This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association. All opinions are my own.
This month, it feels like life is pulling me in a million different directions. Sick puppy. New job. Moving. Keeping up with family. Making time for friends. 2 intramural sports teams. And one glorious Chicago summer that’s giving me a serious case of FOMO everytime I open Facebook or Instagram. How can I waste even one day of sunshine when Chicago winters are looming and ready to strike at any minute?!
This Saturday, I wasn’t too concerned about winter in the 90 degree heat and even higher level of humidity. The temps weren’t inspiring me to complete a sweaty workout and commute back into the Loop, but the prospect of meeting some celeb trainers and free workout swag was enough to get me to hop out of bed on time and line up inside of Macy’s early. And I’m glad I did! I strolled up to a line of energetic women all in their workout gear and engaged in comfortable chatter with who I can only imagine are some of their closest friends.
I don’t usually like to workout with anyone. I’m a get in, get out kind of a class-goer. I also don’t usually talk to people outside of the friends I have and acquaintances I know. I’m going to blame it on my generation, but it’s easier to scroll through Instagram or check emails than introduce myself to the people next to me. With all the energy in the room, I decided to be more mindful and present and talk to the women around me. In front of me were three women who let me in on their conversation about the weather and how they found out about the Go Red Get Fit event. Behind me was a woman who had traveled all the way from Indiana alone and had her master’s degree in public health.
We stuck together as we entered the room and I met a husband and wife who were passionate about exercise and doing more for the minority community. The husband was a physician and we talked (as I often do) about predispositions like heart disease and diabetes among African Americans and Latinos. I was well into my rant about the lack of culturally competent healthcare information for our community when it was time to get started.
I took a quick scan of the room and was so excited to see the majority of participants were minorities. It was a diverse group of women, men and a few children sprinkled in. It was easy to see everyone had come here for different reasons. Free workout. Free resources. Celeb trainers. Post-workout shopping. But as Ary Nuñez, Ashanti Johnson and Lita Lewis led us through the workouts, we were one community inspiring one another to do more for our health. To make our diet and exercise a priority. To be more mindful in our lives. To not quit in this daily journey. And to celebrate the small victories we overcome (even if it’s holding that squat for 10 more seconds than we would yesterday).
After our killer workout (I’m still a little sore as I type this), we went downstairs for a heart-healthy grilled chicken with strawberry and pineapple salsa cooking demo with chef Brian Alston. This paleo-friendly recipe was everything I needed after burning a few hundred calories. And I think I’ve finally wrapped my head around how to chop fruits and veggies without being at risk of losing a few fingers. Technique is everything! Chef Alston demonstrated the “claw” method that I’ve already adopted.
The fun continued with meet-and-greets with the three trainers, a raffle, aromatherapy samples and CPR demonstration. I had a chance to catch up with Ary Nuñez in person after years of social media and virtual communication. This Latina ninja-warrior is a legend. After talking with her, taking photos and emailing back and forth, I now consider her a tía and friend. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up when I’m in New York in October for a wedding.
I also had a chance to talk with Ashanti Johnson, fellow Chicagoan and #bosslady extraordinaire. Her mind, body and soul approach is so relatable and inspiring. And any class that allows me to mix hip-hop dance moves and cardio is a win in my book. Check out her Instagram for serious #GOALS. I’ll be stopping by one of her classes in the future for sure.
Lita Lewis and I also had a great conversation about the lack of resources out there for minority women and it got real really quick for both of us. Our cultures don’t always support taking care of your body first or stressing the importance of disease prevention. The media also doesn’t do a great job of featuring curvy and fit women of color. So let’s demand a little more, shall we? Let’s celebrate the bodies we’ve been given by taking care of them to the best of our abilities. Which means doing an insanely tough Lita workout every once in awhile.
For more information on events like these and to join the online #GoRedGetFit Community by the American Heart Association, check out their Facebook Group. You’ll find me and other women like you supporting each other on this beautiful journey.