North America's first gym for muslim women is now open in Toronto
The fitness industry is booming across North America, and Muslim women are finally being brought into the fold, thanks to a new gym that just launched in Toronto.
The first of its kind in North America, Sister Fit is a women's only gym that opened this past November at 1523 Birchmount Road.
Offering self defence classes along with Muay Thai, the Israeli martial art Krav Maga and Arnis, a Filipino form of stick fighting, the space is designed with the privacy of Muslim women in mind.
Sister Fit's founder and head coach Fatima Lee Garsi first began running self defence sessions and boxing boot camps for Muslim women in 2014, where she ran run workshops out of a mosque in Toronto and around the GTA.
"It's part of the Islamic faith that has been lost: fitness and health and strength. That's a big part of Islam," says Garsi.
"I'm reintroducing that aspect of the faith back the Muslim women. I feel like they often put themselves on the back burner and don't feel understood in mainstream gyms."
The boutique gym is welcome to all women, including non-Muslim members, who get to use all the heavy bags, medecine balls, kettlebells, and other equipment that the space has to offer.
The most important aspect, however, is the complete privacy that Sister Fit offers from the male gaze.
While the gym's Instagram photos showcase women in hijabs practicing strength and flow sequences or kettlebell exercises, the reality is that all members are able to—and most prefer to—take off their hijabs and other religious garments while training.
As the conversation around Hijabi women and everything from sports to Sports Illustrated continues to evolve worldwide, the space marks the beginning of a culture shift in Toronto's fitness scene.
While terms like spiritual wellbeing, meditation, and mindfulness are key branding tools being used by the slew of wellness and fitness centres in Toronto, Sister Fit is only gym in the city (and judging by a quick Google search, the first outside of England) to include religious inclusivity as part of its mandate.
"Fitness isn't just exercise, it's a lifestyle, it's a ritual," says Garsi. "I wanted to incorporate all those aspects of the culture, faith, belief, and exercises, all woven in together."
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