"I wanted to be that one person that just encourages people like that. I felt like I want to be that solid rock for someone. It's just so empowering and heartwarming." From an Italian dancer to a Spin Instructor in California, this is Behind the Glow with Helena.
My name is Helena, I was born and raised in Italy and moved to the states about 4 years ago now. I first went to New York and then I made my way to California.
I was a professional dancer in Italy. I did music videos, competed nationally, did Switzerland Got Talent, and dancing was my thing.
I got my first job as a spin Instructor in Brooklyn in this small boutique studio, I taught there for a year then moved to California, and started teaching at Grit Cycle, they’re huge in Orange County.
In the fitness industry, it seems like everyone has a story of what’s led them to become trainers. What’s yours?
With dancing, you kind of reach a point in life where you either pursue it professionally or you decide not to, and keep it as a hobby. I was at a point where I wasn’t sure about being a dancer forever, I didn’t know if it’s a safe career path, so I decided not to, followed what I’ve studied, and got a job at corporate.
But that void kind of left empty, it was left unfilled.
Then, I was traveling to New York just as a summer vacation and my friend was like: hey I’m going to a SoulCycle class do you want to come? And I was like: what the heck is soul cycle? I’ve never heard about it because there were none in Europe then, so I went with her, and I was just blown away, it was just an experience that I've never had before.
I just fell in love. I mean, I sucked at it, I was completely terrible, I was like oh man I don't know how people do this and walked out of it a little bit defeated.
But I'm super stubborn and I was like no i'm gonna go back and I'm gonna crush it. And so I went back and made it my routine, and after a year of riding, I wanted to be an Instructor because I wasn't dancing, I wasn't doing anything else and this was the closest thing to my dancing times so I got my certification and then I got my first job in Brooklyn as a spin Instructor in this small boutique studio, I taught there for a year then moved to California, and started teaching at Grit Cycle, they’re huge in Orange County.
So, It's been three years of me teaching, and five riding a bike. I’m super passionate about it and now that I don't have any of that I really miss it.
Do you remember the moment when you realized you want to be a trainer?
I remember my teacher that I used to go to in SoulCycle, Erin, she was just such an inspirational character, everything she said made you cry and at that stage, I moved to New York from Europe without a job, without a house, I didn't have anything, I had one friend. I had to start from scratch. And probably because of my weak state everything she said just hit home. And I wanted to be that one person that just encourages people like that. Because we're all in different stages of our life and I felt like I want to be that solid rock for someone. It's just so empowering and heartwarming.
What are your 3 favorite parts of the fitness industry?
The first one is getting to know people, so the community aspect is the number one thing for me. Every time I moved to a different city the number one thing that I would look for is friends. And you get to know more people and network at your workplace.
The second thing, and this is more from an Instructor perspective, is the challenge. You always have to be in your A game, you always have to be one step up from everything. And that's the kind of person I am, I like being challenged, and I’m constantly seeking the best version of myself. And maybe the fact that you constantly have to reinvent yourself, especially now with COVID, everyone had to stop and look at their business models.
Also, I love how flexible the fitness industry is. Because at the end of the day all you need to have is motivation, you can have all of the equipment and elements but you have to be motivated. I think that's the core of it..
What are some of the main struggles you think fitness trainers face? And how do you think they can be solved?
The biggest one I struggle with are the negative reviews and I think this is a big topic for whoever does anything humanistic. You put your heart and soul out right to these people, and sometimes you say things that are very personal, and people go home and one star this Instructor, say they were terrible, and that just breaks your heart.
You spend hours putting the playlist together, you make sure that everyone is having a fun time and then maybe you said something that was inappropriate or it hit home for some people. And not letting it affect you is even harder because how can you not take it personally when your job is so personal.
I think instead of focusing on that one negative review, think of the 50 other people that you made happy.
How do you think COVID will affect our industry in the years to come?
I think it will make people realize that you don't need a seven-floor gym, a fancy studio, or spending thousands of dollars in whatever membership to get your workout in. I hope people will realize that it really comes down to motivation, determination and sticking to your goals. I switched from spin to workouts just like weightlifting at home with my fiance and we've been doing it via zoom, and it works great. I do miss the environment with all the people being surrounded in a spin studio, 100%, I miss the community, I miss that energy that it gives, but if i'm thinking of being in the best shape, I'm probably in the best shape now than when I was in a room full of people.
What are some of the fitness trends and mentalities in your country?
It’s funny because I took my all-American fiance to Italy to meet my family for the first time, and we went to the beach, and he looked around and he didn't see a single person in shape. They were all skinny but you know when you go to jersey and you know those super bodybuilders, and you don’t see those in Italy, it's just rare. He was so confused and asked if people work out in Italy, and it’s just not really a thing if you’re a little overweight, you just just stop eating that second portion of pasta, or you go for a walk or a run and you're fine.
I don't want to speak about the other countries in Europe, but in Italy, it's mostly common that if you need to get in shape you just do cardio. You don’t eat protein and supplements.
When you’re in the states, you’re like: I gotta eat protein and lift weights, and it’s just a completely different mentality.
What is the greatest piece of advice you can give other trainers from your experience?
I’d say keep doing you, but don't stop learning. Just because you're an Instructor doesn't mean that you're there, and that you've reached the top. So keep taking classes and learning. And if you get negative feedback, take it constructively and learn from it.
Favorite workout song - I think top of the list right now is purple hat.
Favorite cheat meal - oh pizza
Fitness trainer that inspires you - That would be Erin from SoulCycle, always and forever.
Your motto - The goal is not perfection, the goal is consistency.