Inspirational Interview with Guest, Chicago Fitness Instructor Haley Gunst

“The Curve Confessions by Kenzie is a movement inspiring women to find happiness in ourselves, no matter our size or shape; rock the skin we’re in with confidence; openly discuss body image issues we see in the world; and create a safe space where we all feel accepted.”

I started this new interview series featuring stories from incredibly inspiring women; in hopes of inspiring others in their own journey of fitness, motivation, and life in general. Today’s guest is Haley Gunst, who recently came back to Chicago after finding her love for fitness and the outdoors in Seattle. Let me tell you, we are lucky to have her in Chicago, and I loved interviewing her! Check out the interview and check her out on Instagram @haleygunst.

CC: Thanks so much for doing this interview, I’m so excited! Let’s cut to the chase. When did you become a yoga teacher and why? 

Haley: I started my yoga training out in Seattle in October of 2017 and was officially on the teaching schedule in January of 2018. I had been nudged a couple of times by instructors to become a teacher and honestly brushed them off. Yoga was the one place I could go and feel like I could let my mind relax and wander, and I was scared to have that taken from me if I started knowing the ins and outs of teaching. However, I was living in Seattle, in a new stage of life and really needed a positive extra hobby. That same week of feeling a little lost, a teacher nudged me again and I decided maybe it was time to get out of my comfort zone and try it. CorePower was also one of the main places I went when I first moved to Seattle and knew no one. They gave me a sense of community when I felt really alone and I wanted to give that back to my community. I am in the midst of expanding my horizons and really wanting to invest more time into my fitness career. I also just tried out and earned a spot as an instructor at the Equinox Fitness Club. My good friend Lauren currently teaches there and knew they were opening up a new location and needed teachers, so she put me in touch with Julie Bellis, my new trainer and manager at Equinox. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. 

CC: That’s amazing, I can’t wait to take your classes at Equinox soon – and of course love your yoga classes already. If someone wants to try you out, what are your class times?

Haley: Right now I teach at CorePower Yoga at the Gold Coast, Chicago location at 6:45 pm Friday nights and 9:30 am Saturday mornings. I am currently getting on-boarded with Equinox and will have to go through a training before I am officially put on their schedule, but be on the lookout! They have a very wide range of classes, but I will be focusing on the strength and toning classes as well as the HIIT – High Interval Intensity Training classes.

CC: Amazing, I hope people reading can check you out! So what would you say motivates you, and what is your biggest piece of advice to others looking for motivation?
Haley: Oh wow, that’s a loaded question and sometimes it just depends on the day, haha. However, I have always been a very competitive person, and I think my biggest competition is myself. I am constantly trying to break my own personal PRs or see how much further I can push my body; mentally, physically, based on strength, endurance, anything really. Honestly the feeling of accomplishment after a tough workout, a race, or a new certification is reflecting back and realizing “wow, my body just did that, how much more can it do?” I can’t tell people what should motivate them, it should come from within and whatever their story is, however, your motivation should NOT be for anyone else. Yes a “revenge” body is great, but at some point that motivation will fade. It shouldn’t be to make your parents proud or to get attention from a guy, or even worse, for social media or the pressures that come from social media. These days it is REALLY hard to decipher what is real and what isn’t – don’t even get me started with the topic of FaceTune – but focus on yourself and what makes YOU want to be better, and that motivation will not fade.

CC: That is amazing advice and I couldn’t agree more – doing things for others won’t get us anywhere. Why is fitness so important to you, and when/why did it become that way?
Haley: I would say moving to Seattle really changed my life and my health. I got really active and really into the outdoors and my yoga practice and started feeling what it was like to make my body and health a priority. I felt amazing inside and out. However, I have faced some of my hardest personal life challenges this past year and taking care of my health mentally and physically has been extremely important. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your mental health. What that looks like for each individual is different. For me, professional therapy, yoga, long talks with friends and family, journaling and fitness helped clear my mind and regain my self-confidence and mental strength. Physically I try to do some sort of activity whether it be CorePower Yoga, Orange Theory Fitness, Barry’s Bootcamp, Equinox Classes, long runs/walks along the lakeshore path, or trying a brand new class (shout out to that one boxing class I tried when I was holding in a TON of anxiety) at least 5 times a week. When I was going through the thick of some of my tougher days the hour or so of physical activity was honestly the only hour of the day that I could see and think clearly, so I really leaned on it to help me push through each day and slowly I got stronger and stronger, both mentally and physically. It may sound corny, but I am beyond thankful for all of the instructors and trainers I have come across in the last few years because they have truly changed my life and in a lot of ways; they saved my life as well. I hope to have that impact on my students as I grow as an instructor.

CC: I love it, that’s great you got that new perspective out there (and we’re thankful you brought it to Chi). And I couldn’t agree more about that hour being so sacred and needed. So, random, but what would your ideal way to spend a day look like?

Haley: Human connection, the outdoors, and exercise. If I get these three things each day, it is usually a pretty damn good day. Human connection is something I would like to transform my daily routine and career towards a little more. A lot of my day is spent sitting at my desk cranking out numbers (shout-out to my fellow nerdy math brains out there), and while that is great, I do crave more human interaction. That is kind of where teaching fitness classes comes into play, and obviously getting together with friends – new and old – always makes the work week a little less stressful. If I could build some mountains out here in the Midwest, I would. I think that’s the thing I miss the most about Seattle… seeing and exploring the outdoors and how much it has to offer, however, I often walk 35 minutes to and from work each day and will jam out to music, listen to my podcasts, or call my parents/friends. These 35 minutes at the beginning and end of my day have almost become necessary, I take that time to decompress the craziness going on in my life because the craziness never ends…

CC: I love it, and agree on the human interaction part girl. How do you recommend others get into fitness or a side hustle, based on your own experience?

Haley: I would say first evaluate what you want to do and why. Don’t get into fitness because you read this interview and felt like you had to. However, once you have a desire to change your routine or start something new, OWN IT. Start telling people what you’re doing so that you hold yourself accountable, start prioritizing your schedule to fit in whatever you need in order to make that change, and plan ahead. Goals are much easier to accomplish when there is a very clear game plan – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but for example, if you want to start incorporating more fitness into your life, maybe that means an early wake up call to get it done – start small – plan which day (yes, start with one day) of the week that will be and make it happen, no excuses, and then grow from there. Habits, positive and negative, are created by ACTIONS. You and only you hold the control to those actions.

CC: Great advice. Another thing I love asking; who inspires you? 

Haley: My grandma, who isn’t here anymore, but I always think about her, and I think that living your life hoping to impact people so that they continue to remember you after you’re gone is a great way to live. A lot of decisions I make, or the way I choose to treat people is based off of that motto. Give love and positivity, receive love and positivity back. Also currently obsessed with @MarenMorris and @iamCardiB (yes, I said it) and their bad-ass woman power vibe, both of their albums got me through some tough stuff, @averagefashionblogger who literally cracks me up every single day and is un-apologetically herself, @JasonLoebig who was able to take a leap of faith from his 9-5 desk job to follow a passion and is absolutely crushing it and motivating others along the way, and my dad, because my dad just simply rocks. If you know him, you know. 

CC: Love all those people. So as you know The CC talks a lot about body image, would you say you encourage all shapes and sizes to take your classes? Why? 

Haley: YES. When I invite people to my classes the first thing majority of people say is “I’m not good at yoga” or “I haven’t worked out in so long, I wouldn’t make it”, or something of the sort. NO MORE. The person next to you in class at one point in their life had never taken the class before either. Everyone starts somewhere. Also, I promise you that everyone in your class is focused on themselves and themselves only. We are all in this together and just need to continue supporting each other.

CC: Great for all my readers to know! Well, that’s a wrap. Any other notable things to say about your journey to fitness, side hustles, motivation, etc.?             
Haley: No one is promised tomorrow, so what are you going to do with today?

Love that quote & thanks again for taking the time, so inspiring! If you’re interested in checking out Haley in action, look her up on Instagram @haleygunst and DM her for a spot in class! 

Keep inspiring, Hales! Xoxo.

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