Michele Burmaster is a California-based fitness professional who absolutely rocks. Not only does she own Surf City Fit Club, but is a huge force behind the body positivity movement and inclusive fitness. She’s founded the Body Positive Fitness Alliance, as well as the Fit2Point0 movement. Michele uses her fitness expertise to make health and wellness accessible to all women, no matter what skill level or body type. We talked to Michele about her passion for fitness and empowering women.
How does Surf City Fit Club embody your passion for fitness?
At Surf City Fit Club, we have built a model that keeps our focus on making fitness accessible, approachable and inclusive for all bodies. We create a supportive, non-judgmental community by leading by example and having the skill set to conquer physical, emotional and mental barriers a person may have.
What kind of fitness do you focus on at Surf City?
We primarily train in strength and endurance – both traditional and unconventional ways. Members are able to choose from a full class schedule that includes lifting labs, kettlebell sport, kickboxing, jump rope, yoga and circuit training.
The classes are very diverse.
We acknowledge that interests evolve and change. We want to keep members of our community for as long as they'll have us. As our community and their interests evolve, we shift our offerings. The goal is to keep people safe and challenged appropriately while instilling a lifelong value of strength and movement.
How do you cultivate a community/family environment at Surf City?
We do not stand for judgement, simple as that. When someone walks in to our building, the community surrounds them, so they know that they are surrounded by individuals who want them to succeed. A large percentage of our membership are "lifers" who have maintained their memberships since the first year we were in business. We know a large part of that is due to the community itself and the beautiful space our members have created.
Tell us how you started Disrupt Your Diet.
Disrupt Your Diet was my first "outside of SCFC's walls" project. SCFC was beginning to attract attention because of our "against the grain" fitness philosophies. We were hearing from trainers and health professionals that our message was awesome and needed. I felt the need to reach more people, so I started a Facebook page where I'd post evidence-based information about diet and exercise. Many people’s hard-earned money goes toward scam after scam after scam, which makes them feel worthless and gives fitness a bad name. I started DYD to tell people that they are worthy of loving their bodies as they are today- and that hating them into submission doesn't help anyone.
And Fit2point0 came after, right?
Fit2point0 was started from a blog post on Disrupt Your Diet. A women's strength-training magazine contacted me and asked if they could feature me in a series of women "changing the face of fitness." When I sent them photos of me competing in a kettlebell sport meet, they asked me to reference their website and resubmit photos similar to small, muscular, shirtless athletes. I told them the fitness industry is changing and what they were trying to accomplish on their website was a thing of the past. It was time for a new wave of fitness- one that is inclusive and representative of all people, one that reaches more than a measly five percent of the population. And Fit2point0 was born.
Why is body positivity such an important movement in our culture?
The Body Positive Fitness Alliance is about not judging one another for the way we look. It's the idea that all bodies can be athletic bodies. Harmful messaging saying one must look "fit" before pursuing fitness is causing so much damage to people and keeping them away from an active lifestyle.
What's the biggest misconception people have about fitness?
That you have to be small, skinny and/or muscular to be worth of working out, going for a walk, riding a bike, lifting weights, doing Zumba, swimming, running or any number of other methods of joyful movement.
Why is it important to empower more women to be part of the fitness community?
For their health and for the health of our children and future generations. If we want our kids to be more mentally, physically and emotionally fit than we are/were, then we need to start by breaking down barriers.
What's an aspect of your fitness career that has really inspired you/you are proud of?
Honestly, every single day is an accomplishment. Some days it is a message from a stranger across the world thanking me for taking a stand. Some days I can knock out an extra heavy rep or two and feel on top of the world. Most days, though, it is seeing someone I have coached throw a bunch of weight over their head and astonish themselves with what they can do. Those are the best days.
What advice do you have to other women entrepreneurs or women who want to be leaders in their industry?
Just go out and do something. It doesn't matter what it is. I fail at 99 small things and the one that succeeds becomes a really big freaking thing. But without those 99 failures, I would never get anywhere!