Last Wednesday night during a queer rock themed strength class on an inclusive social fitness platform Move freely, the song “Deceptacon” by feminist post-punk band Le Tigre brought everyone home in a crescendo of united energy. This moment embodied the teacher, founding father of Free To Move and Well+Good 2022 Changemaker AK MacKellar loves teaching: the sense of community and the enjoyment and excitement of moving together.
In 2019, MacKellar suffered a severe concussion from a mountain bike accident that left them chronically in poor health. They used movement to assist with injuries and in addition began working as a private trainer. But during that point, non-binary MacKellar realized (and experienced first-hand) how alienating the fitness industry could be for each LGBTQ+ people and other people with chronic conditions. They decided to begin training specifically for these communities, and with the appearance of the pandemic, they moved their training activities online, making a “QTNB (queer/trans/non-binary) inclusive movement” called Free To Move.
“I knew I wanted a web based space that helped construct a community and help to incorporate individuals who were often left on the sting of their ability, and that is really where Free To Move got here from,” says MacKellar.
Today, Free To Move offers live and on-demand classes in strength, stretching, HIIT, yoga, pilates and more. There can also be a special exercise and strength program for individuals who have had upper surgery, and a “Chronically Chill” series that gives exercise classes for people living with chronic conditions. A personal Facebook group also serves as a community hub.
“One of the beauties of the web [training] is that you would be able to find your people, you may connect with people from all around the world, and hopefully yow will discover other individuals who share your identity,” says MacKellar.
Last 12 months was a 12 months of growth for Free To Move. MacKellar appeared in an Adidas campaign, ran workshops changing the way in which people think in regards to the name reinforced U to assist people develop their relationship with exercise, and brought in half a dozen Free To Move ambassadors to support their work. MacKellar says having such an entry and support modified the foundations of the sport.
“It was very touching when other people showed up and were really supportive,” says MacKellar. “I’m an individual with a chronic disease and exacerbations, and running a business just isn’t at all times easy. Having just a few other people to lean on was really amazing.”
The pandemic, oddly enough, was the catalyst. This encouraged MacKellar to maneuver to a web based model, which allowed them to show more people and reach more audiences through platforms equivalent to ICTwhere they’ve over 125,000 followers.
“I do not know if the Free To Move platform and community would exist if we hadn’t had a pandemic for the last almost three years,” says MacKellar.
While MacKellar has seen some movement within the fitness space to be more open to individuals with QTNB and other people living with chronic conditions, they are saying the industry still has an extended approach to go. They see the largest issues as each representation and true inclusivity.
“There aren’t enough diverse people to instruct and train,” says MacKellar. “To try this, the studios and spaces should do the work to make sure that they’re protected environments for these people because it is not fair to those marginalized identities, the instructors do all of the work.”
Until then, MacKellar sees goal platforms as considered one of the important thing ways to serve individuals who may feel unappreciated and uncomfortable elsewhere. For now, MacKellar says they’ll still be “a little bit of a performer, a comedian, a slash,” ready to guide a rock class for anyone in search of freedom of movement.