Andia Winslow is part of Oxygen’s digital series In Progress 52. In 2016, Oxygen's Very Real digital hub is featuring 52 of these outstanding women: that's one woman a week, for 52 weeks. Check out the series here!
Andia Winslow is a master certified fitness professional who co-created the popular online series and endeavor, The Fit Cycle. Launched with her best friend and filmmaker, Monique Walton, The Fit Cycle addresses the correlation between low-income households and bad health.
Winslow graced us with a visit (and an office workout) at Oxygen, proving just how active she is every second of the day, and how stiff we've all become from our day-to-day routines. By being a light of beauty, humor, and constant movement- Winslow makes it obvious that we don't have to be inactive slobs. There's more that can be done to imrpove our health, even when we're unable to go to the imaginary gym we're not members of.
Winslow got into the world of fitness while training as a pro-golfer. After being picked up for Team USA track and field, she trained in sprinting, and was also primed for Olympic bobsled and skeleton in Russia for 2014. Although she didn't make the cut, the knowledge and experience she gained was tremendous. She basically does everything.
As a professional athlete, personal trainer, and ambassador for the American Heart Association, Winslow's main goal now is to educate the masses - particularly those who lack financial resources - with ways that they can get it in where they can fit it in. That's working out no matter where you are and where you may go, whether it's in the gym or "weird" places like on the train, at the job, in the kitchen, or waiting for your number to be called at the DMV. From hosting her very own Olympics workout at Crunch, to planning a return to the pro-athlete world, Winslow is dedicated to transforming lifestyles in fun and impactful ways, no matter your shape, size, tax bracket, or daily schedule.
Andia demonstrates conference call toe raises in the workplace, where you raise your heels off the ground as high as you can.
So, how did you get into the world of fitness activism?
A couple of things. I was a caretaker for someone that was terminally ill - my grandfather. And so, taking care of him kind of made me start thinking deeply about what does caregiver mean, what does self-care mean, what does preservation of communities mean? And I realized a lot of communities that I was involved with, had issues in this area. [Later], I lived in Arizona near a place called Gila River Indian community - and they have the highest rate of Type II Diabetes in the entire world. And that is completely unacceptable. This is near a major city. Five minutes out of a major city. And you got first nation people who are not well. How can a community persist if the people are not well? So when I moved to New York, I lived in East Harlem. Same issues: Diabetes, heart disease, just sedentary behavior. These cultures are so rich in history and language and legacy and culture and collaboration - how come they’re not healthy? So that really started me thinking.
What is a fitness activist?
A couple years ago, a gentleman named Kevin Powell, who’s a writer and a former reality TV guy, gave me this moniker 'fitness activist.' Inherent in the word activism is action; action is the opposite of inaction, it’s about creation of force and alteration of force. Fitness is about the will to survive, so fitness activist is someone who helps folk understand how to make people empowered in their own bodies and their own space and just to be active and well and that’s what I like to do. I’m encouraged by kinetic story-telling and just people being happy and well.
And to combat these issues, you created The Fit Cycle. Can you tell us more about that?
The Fit Cycle is a cinematic wellness endeavor that I started with my best friend Monique Walton and she’s a filmmaker. She just went to Cannes and she’s going to Sundance. We created this film series, it’s part movie and part movements, so we try to encourage folks to be more active and engaged in their daily lives using odd objects and odd spaces to be more active. We use a tagline: get it in where you can fit it in. That means working out in the Laundromat, working out en route to work on the subway, working out in your kitchen, working out with your kids on the playground; we’re trying to encourage folks to be more involved in self-care and self-preservation.
So what are some of the main things that you find that hold people back from working out?
The thought that they don’t deserve it, [that] they don’t deserve to have wellness and to be well, that it’s for the [so-called] "skinny lovely people." I think the gift I would give them is the knowledge that they are worth it and that it doesn’t take much to get started. The key is you just have to move. Just start by moving, whether that’s walking down the street, whether that’s engaging accountability partner online or your family, your friends, just begin moving. I think what other folks don’t realize is that it’s not just about the movement, it’s also about what you eat, and what you drink, and how you sleep, and how you recover. So it’s about creating this comprehensive lifestyle that’s going to be beneficial and not detrimental.
Let's say a person is a little embarrassed to be working out in a Laundromat. How do you personally get past that and how do you encourage others to?
What we found when we were filming The Fit Cycle in public spaces like the train or like the city streets, is that it's kind of a disruption of public space and when those conversations are started people realize ‘oh man you’re working out not for an event but for your life.’ We have these big issues now of obesity and onset diabetes and it’s pervasive, so these conversations - although they may be awkward at first - they actually yield amazing results and you know whose judging anyway. Plus it’s fodder for social media— you know you’re going to be snapping and tweeting and doing all this other stuff, so you might as well be healthy while you’re doing it.
Can you give us some concrete examples of what a community-centered fitness routine could look like?
You can open up the dryer door and take your leg over one direction and over the next - those are hurdles - those will work your hip flexors, and your glutes, and your core. You can push against the top of the dryer or the washing machine and do chest presses. You can be in your kitchen and washing dishes and do toe raises while you wash them. You can be on the phone at work, pacing back and forth and doing lunges. You don’t have to separate and segment your life. You can actually meld these things and that’s actually the great thing about moving your body, is your body is meant to move. So it’s not that difficult, you just have to think about it.
Are you impervious to laziness like the rest of us?
That’s a good question, I’m not necessarily advocating that people move at all times and don’t take rests and recovery because rest and recovery are very important. But, most folks are living in a society where they’re hunched over at work, they got something called tech neck. They’re always engaged [looking down] with their phones, so we’re not open, we’re not seeing what’s above us, we’re not engaged. We’re bipedal, so engage your senses, look about, see what’s out there because that’s the point of life.
Outside of the Fit Cycle videos that went viral, you also had a special one for Black History Month which was The Legacy Workout. Can you tell us more about that?
Legacy Workout is a movement based film and it’s about accessing and channeling the power of folks who came before us. People consume images and moving images more than they consume words. I can write a book about Thurgood Marshall and the kids are not going to be interested. So we paired the legacy figurehead - the group of people or person or movement of time or space - with a move. So for example, Henrietta Lacks. A lot of young people don’t know who Henrietta Lacks was but all cancer research comes from her, right? So she’s infinite. Forever from the past, forever to the future. The move we prepared with her was something called
The move we prepared with her was something called Mayurasana. An asana is a pose in yoga. Mayurasna is called the peacock pose. It’s also a pose that represents infinity. You put your elbows into your midsection— which is supposedly your soul and your spirit that goes on in all directions. So, infinite— she’s affecting lives in the future; she’s from the past. It’s supposed to be a centered, soulful, spiritual move. So, pairing moves that are relevant to everyone with figureheads who maybe people don’t know: Shirley Chisholm, Shirley Jackson, Mae Jemison, the Tuskegee airmen, the Buffalo soldiers, Jackie Robinson, etc.
Andia demonstrates the workplace workout, stapler lateral fly.
How has the response been to The Fit Cycle online?
We have a lot of folks who will tag me in, with hashtags #getitinwhereyoucanfititin or #fitnessactivist or #thefitcycle. I think one of our biggest fans is from Iceland, I’m not sure how that happened but the movies went viral online so we got people in Australia, and Iceland, and Mozambique, and you know Brooklyn, and Hartford, Connecticut, and Indianapolis. So people are all over and what makes it great is fitness can bridge gaps whether they’re cultural, language barriers, and people are just people. It’s about the human story, it’s about kinetic storytelling, and it’s really fun.
What's your favorite success story from a follower?
Some of my favorite success stories actually involve young people, kids, and families. We’ve had mothers and fathers who’ve written to us and said 'hey my kid saw your video and watches it on repeat like it’s Sesame Street,' and they want to go to the park and they want to get outside. That to me is touching because if you can change the way kids see movement and activity (especially with the influx of these devices and social media), that’s a sign of generational change. So for us, those stories are really very, very special. We’ve also seen folks who have lost 100 or 200 pounds. It’s not just us showing folks what we can do in the stunts on the train, but 'hey let’s all go on this journey together' and that’s why I think it’s a true labor of love.
The ABC's: Extend your arms with a heavy object and do the ABCs. For more office workouts with Andia, check out this video.
What else are you currently involved in?
So I’m an ambassador for the American Heart Association. Women die more from heart disease and stroke-related issues than men; it’s the number one killer [of] women around the world. The interesting thing about heart disease is that it’s preventable and it’s reversible in many cases just with education and access to the right tools. So being an ambassador for that organizational is very humbling and it’s an honor for me because I can help get this message out to the women that deserve it. I’m a sports conditioning coach in New York City, working with athletes and everyday people all over the country.
To keep up with Andia and The Fit Cycle online, follow the movement on Youtube, and her personal pages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Snapchat as @AndiaWinslow. Visit her personal website at AndiaWinslow.com.
[Photos: Christopher Grant (main), and Oxygen Network]