Have you ever known someone and, within the first five minutes of talking with them, you begin to divulge personal information that you would normally not do with people outside your “inner circle”? It’s as if suddenly some deep truths, without any conscious effort, leap out of our mouth because somehow you know this girl can be trusted, and she gets it. That’s Michaela.
Michaela Hardin is a Zumba instructor, personal trainer, bootcamp coach, and proud wife and mother from Kent, WA. She’s known for her jam-packed dance fitness classes, parties and bootcamps. Her classes are an experience; they’re addictive, positive and just plain fun. Most importantly, Hardin knows how to connect with a huge crowd making each person feel so encouraged, that they feel like a dancing king or queen.
I met Michaela 5 years ago when I was way outside my comfort zone doing dance fitness (you know the drill… a friend drags you along). She and her hip hop, booty shaking self got me to shake it and not break it right along with the rest of her people. I felt so happy and free. So, I knew I needed to do a spotlight interview on this fitness leader for CollabFitness!
The Power of Positive Group Accountability
I had an opportunity recently to interview Michaela to figure out what makes her tick. For her it’s family, faith and connecting with people. OK, and fitness too!
I discovered her most recent passion – doing bootcamps called beYOUtifulbootcamp. It’s where she really gets an opportunity to help people lose weight, find health and joy. She has a unique approach of having group accountability in each session. She asks a question of the day before the workout, and encourages participants to share gratitude, disappointments, laughter, tears and leads them in understanding why they showed up to workout.
“In my bootcamps and classes positivity reigns, there’s no complaining or husband-bashing, because words create your environment, they create your world.” And in exchange, she, too, is vulnerable with them. “They know all my stuff too,” she explains with a smile.
With some members losing upwards of 82-inches while attending her fitness programs, this culture of community approach when it comes to exercise seems to be working.
Hardin isn’t alone in the phenomenon of offering body and life-changing experiences. Harvard Divinity Students interviewed CrossFitters and SoulCycle enthusiasts when they were looking for spiritual communities outside of actual churches. In their report, “How We Gather,” they write: “The two most striking things … are their evangelical enthusiasm and the way they hold one another to account.… Strikingly, spaces traditionally meant for exercise have become the locations of shared, transformative experience.”
Michaela has noticed this shift of traditional exercise-turned-meaningful community experience herself, but also notes that even a “good thing” like exercise can become too much a part of one’s life. A churchgoer herself, Michaela isn’t into sacrificing schedules and spending hours on end at the gym. For her, it takes time away from family and life.
“We’re not here for a bikini competition. We’re here to do this for life,” she tells her participants.
In an industry that too often encourages extreme dieting and exercise addiction she’s extremely clear with her students about the negative consequences. She helps students to find balance with health.
Positive Body Image and Fitness for Preteen Girls
Michaela also shines a light into the darkness of girls’ adolescent years by conducting fitness camps for pre and early teens girls where the last 15 minutes are reserved for discussing body image, fitness and life.
According to pediatrician Elissa Gittes, MD, because of the media’s obsession with “model thin” body types and celebrity obsessions with weight, “…girls at younger ages [are] starting to be dissatisfied with their bodies, proactively trying to change them, and feeling like they need to emulate something different than what their bodies can do.”
Because of this thin-obsession crisis Michaela drives home the importance of internal strength for the youth she works with.
Her goal is preventative: getting young girls to create a healthy body image of themselves and establish balanced fitness patterns early on in life.
Fun Fitness for All
Michaela represents a refreshing shift in fitness. One that’s approachable, positive and, well let’s be honest, kind of addictive. Although there are extremes on both ends of the fitness spectrum, Michaela is certainly among the “balanced fitness + fun” instructors.
One minute she’s got you doing the Merengue Beto Shuffle with attitude or making you do a reverse fly on camera, with a sweaty smile, and the next moment, she’s opening up to you, inspiring you and sharing her own struggles and successes…. and making you feel comfortable to do the same thing.