“I’ve never really discussed any of this with anyone but the answer is a resounding yes.” Will Lanier sharing his own struggle with beauty standards in the health and fitness industry. The founder of OUTWOD also lays down some gym selfie truth, how The OUT Foundation is funding gender affirming surgeries and shares a fundamental Will Lanier exercise you need to try.
YOUTH and ROLE MODELS
What was your relationship with fitness as a teen and did this determine the trajectory of your career?
I played every sport imaginable growing up. My main sports were competitive cheer and tennis – something where I could play as part of a team and then something where I was alone in my skill – it truly was the best of both worlds. I never in a million years thought I would end up founding and running a health and wellness non-profit…but it now all makes sense.
Growing up in Texas did you have a queer role model?
I remember watching Will & Grace as a kid, listening to the Spice Girls, and dancing around to ABBA…so not a role model but was inspired by those who lived their truths.
Do you remember your first kiss and who would be your pipe dream crush?
My first kiss was a girl named Jennifer in a game of spin the bottle…even though I knew I was gay – it was a time in my life when I was trying to assimilate. My true first kiss out of love for someone was in 9th grade…he’ll always have a special place in my memory. HAHA my pipe dream crush…lordy…pick a Hemsworth.
Your Go-To workout track?
Freakum Dress, Beyonce.
Gym selfies. An expression of self love or a damaging narcissistic habit?
Hey listen – selfies are selfies – everyone just relax.
“As a gay man, it is easy to see the inundation of images of dudes with 6 pack abs, small waists, nice butts and to say that never caused a bit of self-doubt or problems with self-worth would be a lie.”
OUTWOD, ACTIVISM and FITNESS
A fundamental Will Lanier exercise in the gym?
Box Jumps are my jam – but I live for cleans.
A quote that motivates you when you need that extra push?
“Just keep swimming.” Dory from Finding Nemo
The OUT Foundation is a nonprofit initiative that you created as an extension of OUTWOD. The Foundation funds LGBTQ gym memberships, gender affirmation surgeries and ancillary care for transgender athletes and grants for LGBTQ health related companies. Why did you see this as an important resource for the LGBTQ community and what impact have you already seen it have?
I started OUTWOD simply as a social group – and I had no plans of it ever being what it is today and how it has brought about the birth of The OUT Foundation. Now OUTWOD sits as our CrossFit program under The OUT Foundation umbrella, along with our other programs, OUT Health, Live OUT Loud, School’s OUT and more. We’re awarding our first scholarship recipients in December, launching our gym tour for transgender education in January – the work we’ve been doing all year in advocacy and partnerships are finally becoming something tangible and it is only going to get bigger and bigger.
Do you have a thotty gym story you can share with us?
No kissing and telling. Tsk tsk.
As the head of OUT Foundation and being a public figure in the health and fitness industry did you ever develop an unhealthy relationship with fitness or dieting and what advice would you have for someone who may be overtraining or too restrictive with their diet?
I’ve never really discussed any of this with anyone but the answer is a resounding “yes.” As a gay man, it is easy to see the inundation of images of dudes with 6 pack abs, small waists, nice butts and to say that never caused a bit of self-doubt or problems with self-worth would be a lie. I’ll be the first to admit that I was blessed with good genetics – I’m naturally athletic, have ease putting muscle on and don’t really see my weight fluctuate if I spend a week devouring pasta and pie. I don’t say this to brag or make myself seem “better than” – I say this to bring to light that even those of us with what society would call “fit or a jock” – we are affected by the images of beauty standards that we see in print ads, on TV and in real life. When I was in high school, I wanted to workout all the time. I would run, lift weights and try to look like the picture of some Men’s Health cover that I had taped to the back of my bedroom door. It only got worse as I got older. When I started modelling right out of high school – I was told I needed to lose some weight. Mind you, I was 6’ and 175lb…I had to cut down to 165lb if I wanted to work. I would go to Gold’s Gym and set my treadmill to a fast walk and a high incline, put on Britney’s BLACKOUT album and stomp up that hill for 45 minutes every single day. It wasn’t until I was 31 when I finally realized that even though I felt like I was just being healthy with my workouts, which at the time were CrossFit at 6am, Boxing at 7:15am and then a Barry’s Bootcamp class at 2pm – at least 5 days a week, I wasn’t being healthy at all. My body looked incredible – but to what end and why was I doing this. I still struggle with training and my motivation but it is with more awareness and understanding of my psyche. My advice to others would be to really take stock of your time, how you’re spending it and what you’re spending it on. Look at your training and your diet and understand that if you miss a day of training or if you cheat on a meal – your life won’t end – hell – it might be better.
Can you tell us about an OUTWOD success story that has stuck with you?
We’ve actually got a story coming out on Thursday that I’d love to put here – but want to read it and then can speak to it.
“…I see the storm we are living in – I also see the strength of our community and allies increasing. We’ve hosted more LGBTQ fitness events in 2018 than any other year.”
Our approach to fitness is evolving and we’re seeing a growth in indoor climbing, mountain running and calisthenics. How is CrossFit evolving and what does it have that makes it unique?
Oh man! I love CrossFit so much! And the reason is because it is ever evolving. When I started CrossFit a decade ago (omg a decade), it was everything I wanted…and now, 10 years later – it still is. CrossFit has forever and always been devoted to health and as we learn more and more about health and science and the melding of the two through fitness – CrossFit adapts and changes. But for me and millions of others – CrossFit is more than a workout…it is our family, our friends, our support group – our community and as long as CrossFit keeps community and health as its focus…it’ll be around forever.
In 2019, transgender CrossFitters will be able to compete in the gender category of which they identify. Since 2011 how have you seen the landscape of health and fitness change and how do you think toxic masculinity can be addressed to make gyms feel more like safe spaces?
This is a tough question to answer given the current state of affairs in this country. Up until 2016, I thought we were on the right track – the LGBTQ community was seeing great legislation in support of our equality, the country was finally turning a corner – since the election of Donald Trump, I’m afraid things have taken a turn for the worse. Fear not – this will only make us work harder…but all along I thought we wouldn’t have to do that shit anymore. What you see in the news and in the world is mirrored in the fitness community – because fitness is part of most American’s lives…we are seeing bigots empowered by the hatred coming from the top. But, you see, the good news is that right always wins. This is evident in the CrossFit Infiltrate fiasco. When the owners decided to cancel a Pride event because they considered it a sin – the staff and members revolted and spoke with their wallets and quit their jobs and memberships and the gym closed in less than 2 days. Long story short – I see the storm we are living in – I also see the strength of our community and allies increasing. We’ve hosted more LGBTQ fitness events in 2018 than any other year. We have gyms on a waitlist wanting to support because we just don’t have the resources to get them all running. This is where you donate to The OUT Foundation to help us out.
You’ve built OUTWOD to become the most successful queer group fitness collective. You’re currently working on the development of The OUT Foundation. What goals do you have for the future that you can share with us?
Oh god – so much! Next year we have some big plans. The OUT Foundation is launching the “Don’t Be An A**hole Tour” in 2019. We will start our town hall tour of 10 cities in five weeks before and during the CrossFit Games Open. We will be hosting trans-athletes, affiliate owners and coaches to take attendees through exercises and discussions around what it means to be transgender in fitness. We will be giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions and have a really incredible dialogue. More details soon. We’re also continuing to develop OUTHealth which launched when we announced our partnership with NYU Langone but will not only include transgender services but also sex education services, mental wellness, etc. We are piloting a youth program in 2019 called School’s OUT where we will be working with LGBTQ Youth Centers nationwide on a fitness initiative with their youth.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
If you like eating dinner at 630pm and watching Rachel Maddow in your jammies…call me.