A 5 minute Juice with Fitness Blogger, Elle Linton
Posted on November 9th, 2017
One of the biggest elephants in the room when it comes to wellness is the lack of diversity! It’s great that we are opening up a lot of conversations on mental and physical wellbeing, but who is excluded from these and what are the repercussions?
I have no doubt that many men, transgender people, gays and those of ethnic and racial minority are interested in their health and longevity. I’m sure a lot of them already engage in very beneficial behaviours and that many have their own personal stories to tell. Yet every time I go to a “wellness” orientated event or turn the pages of a “healthy” glossy magazine, I met with the same kind of story and image of what wellness seems to mean.
Is wellness representing the reality of the world’s abundance of difference? I would argue not, and why are the gatekeepers of “health”, the brands and the magazine failing to represent people of all diversities.
I caught up with fitness blogger Elle Linton, from Keep it SimpELLE to discuss her experience of being a black women in fitness. I love Elle’s focus on community and team sport, and how she aims to make the joys and challenges of movement accessible to everyone. I wanted to ask her about her own journey, what she thinks we can do better to represent diversity and bring health and fitness to the masses, her work in the 2012 Olympics and of course her last meal on earth.
So Elle, I always start with this question. You can invite 3 people for dinner and they can be real, fictional, dead or alive. Who’s dining with you?
I’m surprised I didn’t have the answer to this in my mind already; I had to give this some serious thought! First up, I’d invite Trevor Noah; South African Comedian. I read his book in a day and loved it so the opportunity to hear his stories first hand would be a must. Next it would be Katherine Johnson; NASA Mathematician and lead character in the film Hidden Figures. The film was incredible but the story, being real, is even more fascinating. Last but not least, I’d invite Donald Trump. You know what they say about keeping your friends close, but enemies closer…
When did you first develop your passion for fitness and when did this transpire into your blog?
I was always really sporty as a child in primary school, however, transitioning to secondary school was difficult for me as I suffered from anemia and also had a lack of support when it came to my Physical Education teachers. Lucky for me I was able to combine my passion for both sport and P.E at A level when I changed schools and then for my degree in Exercise Science. By this time though, I wasn’t the most active person, I just really loved the theory. It wasn’t until my first full time job where I met one of my most active friends that I took up running as well as started to think about the food I was eating. Some years later, having qualified as a Fitness & Studio Instructor, I was inspired by all the activities surrounding the Olympics to get into teaching classes, finishing my studies to become a personal trainer and start my blog to continue the legacy in my own way.
Ell, your approach to fitness seems to be sweat and smile rather than 6am beast mode. How did you develop such a healthy relationship with movement and has this always been the case?
As I’ve grown older I’ve learnt so much about myself and one main factor is that I’m unable to pretend. I can’t hide my emotions on my face and I can’t keep up any type of facade (…there have been many times when I tried to be the girl with flawless makeup and bedhead hair but hat just isn’t “me”).
At the best of times, I personally struggle with motivation to exercise so rather than pretend, I just rely on being honest and relatable whilst trying to figure it all out! As a fitness professional, I also have a duty of care to ensure those I cross paths with manage to achieve their goals in the healthiest and most balanced way possible. I’m not sure I’ve always had a healthy relationship with movement; ironically, I think I started in a place of not doing enough (and not eating that well). So I’ve tried to learn about my body over time and apply the principles that work best for me.
It’s no secret that many of us women don’t have the best relationship with food and our bodies. How has this been for you growing up?
Yes this is so true and I think the media has played a huge part in this. When I refer to the media, I’m not just talking about magazines and newspapers, I’m talking about bloggers and influencers who have the platforms to share their opinions on topics like this too. I think I’m lucky in the sense that there were no social media platforms around during my developmental years so there wasn’t this huge wealth of information (for comparison) available to me. Personally, I think it’s all about filtering out the noise and focusing on a few credible sources for information; again, trying out different ideas and sticking to the ones that work well for you.
Elle, something I want to draw attention to is the huge lack of ethnic and racial diversity in the wellness space. What are your thoughts and experiences of this?
This is something I’ve noticed more and more in recent years. A couple of years ago I directly approached a brand about their lack of diversity and I was very disappointed to get back a copied and pasted response. I recently made the decision to not spend my money on brands who don’t represent the diversity of the real world; and personally speaking, who don’t represent myself. I know it takes a long time for real change to ever occur but I do believe that if we have a voice and a platform we should use it. Saying nothing amounts to a silent agreement, it tells society that you’re happy with the way things are.
Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable within the (industry?) either directly or indirectly?
I feel like if I have been in a situation that could possibly make me feel uncomfortable I’ve been unaware. This isn’t because I’m naive; it’s simply because I don’t have time for anyone that would purposefully or unconsciously make me feel uncomfortable. I do however think I have been subject to “positive discrimination” in the sense that I think I’ve been picked on a number of occasions because I stand out as an ethnic minority. Package that with being a woman and I’m probably one of the most unrepresented segments of society! I guess if more BAME women were in the industry there would be more to choose from?
What do you think we could do to make “health” and indeed wellness more accessible for people of all races and ethnicities?
I think this needs to start from a really young age; the same way babies aren’t born knowing what hate is, is the same way we aren’t born thinking we can’t do something. Somewhere along the lines it’s been instilled in us; what we can and can’t do, what’s accessible to us and what’s not… and that’s what we believe. I then think the relationships that brands have with influencers and their customers is vital. Stories need to be shared that BAME groups can relate to and see that there are opportunities out there. More an effort should be made to reach all races and ethnicities to share the message of health and wellness benefits.
I’d love to hear a bit more about your work in maintaining the legacy of the Olympics?
Personally, the Olympics was such an exciting time in london. Everyone’s interest peaked in sport and physical activity and a huge spotlight was put on the industry. Money was invested by the government and “everyday people” who maybe weren’t interested in being active got a taste for it. It would be wrong not to piggyback off the back of all that happened and not try to do my bit to keep the buzz going. So that’s what I aim to do; inspire people to get active, motivate them to put their ideas into action and then give them the knowledge they need to be empowered to smash their individual goals!
For most, Kobox and Barry’s aren’t exactly on the cards. How do you think we can promote a more positive message about sport to the wider population and get people moving?
I think we’ve become so focused on fitness being a business that we’ve forgotten about the basics of what physical activity is, what it means and the benefits. By all means, if your budget allows you to access studios like Kobox and Barry’s, and that’s how you like to sweat then keep doing that. However for those who may be restricted by money, time or even just don’t like that culture it’s important to remember that just moving your body anyway you feel inclined to, counts. So that may be a walk with your family at the weekend, adding a run / wall to your commute or getting a group of friends together to go bowling! If you enjoy it, you’re halfway there!
I’m so impressed by all your runs and triathlons. How do these challenges make you feel personally?
A lot of what I do is for the social element; I got my half marathon PB when I trained with my friend Bethan who was training for her marathon. I enjoyed her company and it also kept me accountable. I’m inherently an introvert, who also works alone most of the time so being part of a community, in running or cycling for example, is important to me both physically and mentally.
The sense of accomplishment when you complete an event and can look back at all the hard work you put in is also amazing. Training mirrors life with all its ups and downs which kinda prepares you for any given situation!
Lastly, what would be your last meal on earth?
Right at this very moment I think I’d have to go for a Mexican feast; lots of tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, salsa, jalapeños …maybe even a few bottles of sol beer! Then tons of burritos with extra guacamole …and I’d be a happy human.
To keep up with Elle don’t forget to follow her on instagram.
Beautiful photography by Rita Zlatnik