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Inclusive Excellence Podcast: Finding Your Space in Fitness

In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel invite C Lucas, wellness community programming specialist at Cornell, for a conversation about the challenges and complexities that exist in the fitness industry.

Lucas shares their journey to the university and how they have always had a passion for athletics and fitness; however, it wasn’t until they became a personal trainer while pursuing a Ph.D. in Health & Sport Studies that they found their niche for working with adults and older individuals.

image provided by C Lucas

“Most of the other trainers wanted to work with students and athletes, and so by default, I got all the “old people” as my fellow trainers would call them,” Lucas said. “But it turns out I like working with older adults, which led me to work as a water fitness instructor. This was one of the defining moments in my career and a launch pad to ask myself, how do I learn more about fitness for older adults and building community in fitness spaces?”

Lucas arrived at Cornell in 2020 to explore this question and work with members of Cornell’s community to create accessible and inclusive fitness programming through one-on-one consultations, individual and group fitness classes and other wellness opportunities that extend beyond physical fitness. In their role, Lucas hopes to create a space where everyone feels like they belong.

“One big barrier for people is that they are unsure of where to go or where to start. And so that's one thing that is a big part of my job, making fitness more accessible and approachable,” Lucas said.  

The fitness industry can be intimidating and uncomfortable for many and has a history of excluding individuals of diverse identities. This is something that Lucas has experienced themself and aims to improve for others.  

“I’m trans and have always been gender fluid and gender expansive,” Lucas said. “We've been told many narratives about what fitness is, who belongs there, how it should look and how you should look. And so, I'm in an interesting position because I feel like I’m inhabiting this middle space. Gyms are often gendered—the locker rooms and different lifting spaces are often divided between men and women. Responsibility tends to get placed on individuals to learn how to exist in this space instead of saying maybe we should change the environment so that it doesn't feel unwelcoming and that people feel like this is a space they can imagine themselves in.”

Lucas has dedicated much of their time to working with people with a variety of bodies, abilities and comfort levels to help build positive relationships with fitness and wellness.  

“It's all about removing barriers for people,” Lucas said. “We're asking people to be really vulnerable in these spaces. And so that's one thing I like to focus on, recognizing and honoring the fact that this is a hard thing for a lot of people. The more we can make it easier and approachable, the more we will create long-term beneficial relationships with exercise and movement.”

Hear more about C Lucas’s professional journey and how to get involved in fitness and wellness programs at Cornell in Episode 72: Finding Your Space in Fitness. Visit to access the episode and transcript.

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