercises that look really cool. They're like, oh, you could be doing this TRX! Next, do this and and do that. And then half the trainers in the room can't do it.

Karina Inkster:Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: There is no like way, it's just like this is the way it is. You wanna get your clients up to this level. They need to be doing it just like this, right? And we can't even do it in our body, right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: Even with some of the kettlebell stuff, you go in and you see them doing like club work and the clubs is like, they look like they got mad planes are coming. You know what I'm saying? Fucking for days, you know, and then I see this, right? So I go to a Perform Better and then I'll go to the gym that I work at and some of my colleagues that went to the Perform Better and they doing some of these activities with their clients and they couldn't do it with their own body.

So that shows me, you know what I mean? It shows me a lot about the prescription around bodies and our own disengagement from it. Because we don't even connect it to our bodies. It's just a performance. Look at me as a coach. Look at me being able to get my client to perform this activity that looks dope by me. I can make you do this. Meanwhile, the client's hurting and they don't understand. They think it's part of their prescribed programming. They get hurt, They come back because they don't know the answers. They actually think it's their body, not the trainer. If your body says something to you, we have to listen to our bodies. What fitness tells us in the industry is that it's the fix.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Justice Roe Williams: You need to be lifting heavy weights. You need to be this ballistic, this fast. You should be able to jump over 50 million trains and planes and automobiles. Oh my God!

Karina Inkster: You're not wrong!

Justice Roe Williams: Go on Instagram. You got people doing back flips. Super, super duper whirly whirls, right? They is like breaking things. Oh my God, I just broke this. Strong man stuff. The evolution of fitness has not changed from its ideas back in the day. From performance the performance of strong men, right? To the circus, to the kettle bell jugglers to the gymnasts to residential schools and getting indigenous people to conform. We was just talking about this President, to President Regan and making us do those stupid pull up and pushups in a stupid fitness challenge. I don't even believe he could do 'em at that time!

Karina Inkster: Probably not.

Justice Roe Williams: I'm just saying he being forced fed these ideas that are not connected to our bodies and how amazing our bodies are. We're just giving this cookie cutter model of what a body is supposed to conform to and look like. Cuz we've all been sold a white supremacist culture that tells us that bodies should be lighter, bodies should be slimmer, bodies should have muscles in order for it to be attractive, right? Strong looks like this. Awesome.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. You have a really good point about this whole prescription idea, but also that the entire fitness industry is telling us there's something to be fixed. I mean, that's how it all makes money, right? Oh, you wanna lose weight? Oh, you wanna do a 30 day transformation and go from A to B because you're not enough at A, right? So I think this whole idea of what you were saying in your work and how it's evolved of accepting where you're at now. I mean, I think you could have goals, you could wanna work on certain things, but also be cool with where you're at now, which I don't think is stressed in the fitness industry at all. It's like either you're cool with where you're at or there's something completely fucked up and you need to fix it. And oh by the way, I'm selling the solution and here it is. You can buy it for 49.99.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. 49.99.

Karina Inkster: Probably more.

Justice Roe Williams: Then you guys gotta get the kit then. You know what I’m saying?

Karina Inkster: Yeah.

Justice Roe Williams: There’s this and that. And then it's all up in your food. It's like, oh, you gotta get that organic, and if it ain't organic, it's not healthy. You know, we are being sold these ideas, right? Because we believe that they be true.

Karina Inkster: Mmm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: All I say to people is think critical. Think critically, just like bell hooks gives us, right? Cause if you start to actually think critically about some things and taking yourself outta your scenario sometimes and allowing yourself to be in space with other experiences that are unlike yours, you will find that your experience may be one in alone and that the other experience in connection, just like body image, is someone forcing something upon them in a violent way.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Right.

Justice Roe Williams: That's our mental health. That's the stress we carry in our bodies. That's our physical health, right? And then in the overarching worth and value that we take away from who we are and all of our amazingness and we weigh it against what someone said is beautiful, what said athleticism is, what someone says a female body should do, and what someone says a male body should do. Well, keep in mind they're not even saying what trans bodies should do cuz they don't even know that.

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Justice Roe Williams: So that's all erased.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: Right? There is no real science when I said that. So when I said real science in my head, immediately what popped in my head is that movie Real Science.

Karina Inkster: I don't know it.

Justice Roe Williams: Oh Lord. Oh Lord. This is just gonna tell you how old I am and how ridiculous the movies are. So Real Science basically are like these two high school kids that weren't getting any girls. They were very, you know, very, very smart. You know what I mean?

Karina Inkster: The typical nerd prototype.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. And they're just othered, you know, nobody was like digging 'em, you know what I mean? And all of a sudden they create a woman just out of, I don't know. And this speaks a lot about like gender, speaks a lot about sexism because of the way that the woman looks brings more attention, right? And makes the girls that they wanted want them.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: Because this woman wanted them. So it's just like these layers of ideas that we've received through media, right? Through magazines. Magazines tell us what strength is what, what beauty is.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That’s a good point about what beauty is. Cuz what you just said previously before Real Science was about beauty standards, right? And I remember your line in one of our discussions in the course, which was, you know, the quote, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what does that mean if society tells us what beauty is? That was pretty powerful.

Justice Roe Williams: Thank you. Cause it gets us to think about it. It gets us to really think about how we perceive beauty. And then there's some experience of shame with that.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely.

Justice Roe Williams: Because in general, the reality is that we've internalized some toxic and like unhealthy ideas about what beauty is and we apply that pressure on ourselves in order to maintain it, right? And then we expect others in their lives to believe in that myth. So we're either forcing people to conform in our relationships or just building relationships with people that are conforming because we find that we think we have to, right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: I'll be like telling people just release. You know what? You don't wanna do certain things? Just like take a break and see how it feels.

Karina Inkster: That's hard to do. That's hard to do. There's a lot of pressure, there's a lot of pressure out there from social media, society in general, expectations about what we should be doing and how we should be looking. It's a lot.

Justice Roe Williams: But that's social justice.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Justice Roe Williams: That’s the only way change gonna happen and when people ask, that's why I say it's a daily ritual. So this thing that, it's the 10 Cs.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Justice Roe Williams: Like the 10 Cs, one of the Cs is courage.

Karina Inkster: Uh-huh.

Justice Roe Williams: Right? You have to have the courage to embody those things that you know are right for you.

Karina Inkster: That's a great point.

Justice Roe Williams: You have to have the courage. That's how we're going move. And I'm not saying that in a negative way, but some folks haven't found that courage in their situation, in the expectations on their life. We have to find our own courage in our own way.

Karina Inkster: Well I think part of what you're doing in your work is helping people find it for themselves.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes, I do. That’s the work of community.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely.

Justice Roe Williams: I do that all the time. Because I believe in my work of Body Image for Justice and then move to the Queer Gym Pop-Up, right? Working with queer bodies, right? That when I became a fitness coach, cuz I was doing this work with bodies before I even was a certified coach, right? I think a lot of us are doing work with bodies before, you know?

Karina Inkster: Sure.

Justice Roe Williams: Parents, mothers, teachers, we're all doing work with bodies and movement and motion, right? And teaching it how to be in space with other bodies. We're all doing that, right? We’re experiencing it. But I believe that when we're talking about it, we should be adjusting the narrative and including social justice. And that's what I felt was limited within the fitness institutions, fitness certifications, those Performed Better conferences. I said we as coaches, we're gate keeping these toxic ideas and many of us are just doing it because we think this is what fitness is. We think fitness is the fix. This is what we were told.

Karina Inkster: Well we're told this like even in our organizations that certified us.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes!

Karina Inkster: I mean again, to your idea of layers, right? One of the many layers is well how did we become coaches in the first place and what did we learn in the process? And a lot of that, layers again, involves being told that, well your clients are gonna come to you only because they wanna lose weight and here is how you can quote unquote “fix them.”

Justice Roe Williams: Yes.

Karina Inkster: Even from these organizations. So, I mean, even at that level, things need to change.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. I agree. And that's why the dream, and this is a lot cuz it came with the book too. The dream, my dream was to, I wanna affect systems.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Justice Roe Williams: Not just the interpersonal work that I was doing within my community, which was empowering. I really wanted to affect like institutions. I wanted to create, I wanted to be a game changer, right? I wanted to have an institution that was focused on doing movement different. Different than any other certifying body, and as having people view movement from the bodies that they're in, or meeting bodies where they're at.

Karina Inkster: Instead of coming at it from a fixed perspective.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes, exactly. Thank you. Yes. Exactly. Cause bodies do not need to be fixed. And I'm gonna be honest, a lot of the times we're bullying our clients by using these toxic ideas because we know that it will work. Because we've all learned this, right? We've all learned these ideas. So with a little bullying. Yeah, you may need to lose a little weight. I've had a lot of trainers sell me on yeah, you need to lose a little weight or yell at me while I was on, you know, like some cardio machine. Go a little faster! Pump it up a notch. Like that's gonna - and they wouldn't do it if it didn't work, right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: So there's two spheres of this, right? The reason why I'm working with coaches is because every coach is told the toxic way of doing it. And it works because we live in a toxic society where all systems are doing similar work that's toxic.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: That’s why it makes your work easy because oppressed people are beat down within all places. Education if you're going to school, you're, you're getting beat down. If you're going for healthcare, you're getting beat down. Housing, you're getting beat down. You're just getting beat down in so many places when you walk in a gym, that's your most vulnerable place. So it makes it easy to bully somebody after they've experienced so much trauma within the world.

Karina Inkster: And you know, there's an expectation also from the client that that is how their training is gonna go.

Justice Roe Williams: Exactly.

Karina Inkster: If the coach is not yelling at me, then I'm not doing it properly or I'm not gonna get results.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. So that's why I said it's two tier because first is the work with trainers and creating the institutions, but it's larger work that has to happen. Not only are we as trainers, like really changing this idea of what it means to experience movement in all bodies. We actually have to work with our clients and work with the larger community to change that perspective in that narrative and take it out of the hands of the white cis men that have been leading the fitness industry since its inception. And they allow certain people in.

Karina Inkster: Well said. Gatekeeping again.

Justice Roe Williams: And those people have to prescribe to their program, right? So I'm just getting people to say, hey, there's other options. We don't have to do this the cis white way. We really don’t. We can apply a collective way of being with each other. But I want us to see as fitness coaches that it move beyond good business. Cause if we're just doing it in our business, right? What was one of the things that I asked you in class?

Karina Inkster: How are we applying this to our daily lives and not just our coaching practices?

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. It has to apply to our daily lives. That's what makes that work authentic. That's how you own the work.

Karina Inkster: Love that. Yes.

Justice Roe Williams: Instead of columbusing it for good business, you own it by being authentic in it. And that means making mistakes. That means getting more exposure from others that have experienced these things that you haven’t, right? It means that you don't have to be the voice for the voiceless because if you were, you would be quiet, right? Voiceless you is not talking, right? So yeah, I do want you to do that. Not talk. Listen. That is the work.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: We are always trying to be saviours. Everyone wants to save somebody. Save yourself! In saving yourself you have a model of what you're giving to other people around you and they can model that themselves. It's not a quick fix. Much like movement, we have to practice.

Karina Inkster: It's not a quick fix like the industry of fitness will tell you it is.

Justice Roe Williams: Haha! Yes. Yes.

Karina Inkster: That's so true. Hey, I wanna talk about the book that you have coming out, which is also involving deconstructing the fitness industrial complex. But first, you mentioned you had two authors that you really look up to. One of them is bell hooks and I'm assuming the other one is Audre Lorde. But -

Justice Roe Williams: Yeah, it's Audre Lorde

Karina Inkster: Oh did I that right? Yay!

Justice Roe Williams: She gives us that visual description of who it is and Audre Lorde tells us that it's white men, Christian, heterosexual, with money, right? Able to do, able-bodied, with money. So that's that visual we need. Who's in charge? And I'm not saying every time, right? What I'm saying is that idea, that is the idea that has been instilled in all bodies. In all layers. So when we think beyond fitness, we are able to see our limitations. If this is what the world values. How do we de-center that and change that framework?

Karina Inkster: A hundred percent.

Justice Roe Williams: So now that we know, knowing is what half the battle.

Karina Inkster: True.

Justice Roe Williams: The other half is really just making it authentically yours and walking away from experiences of shame, walking, not saying don't have it, but walking away from it in connection, not in disconnection. Cuz mainly shame disconnects. And we can't stop our experiences of shame, but what we can do is hold onto it and allow the journey to bring you out. So being open to what could happen next. Don't close yourself because you feel ashamed of the information you received.

Karina Inkster: Interesting. This reminds me of one of the other discussions we had in the course where we talked about this idea that these systems of oppression affect everyone. So like for example, white supremacy is a form of oppression. It also affects white people. It's not this construct that only affects folks who don't fit that narrative. So I see your point about all the layers and how this all fits together. And these different systems affect everyone.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes, they do.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. So tell me about the book that you have coming out. It's called, “Deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex: How to Resist, Disrupt and Reclaim What it Means to Be Fit in American Culture". So again, we have this idea of deconstructing. It’s coming out in 2023. I'm super excited to read this by the way. So what can you tell our listeners about this project?

Justice Roe Williams: This project has been a life's work. I've been building with other fitness instructors, doing the good work out there in the world. Not conforming to these toxic ideas, but embracing the change to shift in the way that they view and honour their clients, honour their own bodies and the way their bodies move against the norm, right? And really talking about their experience within fitness and what brought them to change that.

Because it gives us all ideas when we hear it. Oh wow, I never even thought about it that way. Wow. It opens our eyes, right? Because we're limited. We're seeing things from one perspective. And so we're never given the privilege to open ourselves to other perspectives because part of oppression is keeping us separated,. So that we're hearing it from somebody's perspective instead of being immersed and exposing yourselves from that person themselves, right? So the work is that collective connection.

Karina Inkster: Got it.

Justice Roe Williams: That collective understanding of, we talked about body image before, but that collective understanding. And the book is bringing all of these activists that I bumped into.

Karina Inkster: Haha!

Justice Roe Williams: Because it shouldn't just be Justice's story, right? It shouldn't just be Joy Cox's story. It shouldn't just be Ilia Parker's story, because there's always gonna be someone that doesn't see their life through their eyes.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: And then they can say well it doesn't work for me, so this doesn't work, right? So we need a collective of voices talking about their experience so that in some form or fashion, a larger piece of the population sees themselves, sees that experience, understands it. It becomes culturally relevant. It's not just coming from one point of view, right? So that book is a collective activism. And I've wanted this to happen for such a long time because we're getting one person's perspective and then when we do what that one person said, it works for some people, but not all people.

Or sometimes it may work for them, but it doesn't work for you, right? So we need more models so that we have more tools in our toolkit. There isn't one fix to this. You can't just go to one person doing the work and learn something. It's just like fitness itself. You don't just go to one book. There's multiple books you go to. You don't just go to one person. If you wanna get into a specialty, you don't go to that one person for the specialty. You actually find somebody within that specialty to learn from, right?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: This is the same thing about bodies. You is not gonna go to a white man to talk about a black woman's body. You actually wanna go to a black woman and talk about that. You know, it just makes it so much better. The information, you know? So full and filled with like value, not assumption, right? Or some other person's perspective. That is the solve I feel like, of social justice. The solve of social justice is that we have to authentically, all of us, let go of being a saviour.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: And allow space for everyone to take the lead and own the movement. We won't own it if we don't see ourselves in it.

Karina Inkster: Well, it's a sad truth, but this whole time I've been thinking, do we really need to have such a connection with someone's experience in order to be better humans, better professionals? Like I don't have experience being a racialized person for example, but I like to think that I can learn from other folks who have had experiences and change my own coaching practice or evolve my own interactions with other humans in a day to day type of way to make things more inclusive. And you know, I feel like it's a constant learning process even though I don't have that experience myself. Although I do understand on some level maybe I wanna make a connection and feel like I can understand that person's challenges or experiences. But I don't know. I've just been thinking like, do we really need to have that connection in order to make change?

Justice Roe Williams: I'm gonna say yes. The reason why I say yes is because then you're falling back onto someone else's perspective of that information.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: And we've all learned from a white supremacist culture. So all information that you get from one person, even from me, it’s not gonna be everything that we need. It's going to be how I've internalized that information and how I'm spitting it out to you. If we don't go to the source each time, we're not learning. We're getting old information from somebody that talked to somebody about something that's probably not even relevant today - was relevant yesterday, was relevant for my mom, is not really that relevant for me or that relevant.

So if you was talking to someone and talked to my mom and then here I come with a whole new flurry of experiences of the system and how I've engaged with it is most likely like when people are like, oh, racism doesn't look like what it looks like and when the black panthers or with Martin Luther King or the slavery. No, it doesn't look like that. It actually looks worse. Because we are less connected to the intention of it all. We are believing in this myth that everything is better, that racism doesn't exist.

Karina Inkster: We’re using that as an excuse to not do anything.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. But not only not do anything, we're not doing the work of social justice. When we use one person's perspective, we're going back to whiteness.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Interesting.

Justice Roe Williams: Like it detaches us. In order to be social justice, you wanna learn from everyone. You're learning from your clients. And people are so egoistical they don't even think about it that way. You're learning from your client's bodies. One of the most powerful things that my mentor said to me as a coach, you're actually not learning from books. Are books moving?

Karina Inkster: Haha! Good point.

Justice Roe Williams: You're learning from bodies. And so we're learning from our clients' bodies. We're a part of their journey. We have some information and they have some valuable information. And with that information we create a program unique to their body that meets their needs. That is coaching. But we is all like cookie cut 'em out, cookie cut ‘em out, cookie cutter ‘em out. Cookie cutter programming.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: We cookie cutter programming. Oh wait, well if it worked for my client at 8:00 AM it's gonna work for my client at 11 and it'll work for my client at seven. You know, I seen that. Now I wouldn't see that if we honoured each person's body. Each person's body would have a unique movement program that doesn't bully them into doing some crazy ass kettlebell snatch or some barbell thing or some CrossFit, 500 million trillion gazillion times doing something. No!

It would just be managed in a way where we can honour where we're at each day. And if I'm not lifting 10 pounds today and I lifted that shit yesterday, I'm not ashamed of what I'm doing today. I'm still honouring it because I know that's a part of the process.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: We don't fit that. We omit that information because fitness is supposed to be the fix. And if we say that people actually hurt in real ways when they do fitness your way, well it's our bodies that's the problem. No! It's not our bodies. It is the way that you're saying that movement should happen in my body. My body doesn't look like your body. So I would hope that you know my coach, if my coach was your coach and I came in two hours after you, they're not doing your program with my body. I would be like oh, this is hard. I don't really like this. What's going on?

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: But instead of asking the coach what’s up and having to modify, I would think, oh, this is what they prescribed for my body. So I guess I'm supposed to be doing this. And that is wrong. If there's anybody that has that coach, you are in charge. You pay them, you're in charge. I don't care who pays them, somebody else paid them. You're in charge. It's your body. And don't have other people's expectations which are false, bring you down about your ability, your power, and take away from all of the powerful and strong things you've done throughout your life. So I'm like, we measure things. We look at language, we look at these ideas and we put them in boxes like our lives. This language goes beyond that.

So what you're not picking up 4 million pounds? But you had to pick up your child from daycare. You're managing a house, you're managing your children, you're chasing your children around, a puppy. You got a cat, oh my god, da da da. You're cleaning houses, you got clean the house, you got 50 million people living in your house. Who's gonna wanna run a marathon after that?

Karina Inkster: That is a marathon!

Justice Roe Williams: Nobody! You know what I mean? Like we don't add all of the aspects of our lives when we're walking into that gym or into that studio. And when it says, oh and your body's like, I really am exhausted from stress and exhausted from under these things. Can you not beat me today? That's what your body's saying. It's not saying I can’t. It's just asking you please just today, cuz I'm gonna do what you want me to do. That's why our bodies are amazing. They're going to do it. But they're asking us, do we have to though? And why?

Karina Inkster: Such a great reminder.

Justice Roe Williams: Tell me, I tell my body, I tell my body. Well there is no why because usually the why is some abstract shit that I learned that is toxic. It really is. Oh, my coach told me that I'm supposed to be doing this tomorrow. Or oh, if I can't do this, this means I'm weak. Or you know what I mean? No, it doesn't mean none of those things. It means what you make it.

Karina Inkster: Great reminder. I think folks on both sides, the fitness professional and the client have a lot of learning to do. Have a lot of thinking to do about assumptions. Like what is a coach supposed to look like? What is a coach supposed to act like? And also how much power do I have as a client and who's in charge in this relationship? What kind of leverage do I have and where's, you know, where's the power really in the relationship?

Justice Roe Williams: Well the power is where it's supposed to be with the client.

Karina Inkster: A hundred percent.

Justice Roe Williams: I'm with the client a hundred percent of the time. The thing is that the industry, much like oppression, says the power is with media, the power is with TV, the power is with the gatekeeper that's telling you you need to do this weird ass activity that don't make no sense that's supposed to fix you, but then you're like hurting or it only fixes you for like two days, cuz this is the performance of it. It fix you for the session or for like two days and then you're back. And then that’s when it’s like, oh you think it's you again. You're like, oh, now I feel like worse. You feel worse cuz you wasn't supposed to be doing that in the first place. And just because it felt good like there's things in our bodies because we are connected to that norm in here.

So if someone can foolishly bring us up to what that norm is in our brains, we live in like all of this ooh, the hormones is kicking in and when all of that go away, that's when your body's like, what was you doing? Like the time I was lifting real heavy and I wasn't supposed to. And my body told me, I don't think you should do that. Like it really told me. And I was like, well my coach is over here. He saying, you got this, you got this. I just lifted this heavy like three times. I got this. And guess what? On the fourth time after my body was like, I showed you I could do it, but you listened to this dude that's yelling at you, dude, you got this, you got this, you lifted it like this. Well he ain't in your body. And it doesn't matter how you lifted it! What only matters is now I learned what your body tells you. And guess what, when I didn't listen, my back went out.

I was like, oh well I ain't got a back and whose fault is that? I ain't gonna blame the coach. Just like when people blame kettlebells for problems because their coach taught them wrong or they're learning in a way that is not comparable for them in their body. Because we're also told that we're supposed to learn in certain ways or have the capacity to do this. No, we're all unique individuals and the way that we were told to do something is normally someone infiltrating in our brains to get us to follow these norms and get those rewards right? Because we don't want no punishments. That's what the law is like policing and stuff. We don't want no punishments. But the reality is in those things, if we honour ourselves, we actually are shifting the narrative for the next body. So each time we honour our body, we're shifting the narrative for somebody, not just us.

Karina Inkster: Wow. I never thought about it that way.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes. We must speak up and speak out because that voice of the voiceless we learn only chimes into things that affect that person. And then it comes off of that program of speaking for us. Then they're just speaking to benefit them. But we always gotta be a part of the conversation, right? And then there's no voiceless. We're all just making voice to our own own experiences.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Justice Roe Williams: Of our community, of our larger community, of what it means to be in relationship with each other. Not just movement, but in relationship with each other. What it looks like in general. And that's why I say these gems that we're receiving as fitness professionals, learning about social justice should infiltrate into our everyday lives. Because that also shifts the narrative of fitness because all things are connected.

Karina Inkster: I love that Justice, thank you so much for coming on the show. You have a new cohort of the Deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex, and I believe it starts in mid-October, which is actually only a few days after this episode comes out. Is that correct? October 15th I think.

Justice Roe Williams Yes, yes! It is!

Karina Inkster: So I encourage all fitness professionals to sign up, even if you're not a fitness professional, if you're somehow related to the fitness industry, adjacent to the fitness industry, you should take this course and your book is coming out in 2023, which is amazing.

Justice Roe Williams: Yes.

Karina Inkster: We are gonna have show notes where folks can check out your website and your social media. And is there anything you want to leave our listeners with as we finish up here?

Justice Roe Williams: The foundation of every space that I'm a part of, that I hope to be connected to, and the work of Fitness4AlBodies and any work that I do, the foundation of this space is love.

Karina Inkster: I love that. I knew you were gonna say that by the way. It's the foundation of who Justice is as a human, which is amazing. So great speaking with you. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Justice Roe Williams: Thank you for having me.

Karina Inkster: Justice, thank you again for a fantastic discussion. Much appreciated. Access our show notes at to connect with Justice. Check out Fitness4AllBodies and their course offerings and pre-order Justice's upcoming book. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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