Interview: At Home with Huld
1st May 2020
Introducing Coach Huld - founder of Underdog Health Revolution and TransForMotion. Get your tips & tricks for staying active whilst stuck at home!
Huld is a personal trainer and a non-binary trans individual based in Edinburgh. They started Underdog Health Revolution in 2016 to "help people of all genders who feel alienated by or unwelcome in traditional gym spaces".
Huld provides 1:1 personal training as well as online coaching and regular classes, and they offer an exercise class specifically tailored for trans (including non-binary) and intersex people called TransForMotion.
During lockdown times, Coach Huld has continued delivering live online workouts to their students and followers on their Facebook page. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to ask Huld a few questions about themselves and the important work they do for the LGBTI community!
When did you become a personal trainer and what motivated you to go down this path?
"In 2016, I had been working toward a professional career as an actor for 6 years. During that time, I had taken up an interest in fitness that morphed from being about aesthetics to a desire to be functionally fitter. I was in great shape and wanted to help others like myself who loathed P.E. in school or otherwise didn’t fit the narrow mould of what we’re expected to be like."
What has it been like getting into personal training as a trans person, and has there been any barriers or challenges?
"I came out both to myself and to the rest of the world in 2015. When I started working as a Personal Trainer, I made that side of myself clear by coming to my job interview in make-up and stating my pronouns (They/ Them and - more recently - Ve/ Ver) in my bio. It was late 2017 before I started transitioning my name and pronouns more insistently, and after that my managers and co-workers were very supportive.
It’s a strange environment to work in as a trans person without any medical transition as I wouldn’t wear full face make-up to a job that involves getting very, very sweaty. I also couldn’t wear dresses or skirts to work, though I was allowed to wear the leggings the cis women wore as part of their uniform rather than the trackies and shorts the men wore. Gyms are aggressively binary in nature, so i was effectively a “male member of staff” as far as it came to changing room checks (performed every other hour) and similar, and most of the members who came to my classes thought I was a gay man despite me stating my pronouns at the start of each class.
Still, the queers always find each other, and I ended up working with several trans people and some wonderful cis folk who saw me and Got me, almost all of whom are still with me today, three years and two gyms later."
We see that you have been doing live online workouts on your social media pages. What has this been like for you, and what kind of feedback have you received from your followers?
"I started doing the live workouts on my Facebook early in the lockdown as I wanted to reach out despite our physical distance and help people find motivation and skills to work out from home. I maintained a schedule for a few weeks but admit I’ve been slacking lately!
I always enjoyed the classes themselves, especially when I had more people join in. Even without people physically present, I could absolutely feel their presence when they were there, commenting and asking questions.
My favourite sessions were the mornings as they got me ready for the day and I would go for a run after the session, using it as an intense warm-up! I don’t know if others find this, but I found it much more difficult to motivate myself for the evening classes. If you’ve been inactive most of the day, it’s REALLY hard to suddenly go 'All right, let’s do this!' So I think as I come back to classes they’ll mostly be late morning sessions."
What do you think are the benefits to doing exercise and staying active during this time?
"I’ll speak for myself here as your mileage may vary and I’m very cautious of making sweeping statements about how people “should” expect to feel. I definitely sleep better and cope better mentally when I’ve had a good workout. The days pass a bit quicker, and - if I do it in the morning - I have more energy for the day. Or I just feel a bit better about sitting down and playing some video games!
I live with depression and am prone to mild anxiety, and while exercise and fresh air and a healthy diet are not by any means the panacea certain influencers want to pretend they are, it CAN help. And if I’m going to be depressed, I might as well be depressed and sweaty, you know?
Honestly? Exercise also gives me a reason to have that shower and spend a little bit of time grooming myself, something I think a lot of us are struggling with when we no longer need to (or CAN) go anywhere."
What advice would you give to people who might be struggling to find the motivation to stay active during lockdown?
"Try - if you can - to get into your workout gear when you get up. Lay them out in the evening and hop right in them when you get up. Some days, it can take me hours to get from the sofa, into my leggings and start a warm-up. At least that’s one less step to think about!
A lot of it has to do with that: Give yourself fewer steps, fewer points at which you have to convince yourself to keep moving toward exercise. Choose specific times of day or situations where you always work out. Maybe as soon as you get up? Or immediately after brushing your teeth? Whatever works for you to make exercise less of a choice you have to actively make and more of a matter of course.
When I’m not motivated, it can help if I decide to just do the warm-up, and if I still don’t feel like I want to exercise, I don’t have to. Take it one set, one movement at a time. If all I do is warm up and 20 squats, then that’s 20 squats I wouldn’t have otherwise done! It’s those little victories you have to allow yourself to celebrate."
We know from the work we do that accessing gyms and other exercise facilities is a particular challenge for many trans people. Is there any advice you would give to trans people who are wanting to start their exercise and fitness journey?
"A lot of the people I work with find it a lot more comfortable to step into the gym if they have a specific plan to work out with. Arm yourself with knowledge and you’ll immediately feel more at home. You can buy a program from a personal trainer that is specific to your needs, but you can also go find a program that looks good enough online for free if you don’t have the budget for that. if you want to build your own workouts, I have loads of exercises on my website that you can browse through, all with videos and text descriptions so you can make sure you use good technique. It’s a work in progress, so more will come!
More specifically as a trans person, there’s the question of changing rooms. Most gyms are again very binary in this way, and it can be a source of a lot of anxiety for non-binary people and binary trans folks who haven’t transitioned medically. Many gyms will have a “gender neutral” accessible changing room, which obviously isn’t ideal as we don’t want to take up space disabled people need, but that is the option I tend to end up using in a pinch. Or I just shower at home.
My recommendation would be to phone (or get a friend to phone) the gym and ask what kind of facilities they have and if they’d be able to meet you when you come in to discuss your needs and their policies. This can be very daunting and many of us just want to Get On With It and not be seen, but knowing whether or not management has your back can be a huge reliever of anxiety in gyms."
Find out more:
Want to delve even further? Check out the LEAP Sports Youth Activist Academy resource 'So, you want to hit the gym?' - A guide to approaching gyms and sports centres as a transgender person