There is no better feeling in the world than staying healthy and keeping fit. Health is a gift that sometimes we take for granted, but taking care of our bodies, and minds and spirits as well, could have amazing rewards.

I was excited to really dive into a conversation today with someone whom I have known from working with on a number of things in the LGBTQ community whom I have known to always be passionate about the topic, and get to know all about his new business ArtsFitness. Come with me as I chat with Lorenzo Pagnotta.

What got you into being a fitness coach to begin with? I know you have been doing that for a long time.

Looking back I think I always knew I would end up in a career where I help people improve their health. Everyone in my family has a genetic and/or chronic health condition so I grew up asking what can I do? It just happened I was also a very artistic kid. I was coaching drama classes after university. Seniors in particular. And I thought it would be helpful to understand anatomy so I could help them move safely. I have been going to gyms since I was a teenager but I did not understand why I was doing what I was doing. Most amateurs copy what they see others doing or what they find online. Practical me decided rather than simply work with a coach myself I would learn the material to become the coach. So I started taking many certifications and fell in love, empowered by the material. Initially, it was supposed to be a means of supplementing my income but it turned into a career!

And now you launched your own business?

I worked in a commercial gym for almost 5 years. It was time to use my theatre background to start creating the type of space that I wanted to see more of as a queer person. While I have always found personal motivation to go to the gym, it has often been hard listening to stories of fear and exclusion, and not feeling like my own body was appreciated in the midst of an often unhealthy unrealistic status quo that only features brawns for guys and thinness for women.

Tell us about ArtsFitness approach, and especially tell us about the queer and trans affirming fitness movement, I am curious to hear more that.

At ArtsFitness we guide people towards their physical and mental potential through a fresh approach combining stretching, strengthening and mindfulness to improve posture and gain confidence. We coach you to live in the moment while taking great consideration of your past in order to create a safe comfortable space. We realize there are many instances of trauma and triggers that can affect how people perceive or experience fitness. We want to debunk some of the myths and move past the stigma. Movement is supposed to be fun and empowering!

On a broader level, the queer and trans movement is inherently body positive and takes into consideration the intersection between fitness and race, class, age, gender, gender expression, and sexuality. All too often, important issues have not been addressed when it comes to accessing services. For instance, gym ads most often feature young, white, thin bodies. Have you ever seen diverse older adults, individuals with different levels of ability in a fitness ad?

I am inspired by what I have jokingly identified as the trifecta of the queer and body positive movement. @decolonizing_fitness to the south of us in the U.S. and @mskingyaa to the east in South Africa specialize in coaching transgender people, people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions, as well as, education, advocacy and healing (from an industry which has traditionally not been inclusive, focused on shaming people for their size and policing how they feel / move / eat). Our very own Canadian @queerflex to the west in Edmonton marches to the same beat, as Canada’s first non-profit queer-centred gym. Their course on creating accessible spaces for queer and trans clients will be coming to Toronto soon. Stay tuned health and fitness professionals! Locally, check out @queerpowerfitness. They are only a few of the wonderful people and practices popping up around the globe cutting through the bs when it comes to body positivity and actually creating a space where fat bodies exist not just to be changed. I can’t even begin to describe how informative they have been.

I heard you speak of “entertainment” or industry “fluff”, what is that?

A lot of classes or equipment out there claim to solve every one of your problems. This is problematic in my opinion. We have to stop thinking of our health and wellness as something to be approached with quick fixes. In reality, it’s a journey. Our bodies are complex and constantly changing. If we embrace that, then we will feel less dumb, less shame, and less guilty when we don’t understand everything right away; when we don’t succeed the first time around.

Instead, ArtsFitness take pride in being holistic and viewing the greater picture: we take all aspects of health and fitness into consideration: sleep management, stress management, nutrition, and exercise. When we look at exercise specifically, we believe each component should be addressed: flexibility, cardiovascular, strength, and body composition.

Tell us about your coaching habits and other motivational concerns/psychological aspects, and also about what do you do beyond fitness?

A lot of people in our community are involved with activism or ambitious projects to keep us moving forward on the human rights front, alive and present. If you feel great on the inside, this radiates on the outside too. With that boost of self-esteem you will not only achieve your goals, but become the champion your community needs!

ArtsFitness is queer and trans affirming, and my background lends itself naturally to working with creatives of all types, whether you sit at a desk or perform on stage.

As an entertainment reviewer, I am interested in covering more productions that address health and wellness in some way, I did something like that for My Entertainment World at the Rendezvous with Madness Festival. I welcome collaboration on future productions when there is synergy between the work of the artist and fitness professional.

What does a session with ArtFitness look like?

What makes our approach particularly unique is how we bridge knowledge and creativity, information and play. Visuals are important and often shared in sessions. We may open up a textbook or provide you with a worksheet. We often play games to warm-up. Sometimes we incorporate mindfulness exercises into the session. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. I’m obsessed with circuits. I love feeling each part of a muscle work. And I educate on periodization – a scientifically based series of micro and macro cycles developed in the sports world – which allows people to keep progressing on the way towards their individual goals without plateauing or getting bored. Simply put, we prefer balance; empowerment and excitement for the gift of movement your body has provided. Stories are often shared before and after our sessions, sometimes over a cup of tea. I remember going to the dentist as a young kid. At the end you got to pick a toy from this pirate chest. I don’t have a chest like that, but I usually have a treat for you in my glass jar!

What is not good about the fitness industry, I want to avoid calling it toxic, but sometime there are examples of toxicity?

A great coach, like a great artist is both passionate and dedicated. Nowhere in this equation is it implied that one must instill fear in their client. Yet, the toxicity of the fitness industry has insisted for decades on using social comparison to guilt and shame people into buying into health and fitness, with little consideration of the barriers to accessibility and affordability. Most people I talk to who fear gyms express that a) they don’t know what to do there, b) they have been victims of pushy salespeople. If we want to move forward, we need to recognize these issues first. Further, most people I speak with still identify one body type as being super fit. In reality the human species comes in an array of shapes and sizes. Being thin does not equate to being exclusively healthy just like being (self-identified) fat does not mean you are universally unhealthy. Until we begin to move past these simplistic groupings, the pervasiveness of body shaming and diet guilt will continue to divide people and break hearts.

You prefer coach to trainer. Why?

Coaches are responsible for impacting a greater awareness of self far beyond the gym, growing from the inside-out and outside-in. The word trainer implies consultant or teacher. They impart information. This creates a sort of dependency. A coach, on the other hand, will help you unravel your authentic self, true dreams, and internal motivators.

What is unique about the space you do your training (or coaching)?

Since movement happens where life happens, we often come to your space or invite you to visit ours. Let’s be real though. Our studio is actually my apartment. Therefore, the sessions happen alongside where life happens: cooking, sleeping, working, and relaxing too. I think this provides a great advantage, because it makes fitness less of this thing that “those people do” at the “gym.”

Future plans?

In the future ArtsFitness will offer comprehensive in-home packages that guide you and your family in reflecting upon all aspects of health and fitness. Ultimately, we want to help you hone in on that “third space” away from work and family, where you focus on gaining clarity and simply feeling awesome. We hope to offer retreats too, giving people the opportunity to move, unwind, and breath in beautiful, quiet and mindful spaces.

And lastly to mention Lorenzo is a certified and insured Personal Trainer and Fascial Stretch Therapist located in downtown Toronto, you can find out more at artsfitness.ca

About the Author

Antoine Elhashem our publisher of PinkPlayMgs, theBUZZ, and The Pink Pages Directory, is a seasoned media, community, and business leader, with 30 years career in the industry. He is the host of “On the Couch” the popular LGBTQ community talk show on ROGERS tv and YouTube, and he also pens a blog for theBUZZ magazine called “Some of My Most Favourite People” where he takes a look at community events, pop culture, and entertainment.