At This DC Bootcamp, All Genders And Body Shapes Are Celebrated

"I really hope to shift the overall fitness culture to be empowering to queer—and especially trans—people."

Bianca Russo. Photos by Carletta Girma.

Over the last decade, the fitness world has gone from one marked by traditional big box gyms with sad fluorescent lighting and maybe a pool to a multi-billion dollar industry with niche gyms on every corner, a massive Instagram community (#fitspo), and even rooftop meditation lawns. What it’s been slow to embrace is inclusivity, particularly for the LGBTQ community. Bianca Russo hopes to change that.

Tired of feeling “pretty invisible” at her gym, Russo, 29, launched Body Positive Bootcamp, which provides fitness services in a “radically inclusive space,” where all bodies and genders are welcome. “There’s a lot of shaming and guilt in the mainstream fitness industry,” she says. “I really hope to shift the overall fitness culture to be empowering to queer—and especially trans—people.”

Last summer, Russo, an NASM-certified personal trainer, began holding bootcamps at parks in Petworth and Columbia Heights. “My first instinct was to pilot this with my friends, who are all queer people in DC,” she says. “They all have very diverse needs based on body size and gender.” After a surge of excitement and interest, she partnered with Fit 360 DC in Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood gym where the focus is on functional performance (think kettlebells, Turkish Get-Ups, and intense yoga, but no treadmills). Russo offers two kinds of workouts: basic personal training once or twice a week, and “Buddy Bootcamps.” Unlike traditional bootcamps, Russo’s are small—as in two people at a time, so there’s no showing up 30 minutes early to fight for a spot in class. Plus, they’re customized based on the client’s goals.

What Russo won’t do is tell a client to push through the pain. “I avoid negativity,” she says. “The tone and language that I use is to affirm all bodies, and all genders.”

Currently a one-person show, Russo hopes to grow her business and partner with like-minded brands. Superfit Hero, a body positive athleisure brand, is already on board.  “I feel really eager to see where the body positive market goes in the future,” says Russo. “I feel so excited to be doing my best out here when things are shifting.”


Kim Olsen

Kim Olsen ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Alexandria.