Women Who Are Making A Big Impact In Fitness

These 9 women are creating safe havens for women, spreading the word about new ways to exercise, and are making fitness a more positive experience for all.


1. Julie Ann Kelly, cofounder Haymakers for Hope

Haymakers for Hope is a nonprofit that fundraises for cancer research, awareness, survivorship, and care, all through amateur boxing events mostly in Boston, L.A., and New York City. A boxer herself, Kelly wanted to find a way to fight cancer (she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma soon after graduating) and give back at the same time, so she cofounded the organization in 2010. As of the date of publication, the organization has raised over 7 million dollars since its inception, and Kelly is now cancer-free.


2. Alison Désir, founder ofHarlem Run

Désir founded Harlem Run in 2013 to empower the people of Harlem to get out and get fit, no matter their abilities. The group meets twice a week in Harlem and regularly has up to 250 attendees, but the movement extends far beyond that, Désir says. “The impact of Harlem Run is vast—hundreds of weekly runs hosted twice a week for four years, thousands of collective pounds lost, hundreds of friendships and romantic relationships established, countless people whose mental health and sense of self have improved, and one incredibly powerful community, made up of former strangers.”


3. Liz Kunz, CEO of Girls on the Run

The mission of Girls on the Run is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident,” and since 2006, Kunz has been working to do just that. The running groups meet twice a week to teach young girls life skills, and work with them on community impact projects to help them learn about setting and achieving life goals. They have a goal of serving two million girls across the country by 2021.


4. Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks-Rocha, founders of Black Girls Run

Carey and Hicks-Rocha founded Black Girls Run in 2009 to help tackle the growing obesity rates in the African-American community and encourage women to start running. Now, the organization’s mission has broadened to help all women make fitness and healthy living a priority. It has grown to have over 225,000 members nationwide. Local chapters organize group runs as well as virtual ones, and they’ve expanded into conferences, "walk before you run" trainings, and pop-up tours in 22 cities.


5. Corinne Wainer + Shauny Lamba, founders of SHAKTIBARRE

SHAKTIBARRE, the hybrid yoga and barre studio that's also an empowering community space, is the brainchild of Wainer and Lamba, dreamed up to make wellness more accessible to everyone. The duo firmly believes you don’t have to buy a $20 juice to be healthy—they offer sliding-scale prices to help give their students a place they can afford to visit and help them stay healthy. Shakti is the Sanskrit word for divine, creative, and nurturing feminine energy, so you’ll pick up a lot of those vibes at their Brooklyn-based studio.


6. Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro

In 2006, Mapp founded a blog that has since turned into a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to connect the African-American community to nature and to encourage people to spend more time outdoors. Outdoor Afro now has over 60 leaders in 28 states who help connect people with all different outdoor experiences, from hiking to backpacking to sailing to yoga.


7. Ally Love, founder of Love Squad

Model, trainer, and producer Ally Love started Love Squad, an online community and site, to help women become stronger, healthier, and more loving by changing their perspective and exposing women to other successful and amazing women in the same space.