Chinae Alexander, our resident Team PowerBar fitness guru, is an ambitious and multi-talented entrepreneur. With her own event planning business in addition to her personal fitness brand, Chinae is constantly working to inspire and encourage others on their fitness journeys. She started her fitness/lifestyle Instagram account a year ago and on a daily basis she uses her social influence to create real, lasting change in the lives of over 125,000 people. She believes in the power of change through positive thinking and bold risk taking.
Her community extends far beyond social media accounts, she encourages those who follow along to seek lasting relationships outside of a digital platform. She is currently building a brand beyond just fitness, one that encourages people to be better through wellness of mind, body, and a lot of laughter. Chinae sat down with us and, as always, kept it real when discussing her personal fitness journey and how she stays at the top of her game.
Can you describe what a typical day entails for you?
One of the things about being an entrepreneur is my schedule is constantly evolving. My days are never the same, I don’t think I’ve lived an identical day in the last two years. Although, I do have some patterns that help shape my “typical” day.
It’s important to me to start my day with exercise, whether that’s a session with my trainer, yoga or SoulCycle first thing. Frequently, I have some kind of photoshoot- either with a brand, my personal photographer or an Adidas photoshoot. There is always some aspect of content creation at this point in my day.
Another consistent part of my day is attending events. It’s important to know what’s going on in the wellness community in order for me to stay on top of my game. These events are a good place to create community and meet new people which is by far the best parts of my job.
Then I make sure to create some pockets of space in my day for rest. When I first visited New York in high school, I popped into a West Village café during a torrential downpour. This was before cell phones so everyone was just sitting and enjoying their coffee and conversation. Coming from Texas, this is a culture I had never seen before- middle of day sitting down to enjoy a coffee? At that very moment I knew there was magic here. I try to keep that in mind especially when my schedule gets a little crazy. I sit down for coffee and create space for myself.
My life and my work are always on-the-go. Sometimes my office is an Uber. I literally do lots of work cars, trains and while walking in the City. I work wherever I can find time throughout the day. I’m fortunate that I really love what I do, sometimes I’ll be working until 2:00 am or until my brain gives out and I physically cannot look at my phone anymore. I know I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me so I want to make sure I’m taking advantage of everything that is thrown my way.
You spoke briefly about when you decided to move to New York. What about New York City has helped you discover your brand and the value you can bring to other people?
Well, I’m pretty sure when I was 8, Home Alone 2 was the huge influence, Ha! I saw Home Alone 2 when I was 8 and I told my mom I was going to move to New York City, and it turns out I was right about this place. I was always attracted to the hustle and bustle of New York, the energy of it all. I’ve been here for ten years now and I’m still falling in love with the City. (Laughs) Sometimes it’s like a bad relationship. I get so tired, but then it will be that first warm day of spring and the City takes on a new life. The New York magic pops up and there’s nothing like it. Another thing I really appreciate about the City is that it has to be rooted in community to work. New York can function because people have to depend on each other. It is a place that continues to surprise and delight me everyday.
What or who initially motivated you to get started on your fitness journey?
I started my fitness journey independently of my social media journey. When I started my fitness journey, I was at a baby shower with male friend (we were both overweight at the time) and I was happy as a clam. I felt very fulfilled and very confident about the way I looked. We were talking and he said he was going to start eating better, and I thought I bet I can do that too. Then I did. I haven’t stopped since. I lost 70 lbs in the next two and half years but I’ve learned so much more beyond the physical. I think I was able to do it because I didn’t start this journey from a place of disappointment in myself, I started from a place of discipline and self love.
A lot of people ask how I began my fitness journey. If I went to a ton of classes or if I had a trainer…but the real answer is that I went to the Brooklyn library and checked out Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia for Modern Body Building as step one. I thought, I’m going to learn how to lift weights and teach myself how the body works. It taught me how to be more confident when I went to the gym for the first time. I had a lot of fun learning how to be fit and teaching myself how to cook healthy food. There were difficult times, but overall I really enjoyed the process.
Where did @GetFitBrooklyn (your former Instagram handle) come from?
@GetFitBrooklyn started when I was applying for a job at ClassPass. My friend Abby recommended that I apply. @GetFitBrooklyn was my visual resume for my application. At the time I had 300 followers and no experience but I told the interviewer I thought I would be really good at it. Apparently, people don’t hire you based on thinking you’d be really good at something ha…Anyway, I didn’t get the job but I really enjoyed the community I was creating with @GetFitBrooklyn. I was meeting and communicating with people from all over the country and the all over the world and I loved that social media made that possible. I started this journey two years ago, and it has grown organically since then. It blows my mind that there are almost 130,000 people who I am able to create community with on a daily basis.
You simultaneously became a fitness guru and started your own event planning business. How did you do it?
I was a Marketing Director for eight years in New York- I was primarily working in design, although I did some events. I honestly loved my job. I really enjoyed what I was doing and felt like I was good at it. My boss and I became good friends over time. One Wednesday he pulled me aside and we went to lunch, I remember that day so clearly, it was a really fancy restaurant…Anyway he told me “You’re not supposed to be here anymore, you’re supposed to be an entrepreneur.” And he pretty much forced me to leave. He gave me two months of payment and told me to start a company. I felt like a skydiver who wasn’t ready to jump, but got pushed out of the plane. After lunch, I walked in the snow for two hours after that and eventually ended up in a diner on 33rd and Lexington ave. I wrote down all the things I liked about my job, what I wanted to do with my life, and what I liked to do in my spare time. I realized what’s important to me was people and working with people. That had to be the foundation of anything I did. I started my own event planning business two years ago. There were many times I was afraid of the uncertainty of it all but being forced out into the entrepreneurial life was the best thing that’s happened to me.
This January, I found myself with so many opportunities. In the wellness space and especially for my own brand. I decided to give event planning a breather. This is the year of mono-tasking. I want to focus on myself and my brand. I’m still doing exactly what I said I wanted to do. At the end of the day, I do people. Things are shifting and moving but helping people will always be at the focal point of what I’m doing.
Were you surprised how quickly your social media accounts became a space for fitness inspiration?
Every day I am completely shocked that people from all around the world choose to share their lives with me. People stigmatize social media; it’s one-sided, let me tell you about my life, this is who I am. My experience has been the exact opposite. Social media has been about learning about other people’s lives. I meet hundreds of people from Instagram; some of my closest friends, in fact. It’s an amazing tool to build family and community. Every day I am surprised that people share sensitive areas of their lives with me, from a 13 year old girl struggling with body image to a 58 year old woman trying to find herself apart from her kids. I’m honored that they would think of me as part of their everyday life. People check in with me, which is really sweet. I don’t like the term “followers”- that implies a one way scenario. This experience has been such a two way relationship. When people reach out to me, I feel like we’re already friends. They are the reason I get to do the things I do and I never forget that. They never go unappreciated.
What’s the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to overcome? How were you able to succeed?
For me, it’s been letting go of what I thought my life would be like. I’ll admit, I’m a complete control freak. I am tightly wound in the sense that I’m a planner and I want to know what’s ahead of me. But life has surprised me with wonderful things and I feel blessed to do what I’m doing. In January of this year, I decided to take a break from event planning and really focus on my personal brand. It’s been a struggle not knowing what’s coming next but it has led me to finding my purpose. It’s not one obstacle or moment that I’ve had to overcome, it’s continually trying to improve myself and trust the journey.
What’s your goal setting process?
I used to get a high off of the “What’s your five year plan?” question. Now, I would say my goals got smaller and my visions got bigger. My goals are very simple: continue to keep my fitness up, continue to be myself, and share all of it with my community. Keeping goals small makes for a life full of small wins. My vision is to continue to make the world a better place, in whatever way I can.
What’s the best part about being your own boss?
The best part of being a boss is getting to set the culture for your own life and work. I love that I get to decide how my brand interacts with the world. I choose my messaging and how I talk to people from a micro and macro level. I used to struggle with how I represent something that wasn’t my own. Now, I get to do things the way I want to do them.
If you could change one thing about your life thus far, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything. I think everything that has happened has been purposeful. I’m so grateful for everything I have learned especially over the last two years. I would have, however, loved to tell my earlier self, you can laugh at some of this stuff. You don’t have to take everything so seriously. I think I’ve gained a better sense of humor about what’s going on around me.
What’s the best advice you can give people when they are trying to balance getting their workouts in with a busy schedule?
The main message I want to project into the world is forgiveness. I want to remove shame and guilt in how we see ourselves. Forgiving ourselves for not being perfect is freedom. Not associating food or exercise or working out with shame or guilt. Not feeling that you aren’t enough if your body isn’t society’s ideal. Not beating yourself up if you don’t meet everyone’s expectations in your life.
I believe you won’t be the best version of yourself if you are not practicing self-care. Whether that’s an hour long workout, or a $10 juice, or a relaxing facial… self- care is important; continue to care and make room for yourself. As for balancing m exercise, I’m constantly encouraging people, to take advantage of their small pockets of time. You have fifteen minutes? You can go for a run around the block. Twenty minutes? Put on a Drake album on and relax. Take an hour to do some yoga in the park. Whatever it looks like for you to be well is important. You can’t take care of others well if you don’t care for yourself first.