May 29—After more than seven years with the Union, general manager Chretienne Yalung continues to dedicate herself to group fitness and the expansion of that arena with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion.
"It's been a journey, an evolution, in a good way," Yalung, 33, said. "After COVID, it's definitely been a challenge, but the Union has definitely created a really good community staple."
In addition to her managing role, Yalung teaches spin, TRX and Pilates classes.
"Growing with it as teaching has evolved over the last couple of years ... just seeing what group fitness looks like ... it's been fun," she said.
After earning a bachelor's degree in exercise science from EWU, Yalung was focused on continuing her studies on a physical therapy track. But once she started her required volunteer work in the field, she quickly realized that it wasn't the work she wanted to be doing.
"I honestly didn't love it," she said. "It just wasn't the type of work that I could see myself doing for a long time."
While looking for a new track, Yalung ended up taking on several jobs at once.
"At that point, I was working four different jobs," she said, listing various service industry and fitness instruction positions.
While working at a smaller studio in Moran Prairie, a friend reached out to her about a managing position at the Union. They said it would be part-time, 15 hours a week. But it quickly evolved into a full-time job.
"I think back then I didn't realize what it was going to evolve into — it was just a different avenue I could try," she said. But now, on top of her love for teaching, the job has become an avenue for other pursuits, as well.
Since the coronavirus pandemic and the conversation surrounding George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, Yalung has been able to put more energy into efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion in the world of boutique fitness. As a first-generation Filipino American, this issue has always been close to her heart.
"One of my favorite things ... is trying to create a more inclusive wellness community in Spokane," she said, emphasizing the importance of thinking beyond performative action and making a real effort to embody "what inclusivity means."
In partnership with Lululemon, Yalung and co-founder Taylor Jaderquist recently launched an outreach program that provides diversity and inclusivity education for wellness professionals.
"We host workshops to essentially bring accessible education to fitness instructors ... therapists, doctors, teachers, people across the board learning how to cultivate a holistic and diverse perspective," she said, mentioning how participants have been coming in from Seattle and Portland for these free events.
"Our goal is to do everything for free and just allow education," she said.
During COVID-19, finding affordable education in this field was difficult because finding the right experts is expensive, she explained.
"And, obviously, it's important that all of those leaders, speakers, writers are getting paid for the work that they're doing," she said. Luckily, Lululemon was willing to contribute. Yalung is currently serving her third term as a Lululemon brand ambassador.
Yalung has since recruited her team at the Union to go through the workshop.
"We don't know if our endgame is to become a nonprofit, but we have all the tools," she said. At this point, their goal is to facilitate a quarterly workshop.
Passionate about wellness and fitness in all areas, Yalung looks forward to sharing that world with as many people as possible.
"It's just really great to be able to work with athletes, whether it's long-term or short-term ... for them to feel empowered in their body and be able to say, 'Oh my gosh, I feel stronger,' " she said.
"A big part of inclusivity is challenging what society has conditioned us to think healthy and beautiful looks like in the fitness industry (and) really diving into honoring your body, listening to what your body is."