At Vuori, we aim to inspire others to be happy, healthy, and live extraordinary lives. From that came our tag line —The Rise The Shine. The rise represents the climb of the mountain, staying present in the face of challenges, and making the choice to keep going.The shine represents the feeling you get when you reach the summit, the feeling of being truly inspired. We are big fans of the human spirit and love witnessing others pursue their dreams, which is why we are excited to introduce The Rise The Shine series, where we tap into our community and share their stories. This month we are featuring writer, speaker, and strength coach, Chrissy King.
Social justice has always been at the core of the work I do. With degrees in Social Welfare and Justice and Sociology, I’ve always been passionate about understanding the importance of taking an intersectional approach to the work we do, regardless of the industry. After deciding to become a fitness professional and seeing how much the industry lacked a diverse, inclusive, and intersectional approach, I became passionate about applying a social justice lens to the wellness industry. When I think of the work I do within the wellness industry now, it’s the perfect merger of the things I’m most passionate about -- fitness and wellness and social justice.
And while I’m so grateful for the work I get to do now, it was a journey finding my way here, and the path was less than conventional.
For starters, I did not work out while growing up in elementary and middle school. I wasn't into sports or athletics at all. I enjoyed reading and writing and that type of stuff. Then, at the age of 16 or 17, I started yoyo dieting. And, honestly, it was just because I had gained some weight. My parents were going through a divorce, so it was a difficult period in my life. It didn't actually bother me until a boy in my class commented on how 'he could tell I'd been eating good.' My face burned with embarrassment in that moment. So I thought, 'oh my God, I need to do something about this.'
The only thing I knew to do was to go on the Atkins diet, because I had previously heard my mom's friend talking about it and how she'd lost a bunch of weight. So I drove to the bookstore and I got a book, started following it religiously, and did lose a lot of weight. Then everybody at school said 'oh my God, you look so great.' I received so much validation for the way I looked, and that started me down the path of yoyo dieting for the next decade of my life.
I did all these extreme diets and extreme cardio, but then I couldn't maintain it, gained the weight back, and just went through these cycles. What really changed for me is that, at one point, my younger sister decided to join the gym because she wanted to get in better shape. So I joined the gym with her, we both got trainers, and I remember I told my trainer that my goal was only one thing: I wanted to be skinny. And she said, okay, cool, let's go to the weight section. I was really resistant to it at first because in my mind I said, no, I don't want to have big, bulky muscles.
She was the first person that really taught me the value of strength training for physical change, but through that process, I realized that my body could do things I didn't think it could. It was really challenging at first, but eventually, I grew stronger and could do a lot of things I never thought I was capable of.
Through a series of events, I found myself training at a small strength and conditioning gym. For the first time in my life, I saw women powerlifting, a strength sport that consists of bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting. I was intrigued, despite the fact that I had never even held a barbell in my hands. After a couple of months of casual observing, the owner encouraged me to try it for myself, and it was love at first lift.
Powerlifting was transformative for me both mentally and physically. I spent the majority of my twenties focused on shrinking — my body, my voice, and my life in general. I obsessed with my weight and truly believed that my happiness lay on the other side of fat loss. Powerlifting changed that. It allowed me to stop focusing all of my energy on what my body looked like and to start seeing all that it could do.
I finally grasped how strong and capable I was — I even competed in powerlifting competitions and would regularly deadlift over 400 pounds. It also helped me realize that my body is not an object for consumption. I am not an ornament or decoration for the world, and I don’t have to conform to cultural standards of beauty. I realized my life’s purpose wasn’t to be skinny — and I stopped obsessing over the scale — instead, I learned to love, appreciate, and accept my body in all of its iterations.
Thanks to powerlifting, I also stopped playing small and learned to take up more space in the world, unapologetically and authentically. It also impacted how I viewed the stories I told myself about my abilities. After all, if the narrative about being physically weak was a lie, what other lies had I been telling myself? Powerlifting allowed me to tap into my unrealized potential in nearly every facet of my existence, and gave me the strength to start sharing my truth in the world, and is even the thing that led me down an entirely different career path as a fitness professional.
The feelings that I experienced from strength training led me to embark in a career in fitness as a trainer. I wanted to help other people realize the transformative power of strength training as well. While working full time in my corporate job, I worked part time as a trainer, with the hope of eventually leaving my corporate job and working full time in fitness.
Working long days of sometimes 17 hours, I didn’t leave my office job at first. Instead, I trained on the side for nearly 3 years. I knew that I loved fitness but I also had a safe and secure salary that I had worked hard to achieve. In 2018, I finally took the leap into full-time personal training.
My hard work paid off and in 2019, about one year after leaving my 9 to 5 job, I was making more as a personal trainer and online coach than she had at her day job. But more importantly, I was making an impact in an industry that I was really passionate about. Beyond just training and helping people through the journey of Body Liberation, I also have the opportunity to work towards creating a more inclusive wellness industry because wellness is for everyone.
EveryBODY deserves to feel welcome, seen, respected, and celebrated — especially while they're moving their bodies. And while the journey may look different for each person, the transformative power of building strength and tapping into your personal power can be life-altering and affirming.
Through my own experience and through the experience of being a coach, I've come to really strongly believe that strength training is so transformative for people. What I've noticed the most in my clients (and myself too) is that a lot of people have undergone physical transformation and change, but that's not the part that is the most impactful for people.
Physical strength begets mental strength, in my opinion. The lessons you learn from strength training, you can transfer to every area of life.
Through powerlifting, I healed my relationship with my body and changed the stories I was telling myself that prevented me from feeling confident and whole. These days, I’m the strongest that I’ve ever been in my entire life — both mentally and physically. And while I did end up transforming my body, the mindset shifts that resulted from powerlifting are the real, and lasting, victory.
The transformative power and mental fortitude that comes from building physical strength is undeniable. This realization is what sparked my passion to help create a health and fitness industry that is more inclusive, representative, and accessible. Through advocacy, education and access, we can disrupt the status quo and change the face of the entire fitness and wellness industry. And these days, through writing and consulting, I’m fortunate to be doing my part to work towards an industry that is more affirming for everyone.
Written by Chrissy King