Workouts by Design: One RowClub instructor’s journey from fashion to fitness

Stefani M. teaches Monday evenings at RowClub

Stefani M. teaches Monday evenings at RowClub

There are a lot of different places where a true passion for fitness and health can first ignite. It can be the inside of a yoga studio, mile 10 of a first half-marathon or after finally seeing progress in a CrossFit class. For RowClub instructor Stefani, it was design school.

“I was always a creative, space cadet kind of kid. I loved clothes even from when I was young,” Stefani says. “I loved being able to express myself and found out quickly that clothes can make you feel confident.”

That idea of empowering people to feel confident was something that stuck, eventually becoming an essential, driving force throughout the rest of her career. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Stefani landed a highly coveted fashion job as the Merchandising Coordinator at Levi Strauss & Co. After a few years with the company, Stefani felt like there was a disconnect between her childhood ambitions to empower people and her day-to-day responsibilities at work.

“Over the course of time, I kind of got a little antsy. I wanted something more for myself,” she says when she looks back on her time in in the role.

After thinking through career options and realizing she wanted more opportunities to work directly with the people whose lives she was impacting, Stefani remembered a place outside of designing clothes where she was once built confidence.

Growing up, Stefani had started running cross-country so that she would be able to play on the school lacrosse team with the rest of her friends. “As I was training, I realized that I actually wasn’t a bad runner. I started feeling strong and proud of myself, and I developed an intrinsic confidence that I wouldn’t have gotten if I was just laying around and eating junk food.”

Stefani combines rowing with elements from Yoga and other fitness disciplines

Stefani combines rowing with elements from Yoga and other fitness disciplines

Excited about the prospect of working directly with people and in a way that could empower the self-confidence of others, Stefani sought to pursue a career in fitness. After completing her certification training, Stefani was hired by Equinox SF as a personal trainer.

Despite the vastly different industries, Stefani doesn’t consider the change from fashion to fitness a drastic one. In fact, if anything, she believes that the two go hand in hand more than people realize.

“The way I relate to both fashion and fitness has always been both very emotional and psychological,” says Stefani. In the same way that fashion was more about empowering confidence and self-expression than it was about keeping up appearances, Stefani finds that the impact of fitness goes much deeper than any surface results.

“It’s more than working out, sweating and getting really strong. It’s about how are you going to dig in deeper, how are you going to feel alive today? It’s about finding ways to become the best version of you.”

Whether it’s one of her group fitness classes or personal training sessions, Stefani works to create an environment that is playful, encouraging and leaves her students with a sense of accomplishment in what they’ve done there.

“Working out can be very overwhelming at times, and rowing has sort of an intimidating culture because it requires such specific technique,” she explains. “I like to humanize my classes and make things less intimidating for my students.”

Stefani’s best advice for her students is simple: engage with what you’re doing. Because the nature of rowing requires engagement, she finds that once the class is done with the warm-up, people are able to really engage in the exercise and focus on what they’re doing inside the class. For Stefani, leaving the high-stress industry of fashion and entering the world of fitness was a way for her to re-align with her core values and find something that makes her feel blissful. She hopes that even if it’s just for 45 minutes at a time, her students are able to experience the same thing.

Stefani teaches RowCamp, a boot-camp style class that features shorter rowing intervals and combines sessions with dumbbells, kettlebells and more that allows students to focus on core, mobility and strength training.