Tell us about you. How did you get into fitness and coaching?
I’ve always been an active person – growing up I loved to dance. I would choreograph my own moves to the latest songs and pretend I was performing in front of people. Sometimes my mother would get upset because it was getting in the way of my school work and chores. =)
My fascination with group fitness began when I took a cardio kick-boxing class as a college freshman. The instructor was beautiful and charismatic, and I was inspired by her style and personality. I felt empowered and strong after each class – the music, moves, and collective energy of the crowd gave me this buzz. I was fortunate that this instructor saw my potential and was willing to coach me. I learned to turn on this level of intensity during my instruction that can energize the crowd, without sapping me of my own energy. My first teaching gigs were at a gym in East Oakland, so I developed a tough, urban style. My instructor persona is an “on/off” button that I can press.
I’ve taught group fitness for over 10 years, and I absolutely love it. It has gotten me through many emotional challenges in my life – it is my outlet and my gift to share with the world. I get an adrenaline rush every time I teach a large group of students. I feel blessed that I have this vehicle to transmit my strength, passion and positive energy into a crowd on a daily basis. I love to see students leave the group fitness room strong, proud, glowing with sweat, and with big smiles on their faces. It makes the long days and hard work – 4:30am alarms, hours of playlist assembly and workout design — worth every bit of the effort.
How would you describe your coaching style?
My style varies slightly depending on the format that I am teaching, but I am always strong, knowledgeable, and direct in my instruction. While I change up my quips, stories and fashion, I keep my overall fitness persona consistent so that my students feel secure and comfortable in my classes. I emphasize form and technique in order to teach students to correctly execute movements even when they’re not in my class. I currently teach barbell training, circuit training, core strength, and kickboxing. I infuse my teaching with motivational snippets to remind students of their own strength to push through their perceived physical limitations. I want all students to feel strong and capable. I foster an atmosphere where students can push towards their individual fitness goals, while working out in a fun, non-judgmental, non-competitive fitness community.
How do you stay centered?
I’ve battled anxiety all of my life. In past years it was somewhat debilitating, and would keep me up until the wee hours of the night. Over the past few years, I’ve devised ways to bring it under control so that I can balance an increasingly demanding schedule. Certain playlists of songs (mostly rap or hip-hop) bring me into an empowered mind frame. I also read a lot of personal development material to feed my mind with positive, inspiring information. I keep my favorite encouraging quotes on my phone, by my desk, and in a special binder to reference whenever I need a hit of positivity. No matter how busy I am, I stretch for at least 5 minutes daily, with a favorite slow song in the background, to decompress and re-center.
My favorite way to stay centered is through gratitude. I have a little book near my coffee maker, and in morning as my coffee is brewing, I write down three simple things that I am genuinely grateful for. I appreciate all that I have and all that I am in this moment in time.
What’s your favorite exercise?
My first teaching love will always be cardio kickboxing. It’s a balance of tough edginess and smooth, strong movements. It’s also a great cardio workout and a very versatile format to teach. Depending on the level and vibe of the crowd, I spice it up with a little shake (my dance background) or keep it sharp, simple and focused. I’ve taught thousands of cardio kickboxing classes, but it’s still new, fresh, and fun to me. I plan and design my own classes, and some sequences are just plain badass, especially when I pair them up with big pulsating beats. It really revs up the crowd excitement.
When I work out alone, I love to lift in the weight room. It’s just me in my head, no glamour or performance, working with my own power and strength. Plain and simple.
What would be your greatest life lesson and what did you learn about yourself?
My greatest life lesson would be to define success on my own terms. I read an excerpt to this effect out of a book on leadership, and it really resonated with me. I simply cannot and will not live by the standards and judgments of others. This is my journey and my path to walk, and I have unique gifts and talents that I need to share with the world in my own way. I regularly reflect on what success means to me: doing what makes me feel energized and happy on a regular basis, living purposefully and comfortably, and nurturing a loving support system. I regularly assess and recalibrate my daily routines to ensure that I’m aligned with this definition. I also continually set and tackle goals so that I feel success through small but meaningful achievements.
BONUS: Tupac or Biggie?
Neither. Rick Ross. I am forever indebted to “The Boss” and his majestic beats for dramatically improving the quality of my workouts and my life.
Connect with Gitanjali Borkar