nancy chen

 
Women in wellness

Nancy is an email marketing manager, fitness instructor, and a wellness and mental health advocate. You can tell she’s a SoCal native by her love of avocados, sunshine, acai bowls, and kale. When she’s not boxing (or teaching boxing), she’s practicing her handstand, writing poetry, and browsing used bookstores. She’s not a cavewoman (she’d rather be a mermaid tbh), but is Paleo-ish and is a firm believer of real food. Find her on Insta at @nourishbynancy (for food) and @nancylinchen (for fitness) or via her blog Nourish by Nancy.


the problem

“Run faster — do it for the extra piece of pie you’ll be eating later!”

How many times have you been in a workout class and heard the same thing? Replace pie with any other “bad” food or even just the word “calories.” As someone who has struggled with disordered eating in the past, this is the type of fitness instructor I never want to become.

Here in Boston (and in many metropolitan cities), fitness instructors are seen as mini-celebrities, with dedicated followers who take each word they speak as truth. This is incredibly powerful, especially in a city full to bursting with impressionable college students.

And why shouldn’t we take their word as gospel? They have smiling faces and six-pack abs, they’re always working out and eating healthy (except when they have the occasional glass of wine and/or pizza, carefully posted with #treatyoself).

It’s difficult to stay true to yourself and your beliefs in this crazy world, and I’ve often found myself caught up in the thoughts of Why can’t I look like that? Why can’t I behave like that? Why can’t I work out as many times as they do? Why can’t I teach as many classes as they do? Why can’t I party as much as they do without getting exhausted?

Then I go back to my reason for being an instructor — the thing that keeps me going through the early wake ups and the late nights: I want to help people become a version of themselves that they were always meant to be. I want them to fall in love with themselves and their strength, to prioritize their mental and physical health, and to find a community that embraces them as they are.

I found myself through my fitness journey, and I want to help people along their own fitness journeys, and hope that they have an easier time with it than I did.

the origins

For me, boxing began as a way to stay in shape between seasons of competitive swimming. But as I learned the punches and experience the amazing endorphin high it gave me, I fell in love with it.

I fell in love with the way it was just me and the bag, the way swimming was just me and the water. I found a home in the bagstand. And as I struggled with every other aspect of my life, I knew that I had this to come back to — 60 minutes of my day that was just me, the bag, and an empty mind.

After quitting swimming and taking boxing classes full time for almost two years, I began training to be an instructor. It was the most difficult, yet rewarding, thing I had ever done.

I wanted people to find that same peace I had found. To find their safe haven, to find 60 minutes in their day that was theirs, and theirs alone.

After a year and a half of teaching boxing, I began my yoga sculpt teacher training.

Once again, I was in the seat of a student — terrified to get up in front of experienced teachers and my fellow teachers in training.

But 93 classes later, I’ve completed my 200 hour power yoga training as well — something I had wanted to do since I was 18 — and feel alive getting up in front of a classroom of experiences and new yogis alike.

There is something so beautiful about that moment of ending a boxing or yoga class and knowing you and your students have both given your all.

There have been times where I was having a rough day and the last thing I wanted to do was head to the studio to teach, but after class, I felt like there was no better way I could’ve chosen to spend my time.

the dark sides

The comparison trap is easy to fall into, but even worse is the feeling of guilt.

There is guilt when you have to sub out a class or give up a class because of work, physical or mental health, or travel. You feel guilty for letting your students down by being absent, but also guilty for letting go.

There is guilt when you feel like your class isn’t as good as it could’ve been, because you’re having an off day or not vibing with the energy.

There is guilt when you feel sick, out of shape, not great about yourself, not happy with anything, because you feel like you’re not practicing what you’re preaching.

There is guilt when you look at other instructors who are doing, being, living more.

the truth

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

I’ve realized that I need to recharge and take time for myself in order to be able to give the maximal amount to others, and that helps me be OK with taking time off.

I’ve realized that there are bigger things in life than showing up for one class — that my full-time job takes priority, that mental health takes priority, that I don’t have to say yes to everyone who asks me to sub, that’s not selfish to do things for me vs. do things for other people.

the secret

Whether you’re a fitness instructor or a fitness enthusiast, the most important thing is your why. Staying true to your ideals will help you stay true to yourself and continue on with self-motivation.

I’ll leave you with my why, again — take this time to ask yourself what yours is.

I want to help people become a version of themselves that they were always meant to be. I want them to fall in love with themselves and their strength, to prioritize their mental and physical health, and to find a community that embraces them as they are.

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