It's 90 degrees outside. A walk seems impossible, never mind a jog. The last class you took was a little too clammy and loud for your taste and so you're wondering - what am I going to do to stay in shape this summer?
Lauren Foundos has you covered.
Foundos is the founder and CEO of Fortë, an online fitness subscription that is revolutionizing the way people work out from around the world.
Fortë delivers both live and on-demand fitness classes to the globe from some of the hottest and most sought-after classes in New York. We've all heard the line - "all the celebs take this class," and now you can know for sure - without the price tag. Think yoga, boxing, pilates, TRX classes, but without the terror or anxiety of actually going and wrestling with the fact those around you are so much better. Fortë allows you the privacy to get on your feet without thirty people around you seeing you wobble a few times first.
Foundos has hand-picked the best instructors in the business. And it all began when she wanted to invest in Class Pass but couldn't. “I started to realize the power of studios," she recalls, and went on to formulate a plan to work with the studios directly, hoping to entice it into live-streaming their classes.
Selling the studios on live-streaming two years ago was more difficult than it sounds. Facebook live wasn't around to entice and Foundos struggled to drum up excitement about her idea.
“It wasn't like it is now," she remembers, continuing, “only the more progressive places were putting video content online." It was these studios that she would go on to target.
“A lot of people are actually just scared of working out, and for them a studio compound is even more intimidating."
“If you don't do yoga, and you're at a studio where everyone does yoga - you definitely feel out of place I think," says Foundos, while explaining the necessity of a medium like Fortë, for the shyer people out there. “But it's also just the proximity. A lot of these boutiques aren't going to go a lot of places. So in a small town - you know, they don't have access to a gas station for 20 or 30 miles! These boutiques aren't going to be popping up there. So why shouldn't they have access to the things that people are mobbing the doors for in big cities?"
The first time Foundos realized this class-level awkwardness was when she was invited to a dance studio for what she thought was a meeting, but it was actually an invite to participate in a dance class. Regardless of how fit she was, Foundos admits “I am not a good dancer. I was a little nervous - in the back, sweating bullets."
“This feels horrible," she recalls thinking. “If that's what people feel like when they walk into a gym - that does not feel good." And so Fortë seemed a genuinely natural solution to this fear many experience heading to the gym or to the famed difficulty of TRX for the first time. It's terrifying.
“It's intimidating if you've never done it - like where do you begin?" Foundos asks, and Fortë provides the answer. Take these classes into your home - become acclimated, and grow in confidence.
“We're not really only at-home fitness," she continues, referring to the fact you can get classes on your phone also - so that if you are a gym goer, but often feel like you're not very productive during your time there -you can have someone in your ear and on your screen for the entire session telling you to push harder. “And it's interactive, they know that you're out there," she says - so expect a shout-out ladies.
Fortë will not be a standalone venture for Foundos. This Winter will see the launch of a wearables line that will coincide with the online subscription, so users can track their progress and keep up-to-date with their health and wellness. “I think the 10,000 steps on a fitbit has really triggered something in a lot of people that's really interesting. It's triggering an awareness in people that is really good. We're able to tell people that instead of this 'thirty-day weight loss' and all that type of language that exists, we're able to tell people, your heart's working more efficiently, your resting heart-rate is lower."
“Forget summer body and all that talk, this is improving the quality of your life." Foundos says, encouraging a healthier and longer-lasting health plan over the quick and potentially harmful regimes. Fortë allows you to explore and engage with fitness a revolutionary way and will undoubtedly bring the best out of those who never really knew which exercises worked for them. They're able to try everything now, without the embarrassing shuffles and falls that others may witness.
Stay tuned for Fortë's wearables, slated for release this year, and watch the site for updates to come, and forthcoming L.A. classes planned.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.