Millennial Minds: NYC Personal Trainer, Miriam Fried, Talks Entrepreneurship

Cara Kovacs
Cara Kovacs is a writer, blogger, and stylist who's work has been published across most mediums on topics ranging from fashion and beauty to sex and relationships as well as travel and food. An expert on being 20-something, she enjoyed Soul Cycle, kale salads, and corgis.

The growth of the fitness industry has been closely tied to the social media and body positivity boom. As much a space for entrepreneurialism as it is for branding, being a personal trainer nowadays is a lot more than helping a client reach their fitness goals. Miriam Fried, a NYC-based personal trainer and our latest Millennial Minds feature, has built a brand for herself that goes far beyond weight lifting and calorie-counting. In fact, it is in many ways the opposite, and therein lies the key to not only her unique commercial success, but also a business that is as uplifting in its message as it is in its impact.

We sat down with Miriam to discuss how being a millennial entrepreneur has helped her foster her unique and successful personal training path, as well as bolster an attainable and relatable way of adapting fitness into your life.

 

20something: What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur?

Miriam Fried: To me, being an entrepreneur means formulating and carrying out what YOU want your life to be — creating your own schedule, brand, business model and often taking a substantial amount of risks in the hopes of building on that vision.

 

How does being a millennial impact your business?

MF: When I graduated from college, I was your typical millennial: up to my ears in student debt, unable to find work in my field of study, and miserable in the job I was doing. I suppose you can say being a millennial has everything to do with my business. Feeling the way I did as a post-grad was what fueled me to start my business in the first place. Also, I began in the way any millennial would: through social media.

 

How did you get started? When did fitness go from a hobby to a business?

MF: Growing up, I wasn’t exactly what you would call athletic. When I finished school, I found myself thrown into the lifestyle of a struggling artist.  I juggled several awful side jobs, woke up before dawn to go to auditions, and did my best to stay positive. Most of the time I was just exhausted, miserable and broke.  I figured if I was auditioning regularly, it was important for me to look my best, so I joined a gym.  I was terrified to leave the cardio room so I stuck to the treadmill, even though I despised running.

One day, I found the courage to venture into the weight room. I began slowly. I watched YouTube videos, read blogs, and tried to learn as much as possible about weight training, and before I knew it, not only was I was working out in the gym multiple days a week, but I was actually enjoying it.

The gym became the place where I could go to de-stress from my uninspiring day job and the exhausting, nerve-wracking audition circuit.  It helped me to admit that I was not happy with my current situation, and that it was about time I changed it. I realized that fitness was no longer just a hobby for me; it was a passion and I wanted to share that with as many people as possible, so after becoming certified, I quit my job and pursued my new career as a personal trainer.

How does social media impact your business?

MF: I started my social media account around the time I was studying for my personal training certification. I had followed enough trainers and fitness influencers to know that Instagram was the place to make a name for yourself. I was nervous about starting it; I knew a lot of people from my “real life” would start following me. Back then, I was a lot more concerned about what people thought. It started small; I didn’t post any lengthy captions or personal anecdotes like I do now. But I found that when I started talking about deeper issues, body image, struggles with food, and fears of starting out in the gym, that was when my following grew and I received the best response. My account sort of became like a blog, a place for me to discuss my trials, successes, and progress — both fitness and personal — things I’ve found so many women struggle with in their journeys.

Through writing those thoughts and struggles down, I was able to discover and develop who I was as a trainer, what exactly my brand was and formulate what kind of message I wanted to spread. Not to mention I was able to build up the cyber portion of my business and began offering online coaching and training programs. My online clients have all found me via Instagram along with a handful of my in person clientele.

 

What do you think is important for people to know about what you do?

MF: I think a lot of people think of fitness as very black or white, that if you want to be “fit” you have to be 100 percent committed or else you’ve fallen off the fitness bandwagon. I’ve striven to use my Instagram account to show that “healthy” means more than workouts and “clean” foods.

So many people tell me they can’t be fit because they “love food too much” or hate working out. Well, I hated working out and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves food more than I do; so, my feeling is you just haven’t tried to find your version of fitness. Your fitness isn’t black or white, it’s somewhere in the gray area. My job is to help you find the spot in the gray that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

 

What are your thoughts about fitness and privilege/the message social media sends about body image?

MF: Social media can mess with your head in terms of body image. If you follow a lot of fitness accounts, unfortunately that means you probably spend a lot of time scrolling through a feed of perfectly toned abs and rounded booties. You have to keep in mind that social media is not reality, it’s a highlight reel.

Also, a lot of those fitness influencers are paid to do what they do. This is not realistic, healthy, or maintainable for the average person. As a fitness influencer, you’re also given opportunities to receive free products that are otherwise expensive and that many of your followers most likely can’t afford. It paints a very false sense of reality of what it takes to be fit. People forget how privilege plays a huge role in the fitness industry.

I don’t have that large of a following in the grand scheme of Instagram, but I still feel like with any following comes responsibility. Responsibility to speak out about the things that matter to you, regardless of who you might piss off. With privilege comes the ability to ignore things that don’t directly affect you; a lot of social media influencers use that privilege and that’s their choice. My choice lately has been to voice my sometimes unpopular opinion, distance myself from certain brands that don’t match my own personal values and morals and maybe grow at a slightly slower pace because of it.

 

What differentiates you from other fitness professionals?

MF: I think my belief system around balance, food, body image and how it all pertains to fitness differs greatly from many other fitness professionals. A lot of trainers focus on cutting things out of your lifestyle; certain food groups, social outings, etc. I like to focus on what you can add to your lifestyle so fitness can enhance your life. While a lot of my clients come to me for aesthetic purposes, that’s not my focus in training.

If you train to build strength, to challenge yourself, to learn to appreciate your body for what it is capable of rather than what it looks like, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy fitness. Because of this, I’m very selective in the wording I use. I don’t use the term “cheat” meals or days, because I think associating food with guilt can create an unhealthy relationship with food. I don’t guilt my clients for eating out or enjoying themselves, I don’t motivate them by preaching they “work off” food. I don’t label foods as “good or bad” or “clean or dirty.”

I am shocked when I hear trainers telling their clients to cut out dairy, grains or sugar. Besides the fact that advice like that is outside our scope of practice (only a registered dietician should be advising you to eliminate an entire food group), it’s not helpful. I’d rather teach my clients how to have enough balance and understanding of nutrition that one slice of pizza doesn’t throw their day off.

I know so many women who battled years of struggles with food, body image, and exercise addiction that started with advice from a so-called fitness professional. I want to be sure I’m encouraging women to feel better about themselves, not setting them on a path of unrealistic expectations. I also try to impress upon my clients that weight loss/scale number is not always an accurate measure for progress. I gained 10 to 15 pounds when I started weight training, but you wouldn’t guess that based off of photos. Weight loss can be the goal, I’d rather you hit a strength goal, a training goal, or a mental goal any day of the week.

PSA: essential body fat for women (meaning the minimum amount of fat necessary for a healthy, functioning body) is 11-13%. Another PSA: if you have greater than the essential body fat deemed necessary for a happy and healthy body, you WILL have some rolls over your pants sometime. Oh hey, there's a cute little roll between my bra and my pants there. Yup, a FAT roll. Final PSA: if you're more focused on Lady Gaga's NORMAL, HEALTHY, FUNCTIONING female body that comes with a little bit of fat than you are on how kick ass, talented, inspirational, and progressive in the best way possible her performance was- re-evaluate your priorities. And then go donate money to planned parenthood or something. Women deserve better than this crap. Geez. How do we tell girls to love themselves and then in the same breath criticize them for their bodies, their appearance, how high their pants are sitting on their torso? Too fat. Too skinny. Too loud. Too shrill. Too bitchy. Too loose. Too prude. No, you're too damn judmental. #sorrynotsorry #fedup #FatRollsAreHealthy #ANDsexy #whothehellcares

A post shared by Miriam Fried (@dailydoseofitness) on

 

How would you recommend someone with similar interests get into the field?

MF: Study. Learn as much as you can. Log off of Instagram, read articles, books and research published by trainers, coaches and dietitians. Social media is great for building your brand, but at the end of the day I want to have staying power in this industry. The best, most knowledgeable fitness professionals I look up to hardly touch social media.

Also, don’t be afraid to network with people who know more than you. If you want to be independent and work for yourself, you won’t have a gym, coworkers or bosses to look to for advice. Seeking out mentors who have done this before is a great way to get ideas about where to begin. I’m grateful to have had several mentors who helped me get started.

 

What else would you want people to know about what you do?

MF: I just want my message to be that fitness can be for everyone.  So many women are so afraid to go into the weight room alone, and I get it! That was me once. But you have to start somewhere. Ask a friend to go with you. Hire a trainer if you can. Push past the nerves! So many clients tell me how nervous they are when they first reach out. No trainer expects you to come in a seasoned athlete, or else you wouldn’t need our help! If you’re nervous people are judging you in the gym, believe me when I say they’re probably not even paying attention. And if they are, do your thing and prove them wrong. Nothing has improved my confidence in my life than getting strong. I promise, once you start, strength is addicting in the best way possible. Just get in there.
To contact Miriam for personal or online training reach out to her via social media @Dailydoseofitness or check out her website www.MiriamFried.com.

If you have a story of success or a positive message you would like to share with others, reach out to [email protected] for a chance to be interviewed for the Millennial Minds series.

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