When Kathie Bergquist was training to run the Prague Marathon, she realized there was something she was missing. “It occurred to me how much I would benefit from a like-minded fitness community,” she says. “How much I liked to read and share in the stories of others whose experiences and sensibilities were similar to my own.” It wasn’t long before Bergquist had organized and launched Ms. Fit Mag, an online feminist fitness magazine. She spoke with Our Town about her target audience and what it means to be healthy.
Our Town Why is Ms. Fit necessary?
Kathie Bergquist I’m not really comfortable with the word “necessary.” Ms. Fit is, after all, just another entertainment in an already oversaturated electronic media world. But that said, I started Ms. Fit because I could not find a fitness magazine that reflected my life experience. Instead, they all seemed to set up this impossible, unobtainable standard of fitness perfection I was supposed to strive for. What’s the point of a fitness magazine that makes me feel bad about myself? You won’t find the secret to six pack abs in Ms. Fit. But you will find stories by and about flesh and blood women who exist in the real world.
OT Who is your target audience?
KB Women, of course, but I’d also say all smart people who are interested in a fitness lifestyle. Ms. Fit covers a lot of topics you won’t find in most fitness magazines, and our definitions of health and fitness are more encompassing and organic. It’s a little bit politically progressive, a little bit edgy, with a good dose of sweat stirred in. Both the ‘zine, and our ideal audience, that is.
OT You’ve edited anthologies in the past, but the size of this project seems more daunting. What was it like to go through the process of creating Ms. Fit?
KB In many ways, the process is very similar. In both cases, I am looking, first and foremost, at the quality of the writing, but then I am considering what an individual story brings to the table, what it adds to the conversation. Is the point-of-view fresh and new? Is it relevant? And then, how do different stories play against each other? It’s as though each article or essay is a movement in a symphony, organized around a central, controlling theme.
OT How did you go about choosing contributors?
KB For the first issue, I did a few open calls through social networking sites, as well as personally inviting writers I knew who were fitness-oriented. As pitches started to come in, I discussed them with my editors – a group of women who, like me, are volunteering their time and vision to help Ms. Fit come together – and, using the criteria I just described, we started putting the puzzle pieces together. In general, I’d like to keep a roster of steady contributors whose voices our readers will get to know over time, while continually adding new perspectives to the mix.
OT What has the response to the first ‘issue’ been like?
KB Amazing! Within the first 24 hours that the site was “live,” we had 1,300 views, and in the first five days we’ve had more than 1,000 unique visitors. That’s pretty mind blowing for a project with no publicity budget – that’s all been exclusively from word of mouth and social networking. And thanks to the reach of the Internet, Ms. Fit Mag has been viewed by readers in such far flung places as South Africa, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, and Belarus.
OT What are some of your favorite pieces?
KB This changes every single time I reread a piece, because whichever story I am reading at that moment is my absolute favorite. Not to be all cornball about it, but we really have such a lovely range of stories – from Gaylon Alcaraz’s piece about how the group Black Girls Run changed her life, to Stephanie Kuehnert’s battle with insomnia, to Chai Wolfman’s story about reclaiming her body after pregnancy and breastfeeding -- and they’re all really well written. It’s almost as much a literary project as a fitness one.
OT Do you plan to update daily, monthly?
KB One of the great things about Internet publishing is that we can add new content whenever we have it, so the site can be continuously updated with new goodies, organized around whatever the current theme is. Every two months, we’ll put up a new theme. Currently, it’s “RE:” The next theme, launching in mid-March, will be “The Body Issue.”
OT Which mainstream fitness/body-related magazines do you trust?
KB I subscribe to Runner’s World and think they have good articles that reflect a wide range of experiences, even if that diversity is not often reflected in their cover images or art direction. I also like Eating Well, as a foodie magazine. It’s health-oriented but not in a weight-loss/diet kind of way.
OT What are your goals for Ms. Fit?
KB My first goal is for Ms. Fit to continue to grow and thrive, and to live to see its first year (and beyond) as a web publication. I’d like our content to always be interesting and engaging and occasionally challenging, and I’d like to continue to connect with audiences who are excited by what we’re doing. In my widest reaching ambition, I’d like Ms. Fit to impact, in whatever small way, the conversations we, as a culture, are having about fitness and wellness and what it means to be healthy.
Follow Ms. Fit on Facebook.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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