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6 fitness instructors on the “Aha!” moments that made them healthier


fitnessinstructors Fitness instructors are our inspiration on the spin bike and the yoga mat. But notice how they’ve become our healthy role models for their habits out of the studio, too? We want to know everything about their lunches, beauty habits, morning rituals, and favorite healthy restaurants, all in the pursuit of understanding what works for them, and how they got so healthy. Here we asked some of SoCal’s top sweat gurus for the wellness Aha moment that helped make their worlds way more healthy—and, by proximity, ours. —Melisse Gelula

LauraSoul Laura Crago, instructor at SoulCycle
I have to make a point to hit the reset button when I’m feeling run down, stressed, or overwhelmed, and last year, I found UnPlug Meditation. It was exactly the “Aha” moment I needed. It’s helped me let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and be present in the now. I work on this mindset day in and day out, and it helps me get through the tough stuff and come out stronger.

kimmiemahaburn Kimberly Barbato, Maha Yoga and Maha Burn instructor
I’m generally a super calm, and laid back person, but several years ago, I became a divorced, single mother of four boys, trying to build my own yoga business and practice. During a teacher training I was attending for Maha Yoga, someone said the Mark Twain quote, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it,” and I was simultaneously stunned, and overwhelmed with peace.

Until the moment I heard that quote, I hadn’t even realized how much stress and negativity I was holding onto as a result of feeling hurt by others, as well as my own self-criticism and doubt. I realized I had a choice; I couldn’t control others, but I could let go of the bitterness and underlying stress that was inside as a result of the hurt that I had felt. Forgiveness is powerful. It allows us to extend grace, and to feel empathy and compassion. It lessens anxiety, can lower blood pressure, and makes us physically healthier.  Forgiveness can strengthen both our psychological and spiritual wellness.

orangetheoryshari Shari Shaffer, head coach at Orangetheory Mission Viejo
I realized that nothing makes me more hungry for progress than setting a fitness goal. When I started weight lifting, I would make every session about lifting heavier weight, until I finally entered a competition. When I started running, I pushed myself for longer distances until I finally trained for a marathon. Every time I crush one goal, I set another. It’s an endless cycle of motivation—who doesn’t need that?

christinebullock Christine Bullock, creator of Evolution 20 
People are constantly comparing the results of different workouts: is yoga better than HIIT or CrossFit more effective than Pilates?! But I realized that if you look at the fittest people in the world—professional athletes and Olympians—they don’t focus on just one form of fitness. They work to improve their movement in all aspects strength, like power, agility, speed, endurance, and stability. That’s when I realized that mixing up your workouts was the most effective method of exercise, and now combine everything together in my training like HIIT, weights, kettlebells, primal moves, ropes, tires, yoga and Pilates to get the best results.
Lindsay_StudioMDR
Lindsay Hallam, instructor at The Studio (MDR)
Throw away your scale! Nothing is worse than training hard, gaining lean muscle, and feeling discouraged (or becoming obsessed with!) the number you see. When I lost 50 pounds, I weighed 122 pounds and was a size 6. At The Studio (MDR), we take an athletic approach to Pilates, practicing the Lagree Method, and as I continued to train, I gained lean muscle which added weight to the scale but continued to shrink my size. Now I weigh more at 131 pounds, but I am a size 4. The best way to track your body’s progress is through using the way your clothes fit.
Sunnie_Bari_Newport
Sunny Yokoyama, instructor at Bari Studio in Newport Beach
I have to approach any fitness challenge with tons of confidence (and yes, sometimes it borders on cocky). I like to push myself really, really hard. In my head I’m thinking, ‘Bring it on, I’m going to kill this!’ during the toughest exercises and classes. I’ve learned that whether I’m the trainer or client, I have a better experience when I approach it as if I know I’m going to conquer and dominate the workout. And then I nail it.

(Photos: Lauren Crago: Jackson Lynch; Courtesy of Kimberly Barbato; Courtesy of Shari Shaffer;  Christine Bullock: Kathryn Page; Courtesy of Lindsay Hallam; Courtesy of Sunny Yokoyama)