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November 03, 2022

Fitness for all

Alum offers safe space for health and wellness
by Allyson Irish

Lore McSpadden ’99 knows what it feels like to be ignored. A brainy nonbinary kid, McSpadden grew up in an agrarian Midwestern town where affirming spaces were scarce. But that is exactly what McSpadden (who uses they/them pronouns) found at Andover—and why they are so passionate about their profession.

“It was this magical fall day and the conversations we had were bizarrely, specifically relevant for the things that I was grappling with in life,” McSpadden says. “My [admissions] interviewer was Bobby Edwards, and there was this feeling that this is where I need to be.”

At Andover, McSpadden enjoyed the feeling of being challenged in a safe space, an oasis, and that it is something they hope to pass on to clients of their business Positive Force Movement, which provides elite, top-level coaching to people who historically have not felt welcomed by the fitness industry: members of BIPOC communities, gender nonbinary and body nonconforming individuals, and those with disabilities or experiencing economic hardship.

McSpadden’s road to business owner and fitness professional/personal trainer has been circuitous. After three years at PA, McSpadden took a leave of absence to focus on their mental health. They subsequently spent several years trying to find a focus, years complicated by food and housing insecurity and a long road to completing a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. During that time there was little to no exercise in their life, until 2010 when McSpadden was introduced to powerlifting.

Powerlifting was McSpadden's entry into health and fitness. "Basically, I was looking for a way of moving that I didn't hate," McSpadden says. Here, McSpadden, at right, works with a client. (Submitted image)

“I was at a point in my life, in my gender affirmation exploration, where I realized that I was ready to be in my body—and I didn’t really know what that meant in an empowered way. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to this obsession with body image and weight and the real toxicity of that, but I wanted to feel present in my body,” McSpadden says. “My experience with powerlifting was transformative. I learned how to come into my physical self with attention and power.”

A diversity, equity, and inclusion professional at the time, McSpadden began taking on fitness clients on the side. As they were hearing more and more about clients’ and friends’ bad—sometimes even traumatic—experiences within the traditional fitness industry, a lightbulb clicked on.

“Bodies are political, right?” McSpadden says. “And different bodies moving through the world are impacted differently. It didn’t take too long for me to realize my relationship to movement and strength as a trans person, trauma survivor, neurodivergent person, and someone who is committed to body equity in general, that all of these factors could combine into a career. I thought, maybe this is one of the gifts I have to give to the world.”

In 2018, McSpadden struck out on their own, opening Positive Force Movement (PFM) in a converted garage space in Rochester, New York. Though PFM offers traditional strength and conditioning programs, McSpadden’s clients—ranging in age from 18 to 80—are generally interested in a more holistic approach to health and wellness, which can include education, herbalism, and mindfulness practices.

“Oftentimes movement is not the point,” McSpadden says. “It’s the catalyst for something much more expansive.”

In winter 2020, McSpadden prepared to expand to a larger space, but the pandemic effectively wiped out that plan. Instead, PFM moved completely online. Today, McSpadden’s wife, Christine, is part of the team, offering anti-diet nutrition services and accessible movement options as well as developing cool graphic design swag and custom PFM clothing.

The couple and their son recently moved to a 40-acre property in Brockport, New York. There, among the deer, toads, hawks, and hummingbirds, McSpadden hopes to build a new outdoor space for training and community events. McSpadden recognizes this is a growing field, and they are still learning. Currently enrolled in a master’s program for mental health counseling, McSpadden is also a 2022–2023 fellow of the National Board of Certified Counselors and is engaged in research on harm reduction–focused therapy for the LGBTQIA+ community.

While their road to acceptance and a fulfilling career has not been linear or easy, McSpadden says they are fortunate to have had so many mentors, friends, and supportive family along the way.

“My time at Andover included some of my first real, authentic friendships, where I was able to let myself be seen and be known and be clumsy and be weird,” says McSpadden. “That’s one of the things that's great about Andover—you don't have to fit into all the spaces, but you can find your people. I found them, and it was really powerful.”

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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