Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”
I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story” — who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door — the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.
HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.
To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.
Name: Lauren Chiarello
Location: New York
Profession: Fitness Instructor, Events Guru, 2x Cancer Survivor
Lauren, you’re a fitness instructor based in NYC, and you’re also a 2x cancer survivor. You’re involved in lots of fundraising efforts, you do event planning, and you’ve raised over $75,000 for cancer charities. You’re a strong, generous, and busy woman!
Can you walk us through a typical workday in your life? Are you by a computer? Riding the subway around town? Meeting with clients? At the gym? Describe a “day in the life” of Lauren Chiarello.
I’m up early every weekday – either teaching a group Pilates / TRX class at Flex Studios or Barre class at exhale or training my private clients. I also teach in a corporate setting – I have 3 groups that I see regularly. I try to stack my days as much as I can to reduce commuting around the city. I live uptown + sometimes I’ll need to commute twice in one day so that’ll add up to 2 – 2.5 hours a day. Not ideal! During my commuting time, I’m usually working from my phone — scheduling / answering emails / planning fitness events / charity work. Whenever I have an open time slot – I grab my own workout. I try to take class or run outside. The days can be quite long so over the past few years, I’ve tried to learn how to conserve my energy. It’s tricky but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.
Working in the fitness industry seems really fun! You get to move your body all day long, listen to energizing music… it sounds like a dream gig, especially for someone who loves helping people feel better. What’s your favorite part of your work? Also, what’s your least favorite part?
I adore meeting people. My students are the reason I teach. I’ve seen firsthand how movement can transform the body + mind. I teach to educate and my hope is that my students walk out learning something. It’s truly a gift to lead others and I never take it for granted when my rock star students carve out time to get stronger, both physically and mentally.
Working for myself, I wake up everyday unemployed. It’s been challenging to set boundaries. Teaching a lot of hours can put a strain on my body and voice. I try to listen to my body as much as I can so I can rest properly and continue to hold space for my students.
Do you have a morning routine? What is it?
Sorta! I build in time to drink hot water with lemon and eat something nourishing before starting the day. I also try to take time to sit with a clear mind. I have a full schedule (sometimes up to 8 different pieces of goodness per day!) and my brain wants to start darting in 897347 directions. It’s a practice to try to find stillness to start my day. Work in progress!
Have you ever had a project that didn’t go very well? A class that nobody attended, a fundraiser that didn’t raise much money, or something else? What happened? How did you feel? And how did you pick yourself up and convince yourself to keep trying?
Oh yes. Funny enough, I revel in the failures. Even though they’re tough, I always feel like there is so much to learn.
In 2016, I started an outdoor workout event series called #ChiChiSweatSesh. I love exercising outside and I was super stoked to bring community and connection into Central Park. I teamed up with a fellow fitness instructor to lead a combo workout, followed by a potluck picnic. My friend and fellow coach Rachel led a running workout, and then I taught a core class. Around 5 people signed up; all but one canceled last minute. We still had a truly lovely evening but I remember being so bummed about the attendance numbers. It’s a struggle to get people to come out for events – people in NYC have a lot of commitments! The lack of attendance lit a fire in me to figure out how to rally more people. I thought to myself, How can I make this event stand out?
I decided to start bringing in food and beverage partners to offer samples as well as a charity partner. I ask my teachers to select a cause that is meaningful to them and we invite the charity to participate. Last year, one #ChiChiSweatSesh supported a mental health organization, This is My Brave, and we had a participant perform a poem she wrote to kick off the evening. It was the most memorable one of the year.
I’ve known many cancer survivors in my life. Nearly all of them have told me that—even though it’s scary and awful—cancer has also brought many positive lessons into their lives. Lessons about resilience, about being present and appreciating each moment, about going after your goals and not waiting for someday later, about mindfulness and gratitude, and more. I am curious to know… what kind of imprint has cancer left in your life? How has this illness shaped you into the person you are today?
Literally all of the above lessons you mentioned! I was recently on my friend Jill’s podcast, The Career Passport, talking about “How Gratitude Can Save Your Career (And Maybe Even Your Life).” Being grateful allows us to focus on a life of abundance. When we have a tough day, if we can bring a sense of gratitude into our minds, our energy and attitude have the potential to shift in a positive direction. I often say, no day but today.
I was quite young when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — 23 years old, fresh out of college + ready to tackle life! I was completely sidelined when I learned I had cancer. I led a healthy lifestyle – grew up an athlete and have been a vegetarian since I was 14. Going through treatment at such a young age helped me to put life in perspective and changed the trajectory of my entire life. I doubt I would be a fitness instructor. I fell in love with movement after my treatments. About one year after my stem cell transplant, a friend introduced me to Barre classes. My teachers helped me discover strength I didn’t know I had.
My mantra is Yes. You. Can. I believe that everyone has the ability to lead his or her best lives. We must be relentless in the pursuit. Cancer taught me that.
Also, every day is a gift. I start all of my classes by saying “it’s a beautiful day to be alive.” Because, it just is.
You were recently nominated for Reebok’s Most Inspiring Trainer in America Award—and you became a finalist! Congratulations! How did this happen? Did you apply? Did a client submit your name for consideration? Tell us more about this wonderful achievement.
Thank you so much! The nomination was a true honor. Friends / clients / family submitted my name for consideration. My cousin made this amazing video which I feel helped me get noticed. Even though I didn’t win, it was a wonderful platform to share my story. In sharing my story, the hope is to help others feel less alone.
You have such a positive outlook on life. One of your favorite mantras is: “It’s a beautiful day to be alive.” But do you ever have moments in your everyday life where you feel discouraged or overwhelmed? When? And how do you pull yourself out of those moments?
I definitely have those moments – probably everyday. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I try to step away from whatever I am doing and look at it with a bird’s eye view. If I am feeling discouraged, I look to find tiny moments of joy that can lift my spirits.
I truly enjoy reading quotes + passages. One of my favorites is Ralph Marston’s The Daily Motivator. He writes about different life themes and they always seem to resonate with me at just the right time.
You’re obviously very passionate about health, fitness, and self-care. What are some ways that you take care of yourself, and invest in your own wellbeing? Do you have any favorite rituals, classes, products, or…?
This area had been lacking for a while as my schedule had gotten overloaded. Over the past few months, I’ve made active changes. I make my workouts a priority (Barre / Pilates / TRX / Running / Cycling / Yoga) … I like it all!
I was having constant pain in my SI joint + I decided to go for regular therapeutic massages. These have been super-helpful. I schedule them every other Friday and it’s a beautiful way to kick-off the weekend. Since I use my body for my work, I have to keep it healthy!
I love to travel. It expands my heart and mind. I truly enjoy learning about different cultures and immersing myself in new environments. My husband and I try to take lots of adventures when our schedule allows. On the deck in 2018: French Alps with Sharing Bali + Beyond.
We always end each HOW DID YOU DO THAT? interview with helpful pieces of advice. Imagine someone, out there, who would love to work in the fitness industry… but isn’t sure how to begin. What are the first 3 steps this person could take? Any advice?
1. Find what excites you!
Do you love yoga, Zumba, HIIT, cycling? Find the one you’re most passionate about and start to build consistency. Try taking the class 3-4x/week and see how your body, mind and heart feel.
2. Build Relationships!
This one takes time. I was a Barre student at exhale for 5 years before I became a teacher. I fell in love with the method. I got to know the teachers and from there, it was a natural fit to train.
3. Start to investigate!
Ask your local gym / studio how you can become certified. You’ll also need to be CPR / AED certified which you can do through your local Red Cross. Most studios require a group exercise certification as well – I received mine through AFAA.
You can follow Lauren on Instagram at @chichilifenyc. For all you lucky people in New York City, she offers great classes and events.
ONE MORE THING…
Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Lauren? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)
YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED
Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!
Photos: Foxes and Wolves