In The Future is Female Coaches series, we’re celebrating the women of our sports who are leading, inspiring, and making us all stronger. Every week we’ll be featuring interviews with female coaches about their experiences and insights working across a variety of aspects and disciplines within the running and fitness space.
This week we’ve interviewed Chavo Hodges, the founder and one of the instructors at GrillzandGranola, a group fitness class built around creating a culturally-attuned, supportive and inclusive fitness community. Chavo's passion and vision have taken GrillzandGranola's reach far beyond fitness classes to providing community mental health support, addressing corporate wellness, and creating partnerships with non-profits to support community-based initiatives.You can follow Chavo at @ccchavonne @grillzandgranola and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you get your start in the fitness space? How have your involvement and interests changed over time?
Towards the end of 2015, I hit an emotional rock bottom. I was going through a divorce, mismanaging my panic disorder and trying to navigate my life as a twenty-something. All of these life changes caused me to spiral into a depression and in many ways, self-sabotage. Rather than confronting my poor mental health, I decided to keep myself busy by going to the gym on the weekdays and partying excessively on the weekends because I could not afford to go to therapy. After a few weeks of partying, I quickly learned that alcohol only made my depression and anxiety worse.
I started working out more because it made me feel better. I eventually decided to become an instructor, and have seen my interests shift from aerobics and resistance training to biking, low impact movements and stretching.
What inspired you to start Grillz & Granola?
I was listening to trap music, specifically Drake & Future's "What A Time to Be Alive" mixtape and working out four times per week, and asked myself “why are there no workout classes set to trap music?” I was over taking Zumba and Tabata classes at my gym, so I held on to the idea to create a class called TrapAerobics. It just clicked in my head. From there, my interest in fitness really took off.
Within 9 months, I legally set up my business GrillzandGranola, created a business plan, became a certified group fitness instructor, etc and acted on my idea. Since my professional background is in training & development, I created a project plan and course brief, and worked on it every single night after work. By June of 2016, I launched my first TrapAerobics class.
Did you have any coaches in your athletic history who particularly shaped your experience of sports or impacted your own approach to coaching?
I had a soccer coach named Denunzio, and he kind of set the stage for how I coach people now. He always started with the Why, and reminded us that we were all in this together. I played on a winning team that was super community oriented. When I am coaching I always explain why we’re doing certain movements.
What drives you as a coach and a leader in the fitness space? What impact do you most hope to have?
I am mainly driven by my belief that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transferred. Exercise can transform energy from negative positive. I hope to give people the agency to master their energy.
What is your coaching philosophy?
I always say, “if you want things that you have never had, you have to do things that you have never done.”
The past few months have been so challenging and isolating for many people. How have you maintained a sense of community for your members during COVID?
Genny and I launched TrapAerobics Online, a complete live workout program powered by women of color instructors and practitioners. We have been teaching 30+ classes per month more than 5x per week and have subscribers from all over North America. To maintain a sense of community we make space for meditation and light banter after each class. We share resources as frequently as how we can meet the needs of our community.
Your stated mission for GrillzandGranola is to make culturally-attuned fitness experiences available to underrepresented women of color. What are the biggest barriers or challenges you see in making fitness more inclusive and accessible? What steps can coaches, trainers, and communities take to change this?
Within the fitness industry, there’s a significant lack of representation of women of color, specifically Black and Latina women in classes, fitness magazines and studio/ company ownership. To me, less representation creates self-conscious participation which equates to more health disparities. When you look at the statistics, the number one cause of death amongst women of color in the U.S. is heart disease (23%) followed by cancer (21%). Additionally, more than 45% of Hispanic and Black women are overweight.
One way that coaches and trainers can help change this is to be more inclusive and body-positive in their studios. Hire more women who don’t fit the mold of what fitness typically looks like in the U.S. Use body positive language. Provide more modifications and shy away from the whole “no pain no gain” mantra. It can make people feel defeated.
Title photo credit goes to NYC based photographer, Katie Henry, who can be found at katiehenryphotography.com or @k.henry on Instagram.