Hi guys! I’ve got a fun post planned for you today! One thing I love about working in the wellness world is the inspiring stories of the people I come across. This summer I had the chance to connect with and take a class with Lauren Chiarello of Chi Chi Life. I found her energy and her story so inspiring, and I was so excited that she was game for a little career Q & A.
-How did you find your way into the wellness world?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was 23 years old. I beat it, trained for my first half marathon + then the cancer returned. Treatment the second time around was more rigorous – more chemo, stem cell collection, radiation, high dose chemotherapy + a stem cell transplant. Finding my new normal took about a year. Around that time, a friend introduced me to Core Fusion Barre at exhale. The method + my teachers changed my life. After being a student for 5 years, I wanted to try to inspire my students as my teachers had for me.
-Was there an “aha” moment where you realized you could do make this passion into a career?
I feel like there were a series of moments. Everything I do is from the heart. If I feel a gentle tug, I listen – even if I am afraid. I signed up for exhale’s Barre Teacher Training not knowing if I would teach. Once I finished, auditioned + was accepted into the 200 hour training program, I knew I had to make the leap to give teaching a true chance. In January 2015, I founded my company Chi Chi Life – a blend of my passions: fitness, fundraising event planning + cancer advocacy.
-How has your experience as a cancer survivor influenced the way you approach fitness/wellness?
Every day we are alive is a gift. I wake up each morning with a driving passion to help others. Life isn’t all rainbows + unicorns, but I strongly believe in the power of a positive attitude. We have a choice how we lead our lives + it’s pretty amazing that we have the power to change anything we want by taking small steps to reach our goal.
-It’s amazing how volunteer work is a part of your life. What are some ways people can fit that in even if they feel their time and money are limited?
Find what cause lights up your soul. Time commitments for volunteer role truly vary so I recommend doing some research + finding what will work with your schedule + bandwidth.
You can train for a race with Fred’s Team or cycle with a team for Cycle for Survival to raise funds for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – the place that gave me a second chance at this beautiful life. Email me if you’d like to join Team Chi Chi Life for Cycle for Survival in March.
New York Cares is a wonderful resource in which you can search by neighborhood, days /times when you’re available + cause you are interested in.
The brilliant Hannah Brencher founded The World Needs More Love Letters – a global organization using the power behind social media to write + mail letters to strangers all over the world. You can mail letters, leave letters or start a college campus chapter. Get involved here.
-What are some of your favorite pre- and post-workout foods?
Pre-workout, I love toast with peanut or almond butter. Sometimes I’ll top it with sliced banana – it’s a nice combo of carbs + protein to fuel me for the exercise ahead. Post-workout, I adore acai bowls. If I am out + about I get the PB Acai bowl at Juice Generation (with no PB on top to bring the calorie count down). For home, I buy the Sambazon packets in the grocery, add coconut water, ½ banana + frozen mango + blueberries + POOF …delicious + refreshing!
-What is something you wish people knew about fitness instructors?
We love you! We are honored to hold space for you. We are your biggest cheerleaders.
-What advice would you give to someone who’s new to exercise but wants to make it a regular part of their routine?
Take baby steps. It really can be overwhelming to start up a new routine. I recommend simply adding 1-2 days / week to get started. You’ll want to feel like you can accomplish each goal you set out to do. If you start out going from 0 to 5-6 days / week, that could be really difficult to achieve.
Find a workout that energizes you! Could be Zumba, yoga, Pilates, Barre, Spin – the options are endless. Trying a find a balance of both cardio + strength training for a well-rounded exercise plan.
If making it to class is tough, you can try out Mission360, a video on demand Wellness platform featuring content from top studios & instructors across the county for just $35/month! Use code CHICHI360 to get 50% off your first month of membership (valid through 9/30). Founder Erin Sykes is a fellow Villanova alum J
-Where can people take your classes and how can they connect with you?
Come play in one of my Barre classes at exhale or Pilates + TRX classes at Flex Studios. You can check out my current weekly teaching schedule on my website here. I host monthly #ChiChiSweatSesh gatherings in Central Park – a workout + picnic to benefit charity. I partner with fellow teachers to create a fun + festive workout – and we bring in an element of community service, with 100% of the proceeds benefit my guest teacher’s charity of choice. Next one is on Wednesday, September 13 at 7PM – HIIT with me + Pilates with Yvette Lenhart.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter, Chi Chi Pulse – it’s all about fitness, events, food, people, books + music. It’ll keep you in the loop about future classes / special events / retreats. Follow my adventures on Instagram @ChiChiLifeNYC + Facebook here.
Thank you, Lauren!
What inspires you guys?
This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.