In the House: EP2 Every Movement Counts W. Martin Phills

Episode 0 | Aired on December 17, 2020

On this episode we connect with Martin Phills, who is a pioneer in the Toronto wellness space and whose work in fitness, and wellness more broadly, spans a period of over 20 years. Martin shares his journey, exculpates on the structures within the industry, and talks about the impact of Covid-19 on the fitness industry. Martin also offers encouraging words for Racialized people in fitness on how to keep going and growing. With Martin, every movement counts and everyone has a place. Check it out.

Read Transcript

Martin Phills  00:02

There, there are so many things that we can do to say that you are you belong here You are welcome here. And it was even a struggle for me in the in the beginning of my fitness career, there was several glass ceilings. In that institution in particular that I had to, I had to take a large sledgehammer to brake.

Ezi  00:25

That was Martin Phills. He's our guest for this episode of in the house. Martin's career in the wellness space spanned a period of over 20 years. In that time, he's worked here at U of T, but also opened his own company and served in industry spaces here and to south of the border.

Ezi  00:44

On this episode, Martin shares his journey, exculpate on the structures within the industry, and talks about the impact of COVID-19 on racialized wellness professionals. For Martin, every movement counts, and everyone has a place.

Ezi  00:59

Check it out.

Ezi  01:09

Hi, Martin, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

Martin Phills  01:12

I'm doing very well. Thank you for having me on.

Ezi  01:14

Thank you for joining us. So, just to tell the people, what is your role at U of T? And kind of what are some of the functions that that are that encompasses?

Martin Phills  01:23

 So I mean, COVID-19, has complicated a lot of things right now, I'm currently on as a program advisor to wellness, and it's a smaller role. Previously, previously, when we had full classes and full shedule at Hart House, I was the supervisor of drop-in fitness at Hart House supervising all of our drop-in fitness programs, classes that we would be running. And that sheduled before COVID-19 was upwards of 16 classes a week that used to offer. So, sort of that's in a nutshell, on where it is. But COVID has has changed that but I'm still connected with the university. I still however, you know, I've had to pivot back to my own company as well to do a lot of work. Now, I'd say the majority of my work is actions for my own my own company, and some of it is through UofT.

Ezi  02:19

"Pivot," I feel, is the word of the year.

Martin Phills  02:22


Ezi  02:23

Yeah, "pivot," for sure.

Martin Phills  02:25

Well, I know people don't like the word. But I think that it's an important part of resiliency. And people  have to understand that and, you know, right now, I think that we're in a crisis of, of a lack of resiliency, because people will never really trained on how to be resilient. And then for, you know black people in particular, I think that, you know, we have been resilient The problem is this neuro-resilience is being challenged in ways that we never dreamed or imagined that they could be, could be challenged, right? It's, it's a lot of work, but being able to pivot and, you know, look for the light and run for the light immediately and get there is is an essential skill. It's part of resiliency, I think, right?

Ezi  03:13

And I do like to point out that, you know, as as black people, we definitely have been resilient and have had to be resilient, but it is a new, it is a new space in which that resiliency is being tested. Absolutely. Um, but tell me more about your experience in the wellness space. You've been in the wellness space for years ...

Martin Phills  03:31

Well, okay, I started teaching in 1988. And I'm going to give a shout out to somebody who used to work in what used to be called KPHE  back in those ancient days, right or even I actually had may not even call that it may have had another name because this is in the late 80s. And it was Jo-Ann James, she was also black --- still as black. *Laughter*

Martin Phills  03:55

Black, we say was only in the past tense, but no, she's still around and going strong today, still in the wellness and fitness field, very prominent here in Toronto. And really, I credit her and then also, Karen Lewis who was the director of drop in fitness through KPE at the time, those two really were influential in getting me started. So, I took on my first class and gave me the chance and then took on my first class in in February of 1988 and I have not looked back. So from there, you know, it's a matter of getting get acquiring more skills, more teaching skills going int courses on coaching, and adult education at the Ontario government was offering to fitness professionals at the time. So that is the My Training for Trainers, sort of an equivalent to a level three coaching theory. Got that very early on, continued to work through and then discovered in the mid 90s, again, thanks to Jo-Ann James again --  Pilate Right and started going on that on that road, too, because it was a funny conversation she, she took on the directorship of the McGill Club, which is a very exclusive white -- I don't think in that time in the 90s, I. think Joanne and I were the only two black people in that whole thing. And of course, I was the only man because it was a woman's organization, but very elite white fitness club. I don't know if it still operates now. But it was on McGill Street, just south of Carlton streets on the east side of Yonge. And she asked me what is Pilates or "pie-lates". *chuckling* We didn't quite know. So I took it on, we both took it on ourselves to understand. When she opened her own studio, she was very quick to bring Pilates into that studio. And for me, it was very quick to start learning with people through the industries, had encounters with Kryzanowska, who was one of, Romana Kryzanowska  who's one of Joseph Pilates students who actually had a student, that whole Pilates story is another one, I'll maybe we'll give links to a podcast that I'm on that will kind of give a little bit more of that. That was a long story. And then eventually getting that work, working with so many people during the decades. And then finally, I would say 20 years into Pilates, I got an apparatus certification, and that with the reformer. And so I'm really moving away from a lot of, I do a lot of my own self motivated cardio, but I'm moving away from teaching that sort of high impact stuff, and just feeling well doing the Pilates and being in that Pilates space. So that's in a nutshell.In a nutshell, very, very long history from 1988 to present. So, what's that 32 years? Right, I was gonna say 20 years in two minutes. *laughter*

Ezi  07:04

Um, but I mean, you're talking about being in the wellness in the fitness space, I think it's important for us to really ground what does that even mean? What does it mean to live well, what does it mean to be well? What does that for you in particular?

Martin Phills  07:18

Okay, and what it is for, I guess, you know, given the circumstances what it is for a black person to be well, so, you know, I was quite fortunate, I think that if I didn't have the role modeling in the form of Jo-Ann James, okay, who was also black and also successful, but also having to have that idea of resiliency and pivoting to make her own way through, I don't know that I would necessarily have gone that far may have given up a long, long time ago. So frankly, Toronto, people at the top of the wellness space, who are steering, the direction of wellness, who are black, or BIPOC, in general, are few and far between. Our clients who are black, alright in specific wellness areas are few and far between, they're growing, but it's getting there. So wellness, for me, I mean, is what makes me feel good, what makes me function, but allows me to function day in and day out, regardless of what I'm being bombarded with and something that gives me joy, and excitement to do. And I enjoy and I'm very excited about my work on a daily basis. So those things are very important. It's that mental component, and again, providing joy and solace and respite from the day to day, it's so important. And then of course, the physical activity component wasn't for all of that physical activity work, I don't think I'd be as fit as I am given how old I am. As well, too. I'm an old man. So and you know that there will seriously I'm four years removed from 60. So, I see a lot of a lot of things that I've seen a lot of things in fitness. But those are the main points, really to provide longevity, to help with resilience to give you that mental edge, mental focus, and mental call. So all of those things together, make a lot of wellness. And of course, overall, I mean, what's happiness, but feeling kind of good feeling, happy feeling, you know, content is certainly not the word you want to use, because content means that you're satisfied. And that's not the case at all, but you're feeling happy and you feel the feel that you can you can do your thing and you don't feel threatened too much by what's going on.

Ezi  09:37

Right? So I'm hearing Mind, Body, Spirit...

Martin Phills  09:40

Mhm, the whole the whole thing, it's this unified thing you can see all of those components have to be there. They can't be separated one from the other,

Ezi  09:48

And even an aspect of safety...

Martin Phills  09:51

And safety. Absolutely safety. And I guess we'll deal with that a little later on. But yeah,  safety is very, very important.

Ezi  10:00

Yeah. So I mean, even that kind of preempts The next question, right? In the current environment, we're talking a lot about, you know, anti-black racism, and in particular, seeing acts of violence of police violence being committed against black men,and definitely against black people more generally, but as a black man, what has movement meant for you in that context of anti-black violence? Right, and how does black masculinity show up in the fitness space? And perhaps what are some opportunities to explore black masculinity in diverse ways through physical movement?

Martin Phills  10:37

Well, that is such a loaded question. I mean, in my case, I'm also looking at it from the LGBTQ aspect of it. So that, that's very, very prominent in my approach, and I can't say that there's going to be a unified black male experience. Okay, so if we look at the industry currently, and where black men are in industry, so, you know, in terms of the star power while they're in the professional sports, right, but not necessarily head coaches, okay. Or team team leaders in many, many respects, they are delegated to, you know, they go out, they perform, they're there, they're almost, it's almost chattel, in a way highly paid chattel, right? In the fitness space, and I'll tell you, you know, COVID-19 has really affected this too, but in the fitness space, there very few of us who are in supervisory, managerial or company-owned positions, all right, I, again, I had an interview with Martin Reid in September, two interviews with him, was the owner of a fantastic studio, Pilates studio in Peel in Mississauga.And again, I mentioned Jo-Ann James. But then when I come to Toronto, and I think of people who are in that leadership role, some of them have come and gone like Al Green, he helped me here, as well, too, but in those leadership roles, and Al Green was pivotal to the development of fitness overall, in Toronto, so he can't be credited enough. But in those management roles, you don't see it, where you'll see a lot of black people are as personal trainers. And I will, I will say this unequivocally, in the hierarchy of instruction in a gym, personal trainers are paid the least. So they're at the bottom of the totem pole. When, however, you know, you can walk in, I can walk into an institution and say: Well, you know, my rate $70 take it or leave it. If they want me, they'll take it, right, and then managerial on top of that, but, you know, I would say the majority of black men occupy that space, and it's at the bottom. And if you think the gyms are closed, what's going to happen to them? Right, they're the first ones to go and they're the first ones to suffer. So, so men occupying, I think that there's several issues here that we have to address. I've often talked about psychological safety, and there has to be a level of psychological safety for black men. So, for me entering this the space of dance aerobics, and conditioning, that sort of conditioning, and then going into Pilates. I think that that having that little bit of LGBTQ card helped me get into that space and not feel intimidated by that. But however, for the cis-heterosexual, black male, that may be a barrier, because they don't see any role models in the space. And B, they're also coming in with biases and perceptions. I mean, and these are biases and perceptions that have been put into them through their education from society, etc, that prevents them from doing that. And again, you know, I look to someone like Martin Reid and his own his own journey from being a football player, high school, you know, star football player in the region of Peel, and then going through, you know, social work than into personal training, and then really discovering Pilates and, you know, understanding what, how good a space this is. Why aren't more black men in here? Right? It should be a lot more of us there, but it's not. And then also the perception, of course, that, that Pilates space is a space for, namely, white thin women. Right? And that's, and that's something that's a perception that's being broken as we speak. And I've been asked to sit on some committees concerning that, American committees, concerning that to broaden that perspective. Soit's quite a busy day today. I have some I have some committee meetings today. So um, yeah, it's been it's certainly a struggle for black men in particular, occupying the space, again due to stereotypes and bias, really occupying a corner of the space, right and also having to fit. Also, the visual stereotype of the perfect body, the black male as the black male body as powerful, as unchained, as you know, all of that...OH, it's a lot of bullshit, right? But it's stuff that has been that's been inculcated through colonialism for all of these, you know, many, many centuries now. So, yeah, having to negotiate that space. But you see, if problems if you snip in that stereotypical space, you're not going to be able to grow and you're not able to, to get into anything else. So, yes, so there's a big, I guess, getting down to the base of the question. There's a big hole there. I'm one of a few people in those upper roles, but not many. I mean, look at our own organization, in terms of athletics and supervisory athletic role. I think I'm the only one I'm not entirely sure. Even when I look at KPE, there's a few who are sort of in the middle, but it's not, they don't have the same sort of influences that I would, and they leave before they can get that influence.

Ezi  16:18

That recurring question of safety is also in terms of...

Martin Phills  16:21

Safety, again, psychological safety is something that we're going to be touching on a lot because you have to, in a psychologically safe environment, you have to feel that A: you belong, right, B: that what you say, has merit and that the other people who are in the room, who are not you and who are not the same as you or the same color as you, then will respect what you saying, right? And not laugh it off, or comment or do anything but you're treated as as an equal, right? And C: your contribution is just as valued as everybody else's. Absolutely.

Ezi  17:02

 And that's real inclusion, that's not tokenistic, right?

Martin Phills  17:06

That's real inclusion, that is not tokenistic. Yes. 100%.

Ezi  17:10

Yeah, I think you've touched on so many important things, I was just taking notes. But also, bring it backfor the folks, I'm definitely that, you know, the stratification of power, if he will, and the industry know, you know, a lot of the times I feel like that piece around, meaningful inclusion is missed, because there is some visibility around black men as personal trainers, but as you say, if you actually look at, you know, the environment and where they're placed within that environment, even though there might be hyper-visibility, and even that might be a questionable idea. But even though there might be hyper-visibility of black men in that training space, again, it's to fit into that, you know, stereotypical physique, right? And to be in that position that might not be actually very well understood as, and you know, not to diminish anybody's work but "lower" within the hierarchy of the industry. And then and, like, I really, really appreciate that you brought up that LGBTQ piece because, you know, there is the piece around, you know, black queer men being, you know, placed as kind of caricatures like in that like dance kind of space. But really breaking that down to say it has given a particular access, but it also points to the fact that other black men, other types of masculinities, are missing from that space. Right, and codifying movement, as queer as opposed to fundamental to our existence.

Martin Phills  18:45

Exactly. If movement is fundamental, it has nothing to do with with orientation, right? Or, or type or kind, right? Fundamental. Absolutely. Dance is something that, you know, we invented, thank you very much *laughter* 1000s of years ago, we invented it and something that we do, right and it's something that we continue to do, boy, and that's, that's a touchy subject. I'm forgetting her name. She is a doctor of psychology and history. She's Trinidadian, I'm also of Trinidadian background. And she talks about you know how Carnival runs counter to colonialism and as a means for you know, black people to break out of colonialism. Part of the dancing that we do is part of it. I mean, the whole idea of Carnival to begin with was to make fun of the white French people, so even though in Trinidad a majority of black people were free still at the time, they weren't accepted into society, even if they were of mixed heritage. So, they would go out and make you know, dress up like the like the French in white face and do their thing and dance and say that we're here and you're not getting rid of us, we actually have a society. So you know, Carnival has its deep roots there. But she's very interesting. It's just a pity that I don't remember her name, as well.

Ezi  20:10

I'm gonna actually, you mentioned a couple people are talking, so I'm going to add those names to the show notes and links, if I can grab them her name after I can add them, no problem for sure.You also mentioned something very key, right? We've talked about COVID-19. And how there's, you know, disproportionate effects on racialized people, black people in particular. But I do like how you also brought up the fact that in the fitness space, in particular, because of that, again, role stratification, black men are, or black men and anybody who's really a personal trainer, are differentially affected by, you know, all the closures. So, you know, in general COVID-19, has taken a big toll on community spaces such as gyms, and you've mentioned, yes, the pay factor. But what are some other ways in which racialized people are being affected in the fitness space by COVID-19 in particular?

Martin Phills  21:01

Hmm, well, first of all, you know, gyms aren't cheap. So there's the, there's a financial divide, but we also have to take that first and foremost, I mean, why, I mean, even if let's, let's come, let's go to the from the academic space, first of both you and I work in, and then work out into the societal space. So the question asked is A: why do we not have, you know, so many black people on campus, you know, given the, the population of our own city, but all the international prestige that Toronto has, right? And then why aren't those people coming into places like Hart House or coming into places? They may go into KPE, but then they're being streamed in through the coaching sphere as, as athletes, right? And, you know, they're, they're trained. And if you don't meet that standard, then you're not looked at? Right? So the whole idea of personal fitness and personal wellness, why aren't these, you know, why aren't people black people being being taken into account here. So we start with that, and part of it is access, okay? The university is expensive, right? But even the fitness industry in itself is expensive, right? That is disposable income. And when you're looking at the disproportionate amount of people BIPOC, and particularly black people, indigenous people, as well fall into this who are at the lower end of the income spectrum, that makes accessibility even if it's cheapest $20 a month, that could be the difference for a lot of people in terms of gaining access, and then you know, so COVID, then affecting incomes in just so many different ways, but disproportionally again, to people of a lower income, you know, means, means that access can dry up, if you were barely able to make it and pay a gym membership. And this is something just basic, right? You can imagine now, if you have all of this income stress, you're going to be able to pay a gym membership, probably the answer's no. So that takes that takes that away, okay. And again, the culture of fitness, or unless you are an athlete, the culture of fitness, again, is very white, it's very, you know, I get my Lululemon -- I wear Lululemon myself *chuckles* Right, and you put on your expensive clothes and everything and in the weather like we're having today, you still go out and participate in physical activity, but you know, physical activity, even in its broader sense, is only now, you know, in a commercial sense, seeing a level of diversity, this thing that everybody should be doing it, and showing all different body shapes and sizes, but that's going to take some time to permeate. But prior to that, I mean, you know, again, you have to be privileged in order to take the time to go for a run, take the time to exercise in the park, take the time to do all of that, that you know. And if you're struggling day to day, that's furthest from your mind, your mind is set on survival. Right? It's not set on the the aspects of wellness that are very, very important to that survival. You're going to think about what what am I going to do to put food on my plate? What am I going to do to put a roof over my head? So and we shouldn't stereotype that all black people are in this position. Right? So that's the first thing. But secondly, still there, despite that, they're still sort of, they're still sort of that inculcated cultural impedance. Right? That bias, again, that that's not what we do. And that that needs to be changed. But the only way you change that is by having more visibility of people saying, yes, this is what we do and this is how we work. Right? And this is what we need to do in order to be well, I hope that answers your question.

Ezi  24:52

It brings up other points, so

Martin Phills  24:54

-- Well, that's the nice thing about the Socratic method. *laughter*

Ezi  25:00

Yeah, I mean, for sure. And when we talk, I know a lot of will say, you know, well fitness is free, you can go outside and do it. But then we also have to get into that, you know, idea of who can actually take up certain spaces as well.

Martin Phills  25:12

Okay? So let me take it back to my home, my ancestral home country, okay, Trinidad and Tobago. Look at people running outdoors, it's now becoming something, gyms, maybe in the last 15 years or so, you know, outside of weightlifting, but actually having fitness classes, Afro-Caribbean dance classes and sort of thing is really since the turn of the century, right? Prior to that, I would argue that that wasn't even in the culture, but that's getting in the culture. And at least in an island like that, where you have a mixture, you know, African Black derived Creole, Carib and South Asian people together, right, the all of the role models are there, right. And even the business owning models are there. So you can see that taking shape, but it wasn't part of the zeitgeist not for a very, very long time. Right, people would get out and do things they would do, you know, take walks, whatever that sort of idea of exercise in that respect was not present. So if you're looking at a place like that, which, you know, was colonialiezed, is in the process of de-colonization, it still has, you know, Trinidad still has a long way to go. And if you see that, could you imagine what it's like here, in still a very strict colonial context? Right, and the cultural context where it isn't, you know, black people don't seem to be doing these sorts of things. And many people who are diaspora from the West Indies, or that are not recent, don't have that in their culture. But they don't see it that way. So that makes that makes, that makes for a reason why we don't see it as much as we should. And we should, but again, it's going to take it takes it decolonization is not only an activity for white people, but it's an activity for us, too. And I'm in the process of decolonizing myself. I'm sure you are, right, as well, too. So it's, it's, it's a it's a process, and it's going to take some time. And I know there are people on the activist side who say you have to do this now, right? But people don't work that way. You have to there's education, there has to be progressive, and it has to be, it has to be fortified, right?

Ezi  27:30

That is doing it now, though, right? Engaging in all those little activities is also doing it now.

Martin Phills  27:36

Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Ezi  27:38

Yeah. Um, but even I would say, you know, when we look at policing around COVID, to write, in terms of who can gather and who gets more tickets versus warnings, right, there are certain bodies that you know, are bearing those impacts differentially to where, you know, if you're black exercising outside, you might be accosted, whereas if you're white, you might not be. So even in accessing physical "free space" outside, it's different.

Martin Phills  28:06

Well, imagine, again, a group of black people exactly, highly intimidating and immediately draws attention, right? And that shouldn't be the case, right, and should just observed as, as any other group of people. But that is a big, that is a big factor. And there's that psychological safety, again, fear that if you go out and participate in an activity, that you will be accosted by law enforcement. I mean, you know, whether whether there's some realness to it, and probably probably there is in many cases, or maybe it wouldn't happen. But still, there's that fear, that fear really does govern what we do.

Ezi  28:44

Mm hmm. I mean, when we talk about making spaces more accessible, there's lots of ways in which accessibility can be discussed. So for you, first of all, is the fitness space accessible? And if not, how can it be more so?

Martin Phills  29:02

Okay, well, again, if we go from the public, and then move into the academic sphere. I think that that in, in the public sphere, accessibility, because people can go to the gym, I mean, it's, it's there. So in the commercial space, the accessibility is there.But it's a matter of whether people can afford to access that. If we're getting, so and that's a very base level, again, you go in you lift your weights you leave. Right? And for some people, that may be enough, but for I think the majority people that really isn't enough, and if they think that's enough, they're fooling themselves, right? But this is so this is where the problem comes in. You know, if you look at what I do, Pilates,  or any of the other higher forms, they cost a lot more money, right? So there, there's an excess, an accessibility barrier, right in terms of cost. Okay, in terms of visibility, again, who do you see? doing these things? Right? So if more black people were in those other spaces, then there would be more of a drive to come in. So that's, that's the big thing. In terms of, okay, the corporate side of fitness. So we're not seeing that enough. They're very few black leaders on the corporate side, and then even then, you know, most of our clients are still,you know, what I said before. *chuckles*

Ezi  30:28

White, female, slim ...

Martin Phills  30:29

And, yes, exactly. Okay. So there's, there's that there's that issue. in the public sphere, again, less harassment, people should be able to do what they need to do outdoors, exercise, feel free to walk, feel free to do anything without being harassed not only by the police, but by other white people as well. The other citizenry should not feel intimidated if they see me walking down the street with my headphones at a brisk pace because I'm doing my my cardiovascular work. Now, for me, particularly, I'm plopped in one of the one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Toronto, and I don't get, thankfully, get harassed. I've seen the people, the police kind of look at me, I look back at them, and they drive away. Okay, sothey, they know that I ain't going nowhere. But people have to have that confidence. I think that confidence is important. But socially right now that confidence is very, very, very, very difficult to build, okay, then people will feel intimidated, they shouldn't be, you should be able to go out on the street, walk, do your exercise, and all of that without fear of harassment. But, it's bad, that it's that it's like that, and it's causing intimidation. So, people can't get out and do their thing without feeling intimidated. So, that has to go. Going into the academic sphere. Well, we have to start admitting more BIPOC people into universities, and give them the means also to be able to participate in programming this design for their wellness. But giving them the means isn't the only thing. They have to they have to know that they're welcome in these spaces. They know that they're welcome to the spaces by seeing themselves providing program in these spaces, Hart House has improved over the last, I'd say 10 years, maybe 15 years in doing that, I think that it started with with Louise Cowan when she was Warden and has worked its way up and through. But we still have a long way to go in in that respect. But you know, even seeing somebody at the top? I mean, would it be so, there's so many good candidates that we can't have a black Warden, for example, right? There, there, there are so many things that we can do to say that you are, you belong here, you are welcome here. And it was even a struggle for me in the beginning of my fitness career, there was a, there was several glass ceilings, in that institution particular that I had to, I had to take a large sledgehammer to and break and say that I'm here, you're going to treat me and it's still not 100% either, right? So you still have to, we still have to break that. So that's the thing, being visible, right? Being welcomed, right, and being fully integrated and participating in all of the wellness activities. And those are, those are the ways that we're going to break down the barriers, again, because frankly, if nobody sees us doing those activities they ain't gonna come.

Ezi  31:06

And I think it's so important how you're talking about, you know, those big structures, definitely you pointed, you know, to the everyday encounter, and you may be able to enter the space, but those big structures really being meaningful, and changing the overall landscape. Right. And I think so much about accessibility, you know, in terms of really like differently abled people, right, and how even gym spaces are set up? Right, the way equipment is leveled, you know, it's just, it's so it's so ridiculous. But again, if you don't have those people at those positions, or if you don't, aren't actively actively being conscious about that, then you're not going to have those, you know, meaningful necessary...

Martin Phills  33:39

Well, let me let me say, and then someone may want to correct me on this, but in terms of even differently abled people, we have not done a good job. I don't think in all of my years of Hart House, has there been anybody who is differently abled enough, that you know, would have problems functioning in the space. I mean, they've been able bodied, usually young, usually, well, male and female, but of a certain type, okay, and, you know, doing their thing, which, again, in terms of representation is it's hard for the student to come in if they don't see themselves behind the desk for example welcoming you in, if they don't see themselves, you know, teaching classes if they don't see themselves, though, that they're less likely to, to join in. And also culturally relevant activity too I think that's important. And cultural relevant activity that's not taught by somebody who's white. *laughter* Well, but you see, there's a problem with that again, you know, you get, you get all of these Afro-dance and hip hop, and there's a white person standing there. Right?

Ezi  35:32

Right, a very unnecessary thing to have ...

Martin Phills  35:35

When when there's so many, so many very highly skilled BIPOC people who can offer. I have to say the one thing that one God send was Zumba. Zumba has been as much as as a very formulaic sort of plan that has been one of those universal levelers because you see people of all colors doing, and it is partly comes from the South American roots. The guy who invented it, I believe, might be Colombian. I believe he's Colombian, but again, and the fusion of all cumbia, reggaeton, and all of those things coming together, right meant that you're already sending out a very, very diverse, sort of product out to the world. And, that has opened the door for a lot of BIPOC people to kind of come back and get into fitness, because it's stuff that they can identify, it's culturally relevant. So, Zumba has been real big leveler in that respect. But again, the you know, to, as much as I say that, yes, it's a diverse group and the instructors have to go through quite a bit of hell *chuckles* to be able to present present that and some of the best dance instructors have had to leave the organization precisely because of the barriers that even as diverse as Zumba is, it's still presented barriers that didn't allow for them to continue.

Ezi  37:06

So yeah, I mean, even just like the all the courses and amount of money you need to pay to become an instructor is absurd. Is ABSURD! *chuckles*

Martin Phills  37:17

But yeah, there's no bursary program for, you know, people of low income to become instructors and pay it back later, I would, you know, in the Pilates world, I have yet to see that. I think that we know that in even Pilates people look at us as all white. But you know, we did have Kathy Grant, who was very much black. Okay, and but, you know, I only knew Kathy Grant through photos and she's, she's, she's a paler shade, if you will, right. So in photos, I wouldn't know that Kathy Grant was, I only discovered the cat Kathy Grant was black recently, and I told that person that if I had known that Kathy Grant was black, I would have gone to the States, I would have studied with her and come back with the Grant method of Pilates and brought that back as a corporate entity in Toronto, but I didn't see that. Right. I didn't see that until my development was too late and she's passed away.

Ezi  38:21

Right. But it's even the idea that you have to go to the States to train under someone black that ...

Martin Phills  38:25

Well, yeah. There's nothing like that in Canada at all. It's not here, not here.

Ezi  38:31

And it's not to say that there aren't black people in Canada. Again, going back to that, you know, that whole issue about how it's all set up. And you know, one of the things I've really been thinking about a lot is even even just in coming up with the, you know, work of the Well Being Collective is around adaptive athletes and also just like Deaf athletes, and I and I use the word athlete, very broadly, in terms of, you know, how people engage movement.

Martin Phills  38:58

And so you should, because everybody who is training, whether it be via for themselves, or for the Olympics, or for their own well being, right, as an athlete, as far as I'm concerned, right, I'm not talking about high performance at all, we're talking about people.

Ezi  39:11

Right, exactly. And, and just even in thinking about, you know, some of the messaging around adaptive athletes and like, you know, aren't they brave, and I really am so disturbed by that. Because it's not a matter of bravery and even if they are being brave, they shouldn't have to be brave in this space that's supposed to be for everyone.

Martin Phills  39:30

Exactly. Exactly. And the same thing, but you know, the same thing applies to BIPOC people, right? People of color and black and Indigenous people of color again, shouldn't have to be brave to kind of gauge their space inside you know, whether it be a Pilates studios, a master instructor trainer or, or even the owner of a business, Pilates business or yoga business or any of those things. That shouldn't be a course of bravery that should just be a natural evolution of your of your developments. Right. And everybody belongs in the space. Yeah, I find, yes, that whole bravery thing or, you know, they're, they're overcoming their challenges and, and so on. Of course they but that's that's the whole point of doing that. And that's for everybody not not just for, you know, everybody belongs, everybody belongs with different abilities. Right?

Martin Phills  40:26

Yeah, it's, it's really not overcoming their challenges, they're overcoming your challenge your lack of, or lack of your lack of ability to, to accommodate them. And that is so well said, there's a lack of ability to accommodate BIPOC, different abilities, alll of that. A lack of ability and very slow sort of movement towards but you know, you literally have to be goaded into. We are several,only a few years away from just even if we look at AODA, right, for those who don't know, AODA is Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, okay. We're only a few years away from, before retrofits have to be completed and there are a lot of places that are not even close. Yeah. Not even close. Yeah.

Ezi  41:21

So many things to say.

Martin Phills  41:23

No, you know, that when you brought me on that this is gonna be, you know, I ain't letting off anybody easy.

Ezi  41:33

I'm getting what I asked for, and I'm loving it. So, I'm grateful. Um, yeah, I mean, for those wanting to become personal trainers, for those wanting to get into the fitness space more broadly, so beyond that personal training level, or in different areas, what are some tips that you have for them? What are some key advice?

Martin Phills  41:54

First of all, show up, show up, show up, don't be afraid to take an aerobics class, don't be afraid to take a Pilates class, don't be afraid to take a CrossFit class, whatever it is, show up, show up to as many disciplines as possible, and see what's best for you and best for your body. Because if it ain't going to work for your body, then you trying to be a teacher of it is is a non starter, okay. Because if you're not comfortable, how are you going to train that comfort and ease with what you're doing in movement to your, to your clients. If you're not a dancer, you know, but go to a dance class so that you understand movement, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to teach it, but you understand what's going on. Right? And then from there, then you can startsort of picking your way through to the disciplines that that work best for you. But always, always start from the broad base, I find that people who are very, very limited, can only go so far, right. So a lot of people who are weight trainers can only go so far, because that's it, there's nothing, there's nothing else, I mean, you can reach the pinnacle of that, that particular aspect of fitness. But again, it's a small part, it's not the broad world of fitness. And certainly, when you're dealing with the general public, it's not going to that's not the broad base of the general. So it's important, the first tip I'd give is start with a very, very broad base of experiences, experiences, not, you know, added to your own lived experience. And then that's how you begin to pick and choose the streams that you want to get into. So that's number one. Number two, and it's also incumbent on those of us who are older and who are in, in the community in activity is to provide those levels of mentorship, right? So, Martin and I were in one of our interviews, we were actually talking about the so there's there's three levels, you have to you have to be a role model, but then you have to be mentored, right, mentor down, and then as well, but the third level is also walking hand in hand with those people who are who are coming up, right? So that all encompasses that big mentorship sort of deal. So the second point would be then just to sum up, all of the conversation is to say then that you have to, you know, look actively look for mentors in your field who are also particularly for dealing with people of color, men of color, women of color, right, that are in your space who are like you, right? At least, and really and you know, the funny thing about this whole black argument is that you know, we're not a monolith, right? There are so many cultures. I you know, I come from a specific culture that's very different, then then another culture in the West Indies could be very different than one of them.cultures, you know, there are 142 different types of people in Africa alone. That's stunning when you hear that, I'm talking racial racial diversity. Yeah, you know, there are 142 different subsets they're about, I might have that number off by one or two, but that's different. So, again, look for people, I mean, color is going to be the unifying factor, because that's how the discrimination works, it works against the color of our skin, right. But find people who are like you who, who can help you and mentor you. So, that's number two. Number three, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Once you get established, you do what you do, and you do it, you do it in front of all sorts of people, right? And don't be afraid, so it means you have to challenge your comfort zone. Right? And oftentimes, colonialism also kind of tricks us into these strange comfort zones. Were saying, Well, you know, if I work in here, that's going to be cool, and blah, blah, blah, and then I have social acceptance, blah, blah, blah. And that's not the case, okay, you have to be able to push out of your comfort zone a little bit and move into spaces that and establish yourself in spaces where you are not necessarily normally seen, or maybe not even welcome. But you still have to go in there and show up and do that. So those are the three main things, okay. So again, a broaden base of experience, latch on to mentors, and there are role models, you may have to look, but they there are role models who are black and people of color. And then number three, you have to kind of stretch that comfort zone and say, you know, put yourself out there in all sorts of spaces, right? And established, because once you're seen, then that starts a movement. Right, and being visible already, is, I mean, it's not all of it, but it's a big part of it. So if you're ready, and you can go out there and you know, your skills are at the top, you shouldn't be afraid to go into any environment. Right? You belong. So get out of the comfort zone, you know, there's a little bit of decolonization that has to happen there, too. And you get out there, and that's the key to success really.

Ezi  47:24

Thank you. I mean, those are definitely good points, and one I would add is go out of the city.

Martin Phills  47:33

Toronto has many advantages, and I don't think that that people who are here need to be deprived of those advantages, because we are so many different cultures here, right? countries in the world are represented. So yeah, take advantage. And then instead of if you dogo out and try to let this let what is here inform and catapult you into an even higher level of international recognition as opposed to fleeing, right, and saying, well, I can't do it here. No, you have to you have to you have to take what Toronto has to offer or anywhere that you're situated, right, and even having to come to Toronto, but being Toronto centric, but you know what, yeah, going to Vancouver or whatever going to Paris, France, wherever, right? And, and but you take your skills, and again, that's coming out of that comfort zone, again, and let the place catapult you into the higher level and not put you down.

Ezi  48:35

And then as you mentioned before, you know really think about those leadership and becoming the mentor, once you're ...

Martin Phills  48:40

Becoming the mentor walking hand in hand. It's the next gen or the next person who is who is also coming up so that we create a community of activity, right, in the broader community and that's so important, that sort of walking hand in hand and that is that one conversation with Martin, I have to say, was was pivotal in terms of even solidifying my thinking on that as well. But being able to walk hand in hand with the mentor and the mentee, walking together. And, you know, it's not enough just to be an example. But also you have to provide the community for that person as well. Right. So that communities is is so essential.

Ezi  49:22

So Martin, thank you for being in community with me and for sharing with the community of folks at home. And I was so excited to have you here today.

Martin Phills  49:30

Oh, wow. It was it was absolutely a pleasure talking to you guys. I mean, we've been in the same institution --how many years have you been at UofT?

Ezi  49:38

Whew, I've been at UofT for so long. 12 years of staff and not even to mention the years I spent growing up here in the early 90s.

Martin Phills  49:48

But listen, so Ezi, this is the thing, and I mean, this is so important, but you've been here for so long. I've been here for you know, since since the mountains were being created *laughter*When the land was formed the gods were... *laughter*

Martin Phills  50:05

Descenting their gifts upon the earth. But, um, but you know, I've only met you within the last few months. Right. So this is, and that I think if this is going to be a final point of this conversation, this is where a lot of our efforts fall apart. Because we're siloed we're kept separate from each other and we can't do that sort of community building.

Ezi  50:31

 Which is why, you know, the work of the well being collective is so important, right, it finally gives that space and, you know, I always talk about being conscientious and being deliberate, right, like that deliberate, seeking out of people who look like us who go, things that we go through, and, you know, providing open access resources around that right and bringing people into conversations, right, which is all of what living well, branch of the Well Being Collective is about right? Having those dialogues not necessarily having a single answer, but allowing people to give voice right from their perspective and from their racialized, their black, their indigenous racialzed...

Martin Phills  51:10

The blackness, yes, indigenous and as you say, lived experiences are going to be differet for everybody.

Ezi  51:18

So, thank you again.

Martin Phills  51:19

Well, thank you. This has been an absolute pleasure. This has been a really fun hour.

Ezi  51:26

Thank you for tuning in to Episode Two. If you want to learn more about Martin in his work, please check out the show notes. As always, you are worthy of love and care, to take good care of yourselves as you go on to whatever comes next. 

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