Insider Guide: Move Without Fear


Chelsea Aguiar Offers Inspiration- “The World Needs You”

Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Aguiar

Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Aguiar

By Kristin Hanes

When she was 19-years-old, Chelsea Aguiar thought her life was over. For as long as she could remember, she’d been a dancer. She studied ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance for 13 years growing up in New Mexico, then majored in contemporary dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. But at the young age of 19, her body gave up.

“Dance requires an extreme range of motion in all the joints. I would muscle through everything because I was strong, and ended up grating away my hip joint,” she said. “I had several tears in the tissue and a hairline fracture in the head of the femur. My hips were tearing themselves apart from the inside out.”

Her doctor told her if she kept going the way she was, she’d need two hip replacements in her 30s. So, she resigned herself to her fate. She had surgery on one hip and gave up dance for good.

“After recovery my body just wasn’t the same,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be able to dance the way I had before. I got depressed and gained 30 pounds.”

How she shook herself out of it

One day, Chelsea’s mother put her foot down. She told her daughter there was no more time for wallowing, that she had to move on.

Chelsea’s mom and her aunt dragged her to a kettlebell studio, another moment that would forever change her life.

There were so many women in attendance. It was the first time I was introduced to strength training and it changed my life. I had never been in an environment where women were encouraged to be really physically strong, almost aggressive. It was exciting. I watched women from all different backgrounds and body types become power houses, confident and physically strong. They were mentally strong as well and sure of themselves. To me it seemed really powerful. 
— Chelsea

She kept doing kettlebells and shrugged off that 30 pounds she gained. Chelsea moved to New York City to go to school for acting, and also started going to the Equinox gym.

“The manager almost kicked me out cause I was teaching my friend kettlebell swings,” she said. But then he realized she had a gift, and offered her a job. Finally, after four months, she accepted. She spent her days training at the gym, attending acting school, and working at a restaurant in the evenings. In short, she was busy, still trying to find her way in life.

Finding her passion

As Chelsea wrapped up schooling for acting, she realized personal training was incredibly rewarding. She loved teaching and helping people feel confident and powerful in their bodies. She remembers the man who made her realize training, instead of acting, should be her career.

“He was 28-years-old and had the worst health profile you could imagine,” she said. “He took medication for blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gout and was 50 to 60 pounds overweight. He came to me and said his goal was to get off all his meds.”

Chelsea was just 22-years-old and not sure she could do it. But she rose to the challenge, helping him overhaul his diet, teaching him to train with weights. They trained almost every day of the week. And in six months, all his symptoms were gone.

“He completely reversed type 2 diabetes, reversed his hypertension, his gout was completely asymptomatic and he lost 60 pounds. He went from someone who couldn’t lift a 20 pound bar over his head to someone who could deadlift 400 pounds and squat 300 pounds,” said Chelsea.

It was then Chelsea realized she could change people’s lives, and decided to give up acting and dive into personal training with 100% of her heart.

Starting her own business

At first, Chelsea took on clients at Equinox, and quickly rose to the top. She went from being the newest and youngest trainer to one of the top five performers at her gym, and the top 100 in New York City.

In February of 2012, she founded her own company called Athaya Fitness.

My mom gave me the idea for the name. It comes from the Sanskrit word abhaya, which means ‘fearlessness’ or ‘one who moves without fear.’ That’s what I went through after my surgery. I was terrified of movement and of being in pain, terrified about what happened to my body. There was a lot of fear in getting back into movement. A lot of what I teach is how not to be afraid of your body, of challenges and of discomfort. I talk a lot about how we work around this fear. 
— Chelsea

She said in a society focused on prescribing medication rather than finding a root cause of a problem, she wanted to open a business that delves deep.

I help people find the root of their symptoms, the root of their passion, the root of their inspiration. I work with all types of people. Diplomats from the U.N. Hedge-fund guys. Chairmans of law firms. I have a dedicated clientele which bring intensity to our sessions. 
— Chelsea

She’s a freelancer in the full meaning of the word, working out of studios all over New York City, hopping from subway train to subway train to meet her clients. Most of them are referral-based, and some of them have been with her for years.

Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Aguiar

Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Aguiar

Her biggest challenge

Starting and running your own business isn’t always easy, and Chelsea has challenges of her own. She said her biggest challenge was and still is, herself.

Here I was, 23, working with people who seemed way out of my league. I thought they would think I was a phony. That was the biggest part, just being confident in my own knowledge in what I had to offer, and realizing these people wouldn’t be wasting their time coming to me if they didn’t believe it was worth it. I still struggle with this. I have to remind myself: ‘You earned this spot. You can’t just land here, you worked for it, and you worked really hard so have some confidence in that.’

Another challenge in running a business is setting aside time for yourself, something Chelsea mindfully schedules in.

I go through phases where I go in and out of that habit. Sometimes I’m not scheduling time for myself. As freelancers we have this idea that we constantly need to be working. However, if you don’t set aside time for yourself, your relationships will suffer, with your clients, with your business, with your partner, so it’s important to take care of yourself.
— Chelsea

In her off time, Chelsea does yoga, reads and goes for walks, saying some of her deepest inspiration comes to her during those times when she’s alone, walking the streets of New York.

I tell people: ‘You are the only human being that’s with you from the start to the finish of this race, so you better make sure your relationship with yourself is solid.’ 
— Chelsea

Her advice for people just starting out as Soloists

Her advice for others just starting out is the same as the mantra that runs her business: Walk without fear.

Go through your life with a sense of excitement and curiosity and don’t be afraid to take those scary steps. The things that bring us the most anxiety and fear may mean they are goals worth pursuing.
— Chelsea

She said to follow that fear and face it, because you never know what amazing, beautiful opportunities lie on the other side.

Be confident with who you are and what you have to offer. If you don’t know, nobody else will. The world needs you, your creativity, your individuality, so give it. We’re asking. 
— Chelsea

For more inspiration, follow Chelsea on Instagram @chelsea.aguiar