Meghan O’Donoghue, who studied kinesiology at USC before becoming certified as a personal trainer, was twenty years old and in a car with her best friend in Beverly Hills when they were rear-ended by a drunk driver at a red light and pushed into oncoming traffic. After Meghan came out of her three-month-long coma, she was informed that the doctor had had to completely reconstruct her from the inside out. The only reason she survived was that her lungs were so strong from all the exercise she’d been doing that they had been able to keep her chest from collapsing.
I first took Meghan’s spin class in Brentwood, California, after she’d spent several weeks wheedling and cajoling me into coming to one of her classes. She had been my trainer for several years, but I had never taken one of her classes. Moreover, I had never particularly enjoyed exercise, much less spin; an activity that makes even extremely fit men feel as though they want to throw up their lungs. Over those few years before graduating from college, the only workouts I would do would be the ones with Meghan. Because she was my friend, working out with her felt more like play than an obligatory activity for my health. We would chat about life and afterward we’d grab a coffee and chat some more.
It wasn’t until I took Meghan’s spin class, though, that I was truly able to understand exercise for its own sake. Growing up, there was absolutely nothing about PE that I enjoyed; I found nothing fun about it. In university, it was simply an additional demand on my time that took me away from everything else I needed to be doing. The only reason I could find to justify any time spent in the gym was that I could watch Netflix while on the treadmill. I’d even tried spinning once and I couldn’t accomplish a third of the class. Finally, though, I’d found a circumstance where I could actually find the fun in the activity despite the pain. Even though there were several points where I truly believed that I was close to death, I found myself getting lost in Meghan’s excellent playlist. Afterwards, I felt light; it’s an addictive feeling that has taken me back again and again.
This remarkable feeling, which I’ve been lucky enough to feel in every single spin class, has been so reminiscing ot the feeling I’ve always gotten out of my best relaxation and play times that I have lately decided to get my own spin certification. The chance to do a kind of work that not only feels like play, but allows others to feel even a fraction of what I’ve been feeling in my own classes is something that I feel I have to try. And I have found that others in the fitness industry have fallen into it because they have felt the same way.
Austin Humble, a trainer at Equinox’s Westwood club, has always led an active life; he played soccer throughout his childhood and, because of an early diagnosis of type-one diabetes, always knew the importance of exercise in his routine. However, it wasn’t until he was helping his older brother, Tristan, through heavy accident rehabilitation, that he realized he had an ability to coach people and inspire them. Austin has said that to him, the point of the game is to get his clients to see their workouts as play; as something fun that they want to do as opposed to something they have to do. Seeing the people that he helps being happy as they change their lives is what gives him the most satisfaction in his work.
Given the obstacles that they have both had to overcome, Meghan and Austin understand better than anyone that seeing exercise as play is not an easy thing to do, and therefore it is one of their pinnacle goals, and by all accounts, is something that they are both consistently successful at. Although it took me twenty-four years, two knee surgeries and another health scare at the end of college, I have a teacher who guided me in the right direction, and a supportive friend in the gym whenever I go. They make it fun for me, and they make me want to make it fun for others. All in all, we at Ziksana think that we’ve found the bottom line: why should making yourself feel good and healthy feel like work when it could feel like a game?
***please follow Meghan O’Donoghue and Austin Humble on Instagram at @megfit22 and @humble3.14! They are truly inspiring and excellent in their field.