Women's Wellness

She E.O. + Running: An Inclusive Event During COVID

By: Jennifer Dufresne

So much is changing on a day to day basis that it is hard to imagine how anyone can predict what will happen in the next year or even the next few days.  COVID has changed me.  It has changed the way I do business.  It has allowed me to really fine tune the type of person and brand that I want to be known for.  Coincidentally in the midst of all of that, I have also reaffirmed how inclusive my brand will be.

The word inclusive is thrown around a lot in the wellness industry only to be confused with images of the exact opposite.  I’m beginning to think that people don’t actually know what the word inclusive means (or maybe they actually mean inclusive of the exclusive?”).  Inclusive.  Including all individuals.  Period.

I was introduced to Kristen Riley and Tamara Johnson (the founders of She E.O.) through Instagram.  A friend tagged me a virtual race that they were hosting to raise money for their scholarship fund.  As with anything on social media, when I am tagged in something, I dive into researching the details of the share before I start blasting the information at hand.  I was thoroughly impressed by the mission of She E.O.: “bring like minded women together so that we might grow, work and learn from each other’s experiences”.  I was even more impressed by the inclusion on their page and through their writing.

I signed up for the race. I encouraged anyone who I know loves to run to sign up.  I logged on that Saturday morning, and I listened.   I was amazed by the energy these women had during a time that I was just completely unsure and tired.  They lifted me.  They inspired me.  I told them that.  After a series of messages exchanged with Kristen, I found myself on the phone with her during a break in my family beach trip talking all things (our careers, what our husbands do, George Floyd).  It was like we had known each other for a long time.  The ease at which we could talk about life was comforting.

It was then that we decided we needed to help other women facilitate moving forward in these conversations because in reality I like to think we all pray for the same things.   Whether you are religious or not, think about that in context.  As women, we all yearn for the same things.

#MoveUnited was born.

To facilitate inclusion, we couldn’t just sell tickets to this event to the mass.  We would have to do the work. We would have to invite an inclusive group of women. A group of all races, sizes, shapes, ages. A group that likely wouldn’t know each other in order to be more open to meeting new people. We forced diversity.

Instead of trying to gain recognition for our work by blasting our social media channels, we didn’t even talk about it.  This removes the ego. We asked women to come to an event in which they had no idea what to expect or who would be there to ensure inclusivity through interaction.

Once we knew who was coming the rest was easy.  Pinhouse (located in Plaza Midwood) offered to let us use their outdoor space to appropriately space individuals out.  My friends at SweatNET were 100% down to open their arms wide open to She E.O. to support their mission and take photos.

Individuals were asked to mask up for any part of the event that they were not on their exercise mat.  This shows respect – whether you believe in wearing them or not. We spaced mats out using cones and social distancing recommended by the CDC.  We brought wipes, hand sanitizer, and bottled water.

We watched people roll in to see some familiar faces, but lots of new faces.  The interaction was natural yet uncomfortable and awkward.  Kristen and Tamara are incredible facilitators of conversation.  They kicked off the event introducing our mission.  I led the group in a short workout.

We ended the event with an alter ego game.  Each person was asked to share how they felt and what they would take away.  A lot of the words I heard involved being uncomfortable, feeling hope, and being inspired.  Don’t all of those things go hand in hand?  Feeling uncomfortable allows us to grow.

Now you may be reading this thinking how was this not just another event where people checked a box off their list of “doing work” and weren’t held accountable to continue?  Well, we surprised the people at the event.  We didn’t want those new formed relationships to stop or for us to neglect the hard conversations that we need to have.  We asked them all to rejoin us for a Zoom call last week to open up that floor.  We spent 90 minutes walking through the work.  We again didn’t post it on social media.

As we continue to grow this movement, I encourage you to remove the ego.  Be willing to feel uncomfortable in order to feel hope and be inspired.  Do work without recognition.  Remember movement makes us all feel better.  As Kristen begins her corporate journey in Boston and the She E.O. brand continues to spread, I ask you to join us in this journey.  We are actively planning our next #MoveUnited event.  Follow @she.eo_inc @jen.w.dufresne @rileywoman and @tjohnson1025 for updates or reach out to be a part of this.

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