Updated: Feb 7, 2020
I know we’ve all been there...at the gym, eyeing the machines! With a combination of fear and dislike, wondering what the hell we are doing. Maybe even browsing for fitness motivation and seeing girls with abs, with perfectly tanned and toned thighs. Then looking down at yourself and feeling suddenly downtrodden and discouraged. Women and bodies is a conversation that can be difficult, especially when self-love is not centered. Too many times fitness is a tool used by our media to discourage instead of encourage healthy lifestyles. Luckily, it’s much easier now to find healthy ways to be fit online with numerous videos, blogs, and fitness platforms.
No longer is fitness as intimidating as it once was, and there has been an upward trend of fitness blogs and websites for women. What was once a male dominated industry is now accessible to everyone. Personally, I am no longer as in the dark about what works and what doesn’t for my body. And I don’t even have to go to the gym or lift weights to get a good workout (although I do, when I feel like it #bodypositivity #mychoice)
Still scared? Don’t be! There is something for everybody and for every body type.
I interviewed a few women in fitness to find out about their journeys and what got them to where they are today.
They are all very different, but are all fierce as hell
Read below as I talk with these boss “fitness gurus.” They gave me some great advice and an insight into their journeys. Some of their tips I even implemented into my own workout plan..who knows maybe there is something for you too!
My first interview was with Ashley (Instagram handle: @fitnessimminent_) who had a compelling story about her journey into fitness. As someone, who has struggled with the ups and downs of weight loss my entire life, I related to her story on a very personal level. She posts her workouts on her Instagram to be more accessible in case you need any ideas (check her out)
Get into fitness because you feel it’s necessary for the sake of your health, not trying to fit into society’s unrealistic standards of beauty
Hey Ashley. I’m just curious, what made you get into fitness?
Ashley: Back in 2018, after getting off of a water fast that lasted 22 days, I had come to the realization that my health was in grave trouble and the only solution to the problem would be fitness and doing things right. It was May 4, 2018 when I made the life changing decision to get into fitness when the harsh reality came through that there were no cheats or easy way out to successful weight loss.
Do you personally feel that Instagram fitness profiles help or hurt people looking to get into fitness?
Ashley: It definitely does hurt, and brings lots of shame among women and young girls who think their bodies are supposed to be these perfect bodies with no flaws. Get into fitness because you feel it’s necessary for the sake of your health, not trying to fit into society’s unrealistic standards of beauty. Keep in mind on your journey what you want out of this. I was quite uncomfortable when I first started my fitness journey because I had this unrealistic view that every woman at the gym would be these gorgeous model type women, only to learn that people at the gym are your typical everyday people just like you and me. I had to keep reminding myself what I wanted, what I was fighting for in this journey and how determined I was not to let anything or anyone stand in the way of it.
Where do you get your motivation from? You seem so empowered, and I love it!
Ashley: I think my motivation came from just seeing how really unhealthy I was in 2018. My highest weight was 265 lbs and I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted to continue to have. We spend so much time abusing our bodies and sometimes not even realizing it. I started thinking one day how important my own life was and where my health was heading had I kept going down that road. Some of the people who made rude comments to me will now look at me with shock on their face. I must admit it’s a great feeling, as it’s my own little revenge in proving them wrong.
Hell yes! Love that! You are super motivating and it is awesome.
Ashley: I am glad I can motivate people. I applaud anyone trying to get at a better place in their life, especially when it comes to health.
I would like to thank Ashley for not only working to find herself but for giving her story as a space for others to do the same.
I always want people to come as they are. Authenticity has been a catalyst for my growth on my journey and will allow people to find their individual paths and voices.
My next interview was with Alicia Tillman (Instagram handle: @awkwardyogagirl). Alicia is a cycle instructor and a yoga teacher who specializes in Sports Specific Yoga programing for Performance Enhancement and Rehabilitation. She also has retreats where she offers yoga classes, workshops, meditations, excursions, and more in beautiful and serene settings. Alicia’s Instagram is a mix of beautiful and quirky photos of her badass self doing yoga poses and grinning at the camera.
Her website details her plethora of specific fitness modalities, and the many different events she is a part of. Past events include: “Trap Yoga and Tacos” and “Bad and Boujee Yoga” as well as a regular event called “Flowhouse”. If she didn’t seem like the kind of woman who’d laugh at herself, I might have been daunted by the prospect of interviewing her. Keep reading below to find out what the self proclaimed awkward yoga girl finds to be important in fitness!
Alicia, what made you get into yoga? Alicia: I was an athlete recovering from a knee injury.
What is your advice for women getting into yoga?
Alicia: There are many styles. Explore and find what works for you.
How do you create a safe space for everyone who wants to join on your journey?
Alicia: I always want people to come as they are. Authenticity has been a catalyst for my growth on my journey and will allow people to find their individual paths and voices.
Where do you get your motivation from?
Alicia: Creating change in people’s lives. No matter who it is. I want you to find strength in yourself mentally and physically.
What is your diet? Do you follow a diet plan?
Alicia: I'm a Vegetarian. No specialty things.
Do you feel that yoga is a lifestyle and if so, what kind of lifestyle would that be?
Alicia: I don't feel that yoga is a lifestyle because yoga is a larger entity than most can understand. I can say that yoga can promote a healthy lifestyle or holistic lifestyle. As you get deeper into the practice and philosophy of yoga there will be a shift in how you see the world and how you see yourself. Each path is different.
What is your greatest achievement so far?
Alicia: Being able to create a life that I am proud of. I touch lives every day through my passion of teaching yoga.
What would you say to people who are intimidated by the practice?
Alicia: Intimidation comes from lack of understanding. Like anything new, it can be extremely overwhelming when you try to take it all in at once. In yoga and in life, you are always a student. Learn in your own time, the lessons will come when they are time.
What has yoga done for you and the people around you? Has it changed their lives as well?
Alicia: Everyone in my life and the people I have connected with feel the benefits of yoga. Most have participated in the practice of yoga through me because they have seen such a huge change in me.
I would like to thank Alicia for educating us on the larger entity of Yoga! If my schedule permits I am popping up at a class!
There will occasionally be that person that says they only want to work with a male trainer, but I don’t take it personally. I’ve learned to know my value.
My last interview was actually with a friend I met in massage therapy school a few years ago, Lauren Miller (Instagram handle: @Lem0323). She was a personal trainer when I met her, and was going to school for massage therapy. A few years later, Lauren decided to go back to school to become a physical therapy assistant. Lauren is always striving to further herself in her own journey, and help people on their journey to health. I was so excited to hear her thoughts.
Lauren, I’ve known you for a long time but I don’t know this. What made you get into fitness?
Lauren: My junior year of high school we had a fantastic strength and conditioning coach. I saw my performance on the softball field drastically improve once we began training with her. She not only taught and showed us how strength training could improve our performance, but also taught us about nutrition. I became enamored with everything involving fitness and nutrition and soaked in all the information that I could from her. After high school, I just wanted to keep learning and learning. Not only that, but even at 16, I loved feeling and looking strong.
Do you think that this previously dominated male industry is becoming more accessible to females?
Lauren: Although I believe this field is still male-dominated, even in my short decade of experience, I have seen a shift emerge. Females are no longer expected to only be in the aerobics, yoga, pilates, etc. worlds, but are becoming more respected and prevalent in the strength training world. I have been very lucky to have worked with fantastic men who have treated me no different than my male coworkers. I remember about 7 years back when I first began training at Beyond Limits Training, a male member said to me:
“Women should never deadlift. Their backs are too fragile.” I told my boss, Rich Lauro, mainly in a “listen to this crock of sh**” way. Rich immediately walked over to the guy and, respectively and educationally, told him how wrong he was. It was times like those where I not only felt respected, I knew women would not be stopped in the fitness industry. So thanks, Rich. I’ll never forget that!
What is your advice for women getting into fitness?
Lauren: My first piece of advice for women getting into working in the fitness industry is the same as my advice for men. SHADOW! Find seasoned trainers and pick their brain. Books will not teach you how to work with actual people. That comes from experience, learning opportunities, and stepping out of your comfort zone. Even if you have never met a person, don’t be scared to reach out and ask for even just a phone call. Most people are super happy to do it. I know I am! My advice for women beginning their own fitness journey is to start with what you enjoy. Whether that be walking, classes, a trainer, recreational sports, or weight training, it is difficult to stay consistent if you hate what you are doing. My next advice is to not be scared of the weight room. I understand that it can be intimidating stepping into a place that is unfamiliar to you, and that may be full of more men than women. I can tell you from years of experience that no one is watching or judging. And if they are, that is their own security issue. And I PROMISE, you will not look like Arnold Schwarzenneger if you lift weights.
How do you create a safe space for everyone who wants to join on your journey?
Laura: I try to create a safe space for everyone by being as empathetic as possible. Although your job is to help a person reach their fitness goals, remember they are exactly that: a person. Beginning any new journey is scary, especially if it is accompanied by insecurities. Listen to THEIR goals, not your own goals for them. Also, listen to them when they share personal information that contributes to their fitness journey. Be grateful that they feel comfortable with you enough to share information. Know that you never know what is going on in someone’s life or what may have happened in their past. Maybe they have struggled with disordered eating in the past and that’s why they don’t track their food. Maybe they struggle with comparing themselves to others and that is why they want to work out at a less busy time in the gym. Maybe they didn’t get their home workout in over the weekend and they’re scared to tell you that it was because they were having a tough mental health day and couldn’t get out of bed. Listen without judgement and work to find a balance between keeping them accountable, while understanding that sometimes, shit just happens.
Where do you get your motivation from?
Lauren: I get my motivation from my clients. I’ll admit, sometimes I just flat out don’t want to go to work. Although I absolutely love what I do, I am human and just want to stay in bed and binge “The Office” some days. However, it is the growth I see not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, that keeps me wanting to show up every day for my clients. To hear someone say: “I am feeling more confident in the gym and outside of the gym!” or “I can walk up stairs with no knee pain!” makes every 4:30 a.m. alarm more than worth it. The other day I had a client light up because through our mobility work she now can sit with her legs crossed. The smile on her face made me want to cry. In fact, clients have made me cry happy tears (alone after they finish their session). So anyone working with a trainer or coach, know that you have just as big of an impact on us as we do on you.
What is your diet? Do you follow a diet plan like Keto?
Lauren: I do not follow a particular type of diet. Over the years I have learned what types of food my body responds best to and try to keep a balance of eating healthy, while not restricting myself. Due to my own eating disorder struggles and body image issues in the past, I have found that tracking my macro nutrients or food is mentally unhealthy for me. I have become grateful of my past struggles because they have given me the ability to relate better with others who may have similar journeys. When someone asks me for nutrition help I offer them general guidance, but refer them out to great people I know if they would like something more structured.
Have you ever felt as if you had to work harder than your male counterparts to be taken seriously in the fitness industry?
Lauren: I have had times where I have felt like I have had to work harder than male counterparts in the fitness industry, but I am lucky to be able to say that those times are few. There will occasionally be that person that says they only want to work with a male trainer, but I don’t take it personally. I’ve learned to know my value.
What is your greatest achievement so far?
Lauren: My greatest achievement in fitness so far has been starting my own business, Columbus Performance Therapy. I seem to have a pattern where I finish school for one thing, do it for a while, and then want to learn more, and more, and more. AKA, I rack up student loan! After completing my undergrad, massage therapy school, and physical therapist assistant school, I pushed past my insecurities and fear of failure and said f**k it, I’m doing it. I am able to do the types of treatments and training that I feel is best for clients and am not held back by “the man” or insurance companies. It may be a continuous uphill journey, but I am truly enjoying it.
Talking to these women made me proud of my own fitness journey. They all have different bodies, different ways of viewing the fitness world, and different ideas about it. I enjoyed getting to know all of these women and how they use fitness for empowerment! These interviews have motivated me to keep trying to reach my goals, and I hope they’ve done the same for all of you.
As women, we must learn to lift each-other up and teach one another, whether it be the correct form of a squat or the best kind of fudge to eat after you’ve had a bad break up. I genuinely believe that we can all help one another. I encourage you to follow all of these women and learn a little more about the way they see fitness and the world itself. You won’t be disappointed!
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