Fitness leader and social media goddess (yes I said that) Stephanie Shultz (@xogingy) has over 20K followers on Instagram. In this image-driven world we’re living in, that says a lot.
Stephanie is also the Social Media Coordinator for POP Pilates and teaches her own weekly POP Pilates classes up in Canada. [If you haven’t discovered this effective and fun, mat-based workout yet, now’s your chance…it’s everywhere!] Founded by fitness leader Cassey Ho (aka @blogilates, #1 fitness YouTube channel with 31+million subscribers), POP Pilates is an upbeat, total body workout AND has a passionate community of fitness friends. It’s something Stephanie is personally invested in. After all, the Blogilates community, and Cassey Ho in particular, were the catalyst for helping her find peace from years of distorted eating and exercise habits.
In the U.S. where it is estimated that 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder (a diagnosable mental illness), and 86% of women on a college campus reported onset of eating disorder by the age of 20, she isn’t alone. Stephanie keeps a blog called “Xogingy’s self-discovery” where she talks about all of this. She tells thousands of her readers a raw and honest account of her personal fitness journey, and the constant struggles and successes with dieting and exercise.
So you get it now. She’s beautiful, young and smart (a tremendous, and potentially dangerous concoction of powerful attributes) but also has a powerful and evolving story to share that changes lives. I like to think of her as a true super-hero – she’s using her powers for good in this world. She is positive, uplifting and full of passion and she wants YOU to succeed.
I had the pleasure of interviewing this self-described peanut butter-loving, POP Pilates princess recently. I discovered how literally thousands of people identify with her eating struggles (it’s unreal how prevalent it is), how the Blogilates community gave her confidence, and how both positivity and coffee help this beautiful Canadian girl stay in the zone.
Here’s the interview (M for Michelle/me & S for Steph/XOGingy):
M: How would you describe your role in fitness?
S: I want people to realize that fitness isn’t just about looking a certain way or lifting a certain weight. I want people to thrive through fitness. I want that 1-hour class to shine through them for the rest of their day because it made them FEEL good. Instructing is a very small part of my role – I’m ultimately here to inspire people and show people that they are amazing and they can reach any goal they have, fitness related or not.
M: Did you know growing up that you would be doing what you do?
S: Absolutely NOT! I was never active growing up. I wasn’t particularly good at sports, so I stayed away from any kind of physical activity. So, naturally I never envisioned myself being a fitness instructor, or part of the fitness world at all!
M: How did you make the leap into fitness motivation, instruction, and education?
S: It all started with my own fitness journey. I was looking to get in shape, but as I mentioned, I was NEVER into fitness so I had no idea what to do. To me, the simpler the better. And not having to go into public was EVEN BETTER! So, I went to YouTube. I think I probably typed in “easy ab workout.” And someone by the name of Cassey Ho/Blogilates came up. It looked innocent enough, so I tried the workout. Oh boy! I was fooled haha What looked like some easy Pilates routine, was surprisingly SO HARD! But somehow I was hooked! Over the years I became very involved in the Blogilates community online and started reaching out to Cassey personally. She told me that POP was becoming a group fitness format and encouraged me to get certified. It all just kind of clicked. Why not make something I’m extremely passionate about into my job? So that’s what I did.
M: How have your past struggles influenced you?
S: As a child I was very insecure and unhappy with not only my body, but with myself. I always felt like I had this person inside of me who was capable of great things, but for some reason I just couldn’t let her out. A lot of it had to do with how I felt about my appearance. Of course now I know that the way you look does not determine who you are as a person. But, the way you THINK about yourself is everything. Now, I embrace self-love and I want people to just FEEL good about themselves. My childhood has taught me not to hold back, to just be myself, and I want to help other people do the same.
M: What’s your leadership style like?
S: I believe you lead by example. I’m here to coach and lead people in the right direction, but I’m also aware that students (and people online) look to me as motivation or maybe even inspiration. I take that very seriously and I’m considerably careful about what I represent to the world.
M: What does a typical day look like for you?
S: Well, I’m an early riser. I’m talking 6am even on weekends. I’m the most productive in the morning, so I take advantage. I get a solid breakfast in, do some work and usually hit the gym for my personal workout by 8:30am-ish. Then I come home and work as the POP Pilates Social Media Coordinator (among other things for Blogilates) for the rest of the day. Yep – I work from home! Then I hit up my evening job – teaching POP 3 times a week at a local studio. It’s not your typical work-day or job, but I’m extremely blessed to be doing what I do!
M: What’s the hardest part about what you do?
S: I work for Blogilates, and their HQ is based in Los Angeles. I’m working from home, in Canada. It’s hard not physically being with the team every day. I know the dynamic would be completely different for me if I was there with them. Being around the vision and the mission would make work completely different.
M: How do you push through this challenge?
S: I know that I am EXTREMELY blessed to be doing what I do and every day I remind myself of that A LOT.
M: What helps you stay in the zone?
S: Coffee? Can that be my answer? But seriously, I have always been a very motivated person. When I want to accomplish something I work hard to do it. Having focus and a positive mindset are everything. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.
M: Yes, coffee can definitely be your answer! So, what’s your advice for someone who wants to work in the fitness field?
S: Know your stuff, but let your personality do the rest. Fitness is a really personal thing and I think a good instructor/motivator is someone who is simply themselves. People can tell when you’re fake, so just be you!
@xogingy’s quirky and real social media tiles for her 20K+ Instagram followers.
M: Is there a missing piece to your story, or any plans in the future?
S: Well! I never mentioned the part of me having a past unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. As I embarked on my own fitness journey, it turned into an eating disorder. I know that term can be thrown around a lot, and even though I was never diagnosed by a doctor, I suffered for a few years obsessing over “eating clean” and over-exercising. My life was dictated by the scale. Through A LOT of self-discovery, I realized that the underlying issue had to do with other insecurities in my life. I was unhappy at university and deep-down I knew that my “life plan” of becoming a teacher wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I suppressed those feelings and tried to control my life through food and exercise. All this lead me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have the job, or have met so many incredible people if I didn’t go through that period of struggle. I believe all your struggles turn into strengths and they happened for a reason.
As for the future, it’s vague, but I just want to continue doing what I’m doing – helping people love their bodies and feel good about themselves so they can reach their full potential in life.