Athena Perez Builds Scaled Nation CrossFit, An Online Bridge to “Regular CrossFit”
After losing 225 pounds and writing a book about it, Athena Perez has become more committed than ever to helping those who need CrossFit the most to feel comfortable walking into a gym.
- Perez is in the process of building Scaled Nation CrossFit, with the intention of offering fitness to those who might feel intimidated to join a regular CrossFit gym.
- “I want it to be a place that bridges the gap to help people who are overweight take the first step. For some, it might be a permanent solution, but for others it can be a springboard to get them started, a place to help them build the courage and confidence to join a box near them,” added Perez, whose book Lifting the Wait has already sold more than 10,000 copies since it was released in July.
One big thing: Though her initial intention was to offer small, in-person classes of just two or three, Perez has recently decided to turn her affiliate into a purely online experience.
- “Many people who are obese or overweight are scared to join a gym,” Perez explained, so she decided that providing remote classes, where they can workout from home, is the best way to get them started on their fitness journey. Secondly, Perez has a following all around the world, so remote classes seemed like the most practical way to reach the demographic of people she wants to connect with.
- “Originally, I just wanted to build a small gym, but the response from people was overwhelming so this seemed like the better way to go,” added Perez. She is hoping to begin classes from her garage gym at the end of the summer.
The big picture: Perez’s message to anyone who is overweight or obese is that they, too, belong in a gym.
Recently, while being featured on a podcast, the interviewer made a comment about how surprised he was that someone who is overweight would choose to volunteer at the CrossFit Games, the pinnacle of fitness.
- “I don’t fault him. I don’t think he was trying to offend anyone, but when (the podcast) aired, it was apparent that it offended such a big percentage of my followers. It showed me that as a coaching community, we need to do better than this. There’s still this stigma about people being overweight in CrossFit and comments like this happen all the time,” she said.
- “Discrimination within CrossFit isn’t just about skin color. We need to talk about the whole package here, and this is part of it…If we’re really the most inclusive community, we need to start acting like it,” she added.
After the podcast aired, Perez created an Instagram page called We Belong CrossFit, dedicated to raising awareness about obesity and inclusivity within the CrossFit community, where people can share their experiences.
- “It has taken off. I have all these people sending in their stories. It’s so inspiring,” she said.
Perez is hoping that the #webelong hashtag will not only help spread the word that we all deserve to feel comfortable going to a CrossFit gym, but will also teach CrossFit coaches how to communicate with the overweight population more effectively.
- On Tuesday, Perez shared a story on Instagram that said: “My wife had been going to CrossFit for a few months. She came home all flustered one afternoon so I asked her what was wrong. She said her head coach asked her what she preferred to be called. Heavy, overweight, fat, chubby. To this day, I don’t understand why she had to be called anything. We left the box.”
From Perez’ perspective, comments like the latter don’t necessarily come from a place of malice, but more so a place of not knowing how to communicate.
- “I don’t think people are evil. The coach was probably just trying to figure out what the politically correct term was, but you also need to be empathetic, and that was incredibly insulting,” she said, adding that she hopes the CrossFit Level 1 certificate course will start to include education about how to work with a heavier demographic of people.
- She added: “At the end of the day, the people who need the most help — people who are overweight and obese with health problems — are a high percentage of people, and yet they get the least amount of focus…Coaches need to have more exposure to this, so they can learn how to be more inclusive. Sometimes it just comes down to learning about how to be more mindful, so we can talk about things in a better way.”