‘A space for me’: North Preston duo launch fitness band for black women

Shanea Sparks and Lakara Whynder wanted to see a space where black women could feel comfortable working out and see themselves reflected in the room — so they created one.

In March, Sparks and Whynder started a group called Black Girl Fitness to fill a gap they noticed in the Halifax area.

“There aren’t a lot of places you can go in a fitness space and you see a lot of other people who look like you,” Sparks said.

Last month, they teamed up with Halifax R Studios gym to host their first spin class and promoted it on social media and by word of mouth in their community. They were blown away by the response.

“We received messages for days telling us how much everyone loved the class,” Sparks said. “How everyone loved being in this space, you know, full of black women. It was just very empowering.”

“It was the atmosphere, the music”

Friends believe the unique energy of the room is part of the reason the class was so popular. They helped plan the class and chose their favorite R&B and hip hop music to accompany the workout.

“We had a good workout, but it was more of an experience than just a fitness class,” Whynder said. “It was all about the vibe. It was the vibe, the music.”

Gabrielle Grant said she loves how everyone goes wild in Black Girl Fitness classes. (Robert Short/CBC)

When they held their second class, the number of participants increased. Gabrielle Grant, from East Preston, has attended the classes and plans to keep coming.

“If I’m around people who look like me and women who support me and there’s…a support system, I feel welcome,” Grant said. “I feel like there’s a place for me.”

She said the best part was that the practice wasn’t too serious and everyone was there to have a good time.

“Spaces where everyone sees each other are a little freer,” Grant said. “If there was a trip, a mistake, there was no problem.”

Shanea Sparks and Lakara Whynder promote their upcoming classes and showcase workouts on their Instagram account, Black Girl Fitness. (Submitted by Lakara Whynder)

Whynder and Sparks said the group’s goals reflect their own lifelong fitness journeys. Two years ago, Whynder was on the winning team of a local “biggest loser” weight loss contest. She said it taught her that she needed accountability.

“So working with groups of friends and family gave me that responsibility,” she said. “And from there I just learn that it’s not just about losing weight, it’s about getting stronger, friendships, mental health, things like that.”

“Blessed and Grateful”

That’s what they want their group to reflect. They said they wanted all body types and fitness levels to feel comfortable and respected in the classes.

“If you’re taller or shorter, no matter your shape, I think it’s important to see other women with different body types training consistently,” Whynder said.

Shanea Sparks and Lakara Whynder are shown during training. (Robert Short/CBC)

She said looking around the play and seeing a group of black women spinning together made her feel “blessed and grateful.”

The friends plan to branch out to include new workouts in their Black Girl Fitness lineup with R Studios, and they said they’re excited to make their events bigger and better.

Sparks said she also plans to open the classes to other women of color, and even black men in the future.

“It’s just super, super important for everyone to come in and not feel intimidated…get people out and show people around us that working out is fun.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(Radio Canada)

One thought on “‘A space for me’: North Preston duo launch fitness band for black women”

  1. Am I missing something? Is this 1950? “Blacks Only” !!??? If someone opened a “Whites Only” fitness class, there would be riots in the street! If you are so self-absorbed that you need to see yourself “ reflected in the class” then look at the mirrored wall. The class may be opened up to include “other women of colour and maybe even Black men.” But certainly not Whites—-women or men. You are all for a variety of body types and fitness levels but draw the line at pale skin tones. What happened to Martin Luther King Jr’s dream? There’s one race— The Human Race. I guess all that anti-segregation fuss was so Blacks would have the right to segregate themselves on their own terms. Whatever. I’m glad I’m a senior citizen with limited time on this earth. Y’all have lost your minds!!

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