Very few people look forward to spending time in the gym locker room, but many of those in transgender and gender-nonconforming communities dread it more than most.
“For folks in those communities, it can be extremely triggering and stressful—and even dangerous—to go to big-box gyms,” says Belle Ursa, co-founder of Amplio Fitness. “They have so much fear of being harassed in the locker room or pushed into a category because of how they look rather than how they identify.”
That’s exactly why Ursa and her business partner John Hall started Amplio Fitness in January 2019—to serve marginalized communities on their path to fitness and wellness, specifically anyone who identifies as LGBTQ. Ursa is an American Council of Exercise (ACE)-certified health coach, while Hall is an ACE-certified personal trainer.
Belle Ursa, co-founder of Amplio Fitness, and her business partner John Hall.Together, they mesh their respective skill sets and expertise at a 1,200-square-foot studio space in Rocky River, where they offer not only one-on-one health and fitness coaching, but also Reiki and gender affirmation programs. Designed specifically for those who are transgender and/or nonbinary, the gender affirmation program is geared at helping those in transition embrace and nourish their evolving bodies.
“To my knowledge, we are the only local studio taking a stance and advocacy for these communities—as well as addressing their unique barriers,” says Ursa, who previously worked as an HIV prevention educator at the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “We look at it as social justice advocacy mixed with self-care, fitness, and wellness.”
Amplio Fitness is also actively partnering with local organizations such as Colors+, a Fairview Park-based organization that serves local LGBTQ youth, to offer specialized programming and activities. Though most of Amplio Fitness' clientele identifies as LGBTQ, Ursa says she views the studio as a safe haven and support source for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a traditional fitness setting—from people of color to plus-sized individuals.
"When we started the studio, we knew that the LGBTQ community is uniquely disadvantaged in the fitness and wellness industry, and we wanted to start fixing that disparity," shares Ursa, who resides in Tremont. "As we continue to grow, we want to incorporate all the other beautiful intersecting identities that come with it."