Transformation

Three Years Ago I Couldn’t Make It Through a Hike. Now I’m a Philadelphia Spin Instructor.

One Philadelphian's transformation story.

Photographs courtesy Rachel Hiller.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s transformation story. Want to share yours? Email ccunningham@phillymag.com.

Who: Rachel Hiller (@tonedtanta), 30, works in NCAA compliance and as a spin instructor at The Pottruck Health & Fitness Center, from Center City

Starting weight: 197 pounds

Ending weight: “I do not weigh myself anymore. It is all about how I feel in my clothes. And I feel great! I am down two sizes, so I know I am on the right track.”

Why I started: “I knew I had to make a change in June 2014. I was overseas, and despite being an athlete my entire life (I swam competitively from ages six to 19), my body gave up on me on a hike and I barely made it to the top of the mountain. I had a full-blown panic attack and was embarrassed by how much I was struggling. I had to look at myself honestly in the mirror and realize that I needed to make a change. I played around with working out from the time I got back to the States until April 2015 when a friend convinced me to start Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG). I did my first BBG workout on April 27, 2015 and the rest is history.

What changed: “My mindset has completely shifted on this journey. I am so much stronger than I ever was as a college athlete and I have become quite the morning person relying on my 6 a.m. workouts. I’ve run a marathon and a half marathon, but where I am now brings me so much more joy. Fitness has become my safe space and the best therapy for stressful days. I also conquered my fear of instructing and became a certified spin instructor after falling in love with spin at SoulCycle.”

“I have learned what foods make my body feel gross, and I try to minimize those as much as possible.”

How I changed my diet: “I am guilty of trying almost every fad diet there ever was. It is not my proudest thing to have on my fitness resume. It has taken me years to try and find the right formula, and to be honest I still do not have it. I truly believe that there is a perfect balance out there that I have not quite figured out. I try to stick to a mostly Whole30 diet (no dairy, no grains, no added sugar, no legumes) during the week utilizing meal prep for my breakfasts and lunches during the week. But I am also not going to feel guilty about grabbing a drink or dinner with a friend. What I have learned is what foods make my body feel gross, and I try to minimize those as much as possible.”

How I work out now: “Right now, I lift weights three to four times a week plus added cardio through the elliptical and my spin classes. I always try to get to yoga at least once a week for a reset at CorePower. And on weeks when I have a little extra time, I make my way back to SoulCycle where I always have fun and it always feels like home.”

What I’m most proud of: “The fact that my journey is still happening. I feel like we live in a world where we want that instant gratification, and if I have learned anything on this adventure is that change takes time and throwing in the towel when I get frustrated is not the answer. I love that there is no end to this story and that each day is an opportunity to grow and be better.”

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.”

The hardest part: “Getting out of my own head and ignoring the excuses or the self-doubt was the hardest struggle of all. The only way to get through that is to surround yourself with people who lift you up and motivate you. I think that’s why I love group fitness and social media because even though haters will always exist, there is a community who supports you no matter what.”

What’s next: “I am beyond happy on the progress I have made. I am, on the other hand, a goal-oriented person, so I will never feel like my journey is ever really over. Each time I finish a program, run a race, conquer a fear, etc., I immediately set a new goal and work to attain that. Right now I am focused on a weight lifting program and being the best spin instructor and role model I can be, just trying to find balance in it all.”

What I want you to know: “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. It didn’t matter how many workouts I was doing, what my diet was, or how much money I was spending on fancy clothes/classes/sneakers — learning to love myself and approaching each day with a positive mindset is key.”

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