Recently I was chatting with a friend – who also doubles as a RAD team member – and in between sips of coffee she asked me this question: “How did you get into fitness?”
I’ve totally answered this question a thousand times before, however despite my current relationship with blogging – I’ve never answered this question in writing.
So when I sat down and tried to think back almost 18 years ago, I realized that while it’s been both bumpy and beautiful, the overall journey has been undeniably RAD…
Therefore on this day dedicated to “thanks,” may my answer to this loaded question inspire you, transform you and require you to say – “I’m grateful for the journey…”
Here we go! “How I got into fitness?” in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….
Well first things first my relationship with sweating definitely started as a recreational hobby. I grew up playing on various youth sports teams – either kicking a ball in soccer, star jumping in cheerleading, or body rolling in dance. Oh yeah, and there was even a quick rendezvous with basketball in high school (don’t ask – it was bad). Simply put – sweating was my kiddie social life.
However, my informal (yet magical) introduction to “fitness” took place during my freshman year of high school.
Our curriculum at Highlands High School in North Highlands, CA allowed us to choose between General P.E. or Fitness when it came to our Physical Education required credit. So since General P.E. sounded like a watered down version of my soccer/cheerleading life – I chose Fitness. And boy was this one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
Each semester we bounced around from a walking/running program, to weight training, to circuit training, and even got in some group fitness fun with classes like step aerobics (P.S. No I was not in high school during the 80’s).
The constant change in activity made this class super fun and due to my own personal enjoyment in “upping fun,” (also known as class clowning) the instructor of this RAD class – Mrs. Slutzi – even allowed me to lead a few classes on my own from time to time.
This was the best homework of all yall…
I loved creating choreography in my bedroom and then showing up to class the next day to lead a “Kick ball change, L step, V step” combo under the funky beat of either “Whoomp There It Is” or “Tootsee Roll” (ahem – now you know what decade it was when I was in high school – wink wink).
No wonder I took this class all four years – it was basically like getting a grade for throwing a party!
Shoot I was having so much fun I even spent a few semesters as Mrs. Slutzi’s TA.
Real talk – Mrs. Slutzi was simply the best.
Her energy was magnetic, her kindness was electric and her dedication to my success was clearly prophetic…
However – more real talk: In the midst of any journey worth taking, this is one thing I do know yall- at some point, you will find yourself on a detour.
When I graduated from high school and went on to Spelman College in Atlanta, GA I instantly noticed that studying fitness turned into studying African Diaspora and the World (inside joke for all my Spelman sisters) with a minor/concentration in – “Where in the world did all these fine intelligent brothers come from?!”
And boom, just like that, for four whole years my fitness obsession was non existent.
So there I was (along with my homegirl “Freshman 15” and a slight case of boy craziness) trying to pave my RAD way behind Spelman’s pearly gates.
And after three years of bouncing from department to department I ended up officially “undeclaring” my undeclared major by settling in the Drama and Dance department. Which – P.S. is clearly the perfect space for those of us who enjoy “upping the fun.”
Which brings me to Act III:
After Spelman I immediately went to grad school, and boom – just like that fitness came back into my life. Hey there!
I spent three busy years both getting my MFA in Acting at the University of Texas in Austin and (to my surprise) reuniting with fitness. The campus’ recreational center was unreal, so taking 3-5 classes weekly (in between Shakespeare training, rehearsals and productions) made complete sense to me.
I’m not gonna lie though – it was a tough load to juggle. But thank you God for sweat!
Group fitness (with a splash of running) was my jump off. And while all the group fitness classes at UT were great, my personal favorite was held on Saturday mornings. The instructor was a total rockstar and would pack the house every single week – me, always in the back. So on one Saturday when she announced that she was graduating, I decided that I had to make my way to the front so I could introduce myself and thank her for all those RAD classes. Once class was over, I did, and while she was grateful for my groupie gesture, she in turn ended the conservation by saying – “You should think about teaching group fitness. I’ve noticed you in the back girl- you’re really good.”
Initially I thought -“Yeah right girl!” – and then, as my fairy-god-mother-mentor Oprah would say – I had a “Aha Moment.” I instantly remembered the joy I experienced with Mrs. Slutzi in high school and left class thinking – “Okay. Why not. What do I got to lose…I mean I do have a few dope step combos to Space Jam and 69 Boyz in my back pocket.”
So without further hesitation (or a clue) I auditioned to join UT’s group fitness program the following month. And to my surprise – they loved me.
I immediately got certified as a group fitness instructor, started teaching my own classes on campus the following semester, and the following year – I got certified as a personal trainer.
And just like that – two years and two ACE certifications later I graduated with an MFA in Acting and a R.A.D. in Fitness.
Act IV (sorry no intermission):
Upon graduation I focused on using my MFA primarily, however thanks to my R.A.D. degree, I never had to live the life of a “starving actress.” Praise Him.
Sweating became my constant flow of cash in between gigs, and since I was as equally invested in both passions – wherever my acting career took me, my love for fitness would always be in my “job description carry on.”
At the time it was just a fun way to make some dough – however after seven years of roaming the South West and North East region starring in the role of “actress/model/fitness instructor/trainer” I found myself in an interesting emotional state.
See – I wasn’t unhappy per se. However, I also wasn’t very happy either.
So I decided to change things up and pursue a life of “full-on-real-deal-happiness.”
I took a leap of faith and immediately started dedicating all of my energy toward “merging my talents” in a way that was fun, fulfilling and impactful for others.
I didn’t know what this would look like exactly, but I did know that I wanted to change lives one RAD Experience at a time -under my own brand and on my own terms (I think the street name for this is entrepreneurship).
So once I shared my new idea with God via constant prayer, He eventually said to me – “Okay, let’s do it.”
So here I am- “doing it.”
Sometimes stumbling, sometimes soaring – yet always knowing…
It’s truly amazing to look back over all those years and see how ALL roads lead me here.
This very moment, sharing my story, bringing the fun to fitness and changing lives through sweat is undeniably my destiny.
However the most gratifying element of my fitness journey is that I survived.
What could have been a near death experience has brought forth so much life…
Which is why I cannot leave out this one last important chapter of my story:
Uncut scenes from Act I:
When I was first introduced to fitness in high school I was also introduced to an eating disorder.
The pressure of being an athlete coupled with typical teen peer pressure lead to what I thought was just an innocent diet in the 8th grade. However by the time I started the 9th grade this innocent diet evolved into a full on addiction.
The process was painful, shameful and complicated. So much so that I battled this addictive disorder for 14 years.
However when I turned 28 and decided to merge my acting and fitness careers, I realized that if I wanted to share my story with the world I needed to first rewrite this major portion of it.
God’s former instruction of – “Okay, let’s do this…” transformed into “Okay, let’s do this…but under one condition – you can’t bring Ed (my eating disorder).”
So I committed to getting well.
Well for me, for the people who I wanted to inspire, and especially for all the little girls I may never meet – who also can’t distinguish the voice of modern day media separate from their own.
If it wasn’t for therapy, faith, grace and an abundant amount of favor I would’ve never been able to break the chains of my eating disorder.
It is truly a miracle.
I cannot believe that the same behaviors associated with nutrition and exercise could go from unhealthy, to healthy and then ultimately end up right here – in the form of a completely fulfilling career.
The hope that surviving has provided me personally is what I know I have to share globally.
Every day that I get a chance to create, play and make a living doing RAD things I can’t help but look up and whisper – Thank You.
Thank you God for keeping me. Thank you younger self for not giving up on current me. And thank you my RAD friend reading this…for supporting me.
Today and everyday I am so grateful for the journey…
Happy Thanksgiving RADicals!