San Francisco Stories: SoulCycle Instructor & Movemeant Founder Jenny Gaither

Welcome back to another installation of the SF Stories series!

In the first few posts of this series I was able to chat with some truly inspirational and downright amazing women here in San Francisco. One lovely lady focused on healthy living, one on the arts, one on business, another on changing the fashion industry, and most recently, on fitness and inspiring others to find their best self.

Today I’m THRILLED to welcome Miss Jenny Gaither to MCLV to chat about her charity, her passions, her career with SoulCycle, and where she’s heading next.

I connected with Jenny through her charity The Movemeant Foundation and the oh-so-motivational, badass fitness festival Dare to Bare here in San Francisco.

MCLV: Tell us about your fitness background and how you ended up being a trainer and fitness guru here in San Francisco.

My love for moving began at the age of seven when I discovered dance. It flourished throughout my tween and teenage years where I began to dance professionally.  However, it also led me to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I danced on scholarship. It was there that I built a solid foundation as a teacher and trainer and in fact, even had the chance to teach for the U of I Dance Department while simultaneously getting my Pilates certification.

After a move to NYC after graduation, I continued to teach dance, Pilates and personal training for several more years until I was encouraged to audition for SoulCycle, which ultimately became my dance class on a bike—a way to create a physical connection to a more confident sense of self.

Six years later, I’ve taught in multiple cities to thousands upon thousands of riders, but am thrilled to call the Bay my home base.  And it’s through that Bay Area support that my career is coming full circle with the start of my hip hop cardio dance program, Notorious FIT.

SoulCycle Fitness Trainer Movemeant Foundation San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Food Fitness Lifestyle Blogger

MCLV: Being a SoulCycle instructor is a huge achievement. I’ve heard about how challenging (and inspirational) the confirmation process is, and I’ve experienced the badass-ery that is a well-run SoulCycle class. When did you get involved with SoulCycle?

I started teaching at SoulCycle in 2009 when there was only one studio in a rear lobby on W. 72nd Street in NYC. There wasn’t even a sign on the door. I was introduced to the company through a friend who found a listing for a front desk position on Craigslist. I was looking for another part-time job at the time and had no idea I was walking into a goldmine on my way to my interview. I knew I struck gold when I met the founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler. In my interview with Julie she told me her vision for the company — she had BIG plans to give people a platform to discover a better version of themselves while building a healthy and sustainable relationship with fitness. She also wanted to give female fitness instructors the opportunity to make a career (with benefits) as a professional in the fitness world, without having to hop around from studio to studio. I was hooked.

MCLV: You’ve set yourself up as a truly motivational champion of body image – From non-profit work to hosting local events to teaching fitness classes. What’s the story that has led you to this point?

Full disclosure – Throughout my 20-year journey as a professional in the fitness industry I battled body image issues and eating disorders. As a dancer and a fitness professional in my early 20’s, the pressure to be thin and perfect became unbearable. The only time I could escape the pressure and expectations I faced daily from the media and my peers was when I was moving. Whether I was on a run, in a dance class, or on a bike; moving reminded me of my strength, resilience, and power.

Running up a hill makes me feel strong. Sprinting on a bike reminds me of how much I love my body. Dancing reminds me that my body is unique, that my body is my sanctuary and my vehicle to elevate not only myself but to elevate and empower others. Movement has helped me see and find qualities in myself that I love, regardless of my appearance.

While teaching in New York at the age of 22 in 2011, I quickly realized most women battle insecurities and body image issues. At that time I personally needed a community, support, and a platform to overcome my own uphill battle toward finding self-love, acceptance, and a healthy relationship with my body. After a ton of research I couldn’t find anything out there that helped women build positive body image and confidence through movement. Knowing how hard it was for me to be bombarded by images from the media that glorify women as thin and perfect, I couldn’t help but think about how young girls and teenage girls feel. This is when I decided to create what is now, Movemeant Foundation, in 2014.

SoulCycle Fitness Trainer Movemeant Foundation San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Food Fitness Lifestyle Blogger

MCLV: As a recent stalker of all things Movemeant {Website, Twitter, instagram, Facebook…} I can probably repeat the website description verbatim, but I’d love to hear from you about this organization.

I believe that every body is meant to move. Moving is one of the most powerful tools to connect to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In order to change, grow, and evolve as humans we must first be self-aware. Awareness comes from connecting, understanding, and accepting who we are, our bodies included. The more confident and comfortable we feel in our skin, the more confident and comfortable we will feel making decisions and taking actions to pursue our dreams personally and professionally.

One issue is that not everyone moves. More than half of this country in fact is battling obesity and other heart related diseases from being sedentary. There are a few key reasons why people are not moving; 1. fitness and physical movement can be very intimidating and unapproachable, 2. there’s a lack of education, resources, and funding toward physical education programs, and 3. most people haven’t found a love and a passion for a physical modality that’s approachable and sustainable for their lifestyles.

The second issue is that over 30% of young girls are skipping at least one meal a day.  Over 60% of women in a national studies dislike their bodies, and as a country, we spend about 40 billion dollars a year are spent on diet plans and supplements. These issues are causing young girls to develop body dysmorphia, body image issues, insecurities, and depression at a much quicker rate, at a much younger age.

I chose to create Movemeant because I can’t stand back and watch women (and men), friends, colleagues, and peers struggle from body image issues and physical inactivity. I want Movemeant Foundation to be a driving force in creating the next generation of female leaders and influencers.

MCLV: I was checking out the Notorious F.I.T. Instagram page and it looks like an exciting new adventure for you! Can you share a little with the MCLV readers about what this latest venture is and what your goals are for the business?

An opportunity recently presented itself to teach dance again, so I decided to curate a high-energy, beginner cardio hip hop class that I’m now calling Notorious F.I.T. I will be debuting my new class at Shape Magazine’s ‘Shape Body Shop’ event at Hudson Lofts in LA on June 18th! After Shape Body Shop I plan on teaching Notorious F.I.T. in SF, on the road at Movemeant Foundation events, and hope to create a collection of classes and workouts on my Youtube Channel.

 

Missed out on the previous SF Stories pieces? Check out my interviews with healthy living guru Nataliia Karpenkomodel, actress & singer Jenefer Taylor, online entrepreneur Jia Wertz of Studio 15, Project Runway alum and fashion designer Candice Cuoco of House of CCUOCO, and nurse & fitness instructor Chichi.

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