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Montgomery County fitness instructor promotes inclusivity in fitness

Adina Crawford leads a meditation session along the Billy Goat Trail as part of a hiking excursion for Black Girls Run. Photo by Louis Tinsley

On a blustery Saturday evening in February, there was a buzz of energy inside the Fleet Feet store in Gaithersburg.

Women of all walks of life, sizes and running levels had come for a community building event that Adina Crawford of Germantown had helped organize for the local Black Girls Run chapter! (BGR), a national organization. As they tried on shoes and stood in line to get fitted for sports bras, there was chatter and laughter between friends old and new. Some were catching up after their running groups went on hiatus during the pandemic. Others have come for the first time looking for encouragement to get started.

Applause filled the store as the winning raffle number was drawn for a new pair of running shoes and organizers gave a pep talk, of sorts, to the women.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” Crawford, 58, said, smiling at the crowd. “It doesn’t matter what race you belong to. We are all community. Walkers, joggers, we welcome everyone!

Whether coaching runners, leading a yoga class, or advising fitness retailers on inclusivity, Crawford aims to inspire others to move and feel great, no matter who they are. She often shares her own experience, which began about 12 years ago when she weighed over 300 pounds and decided to get healthy. “I came very late into the fitness game,” says Crawford, who joined various running groups and found connections with others through BGR. “What kept me going was that I found brotherhood. … The rest is history.

Rockville resident Kelly El’Amin, 46, a BGR member who attended the event, says Crawford is making a powerful impact. “Nobody works harder for the health and well-being of black women,” she says. “When I see someone who looks like me and has a body like me, I’m inspired. And that’s generational. When my kids see me running, they’ll want to run.

Crawford is all about to create inclusive exercise spaces in Montgomery County, especially for black women and other people of color who don’t often see many people like them in traditionally white-dominated gyms and activities. She wants to increase participation by breaking down stereotypes, which she has come across on many occasions.

Once, she was about to start a yoga class at Bethesda when someone asked her where the teacher was — assuming it couldn’t be her, she says. “I’m not a skinny chick. I am who I am,” says Crawford, who is 5-foot-11. To be accepted as a black yoga instructor, she says she has to work a lot harder, but she’s determined to make more women like her feel comfortable getting in shape.

“We have to have a seat at the table. We have to feel welcome,” Crawford says. “When we get into these different sports or activities…we just want to be part of it.”

Crawford is reaching out to fitness companies asking them to be more representative of people of color in their images and messaging. For example, she recently worked with REI to expand her understanding of what it means to be outdoors. Crawford collected stories about how people from various communities enjoy the outdoors, even detailing the different types of food they eat around a campfire, according to an REI rep.

Crawford leads the race for black girls! members during a meditation session after their hike on the Billy Goat Trail. Photo by Louis Tinsley

There are disparities in the fitness landscape that Crawford strives to solve.

Notable racial and ethnic differences in exercise habits exist in the United States: Hispanic adults have the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (32%), followed by Blacks (30%), Native Americans/Native Americans Alaskan (29%), white (23%) and Asian adults (20%), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, about 6% of yoga instructors are black, according to research by employment resource Zippia.

Lack of regular exercise is one of many factors, including the impact of centuries of structural racism, that public health officials say contribute to deteriorating health among Black Americans. According to federal health data, they experience higher rates of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma and heart disease, compared to their white counterparts. Indeed, the life expectancy of black Americans is four years less than that of white Americans, according to the CDC.

Crawford views her work as part of a larger public health discussion and is committed to modeling healthy living and opening doors for all women.

As a runner, Crawford has completed several half marathons and two marathons. She is a lead cyclist (referred to as “lady shero”) with the local Black Girls Do Bike chapter and has recently taken up swimming, combining her talents to compete in indoor duathlons and triathlons. Crawford is certified in yoga, meditation and water aerobics classes. She rose through the ranks to become an ambassador for the local BGR chapter and sits on the board of the BGR Foundation.

Once she got active and felt better, Crawford says, she was compelled to help other women do the same.

“I find I have a gift to give to others — to make them feel whole and worthy,” Crawford says. “It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, but when you start, you become unstoppable.”

Fitness Instructor Courtney Cornwall and Crawford walk along the Billy Goat Trail during the Black Girls Run! hike. Photo by Louis Tinsley

Crawford, who originated from Massachusetts, studied travel and business management in college. She and her 29-year-old husband, Burnett, have a son, Burnett III, 32, who coaches at Equinox in Boston. Since 1989, Crawford has been a civilian employee of the Montgomery County Police Department. She works full-time as a supervisor of the records division and also volunteers with the department’s peer support team, calling families of officers in the wake of a tragedy.

“Adina is a very warm and open person. She is very loving and caring about people,” says MCPD chief Marcus Jones, adding that she has gone “over and above” offering yoga classes and promoting wellness among employees.

It’s hard to get up at 4:15 a.m. to lead 30 people on a 5 a.m. run, especially in the winter, but Crawford has a positive attitude and knows how to include people who might otherwise feel intimidated to come and go. stay, involved, says her friend and compatriot Lisa Roberts of Boyds. The BGR chapter, called GLAM (Germantown Ladies Always Moving), dressed up in Halloween costumes for practices, and during Pride Month each member chose a color to create a human rainbow.

Monique Coleman, 42, of Clarksburg started as a walker five years ago with BGR. Crawford’s example inspired Coleman, who eventually completed a half marathon and lost 100 pounds. Crawford’s advice? “Never stop,” Coleman says. In October 2019, Coleman opened the Thick Chixx fitness and dance studio in Damascus which offers body positivity-focused workout classes. “Everyone is included. No body is left behind, much like Black Girls Run! said Coleman.

As a yoga teacherCrawford says her goal is to make her students, regardless of level, feel their best on the inside.
In a seated yoga class called Gentle Flow and Form at Onelife Fitness in Germantown, Crawford modifies poses for students, mostly older women. For example, instead of leaning on the hips to touch the floor, students place their feet in front of them and bend over to touch their toes when seated in their chair. As a recent class comes to an end, Crawford sends them away with reassuring words.

“Be kind to yourself. Always meet your body where it belongs,” says Crawford. As the women roll up their pigtails, she asks them how they are feeling and encourages them to come back next week.

Wendy Block has been a regular in the class for six months. The 70-year-old retiree who lives in Montgomery Village says Crawford “has the perfect personality to teach yoga. She is very calm. His voice is easy to follow. It’s a fun class. I leave with more energy.

To turn the tide for others, Crawford wants to help increase the presence of women of all sizes and backgrounds in advertising for fitness products. It partners with several companies to diversify their marketing, model their products and promote brands on its social networks. She is known as deanietheyogini on Instagram.

Crawford has been a fit model for Terry Precision Cycling and has given the company feedback on its plus size clothing. During a recent shoot in Miami, she added colorful props and struck playful poses, says Paula Dyba, Terry’s vice president of marketing and chief creative officer.

“Everything she does has a sense of joy, a sense of humor, and a sense of inclusiveness and kindness all rolled into one,” she says of Crawford. “She has been a great ambassador not only for the brand, but also for cycling, for active women. The power of one person is awesome.

Crawford is part of the influencer ambassador program for footwear company OOFOS. If she likes a new product, she introduces it to her social media followers. In return, the company sometimes supports its community events, says Darren Brown, chief marketing officer at OOFOS. For example, OOFOS provided free shoes to county police department first responders who attended one of its yoga classes during Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2021.

“When I connect with the brand, the ideals and beliefs must definitely resonate with me,” says Crawford, who reaches out to companies to be featured on their platforms and pushes them to build diversity throughout their operation. .

To keep track of her classes and events, Crawford writes on a large dry-erase board that hangs on the calming Caribbean blue walls of her “serenity room” in her home. However, she does not track her weight. Crawford never climbs a ladder. She’s dropped a few dress sizes since becoming a fitness late bloomer.

More importantly, she says, is how she feels: “Energetic. Living. Accomplished.

Caralee Adams is a freelance writer at Bethesda who covers health, education, and other topics for Bethesda Magazine.

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