VIDA Fitness Group Instructor Profile — Juliet Stovall
VIDA Fitness instructor Juliet Stovall has the knowledge, enthusiasm, and physique of a woman who has been working out for her entire life. But she hadn’t stepped foot in a gym, nor participated in official group sports, until her late 20s – and not necessarily by choice.
“When I was coming up, Richmond was just integrating its schools,” she said, explaining why she hadn’t participated in team sports in high school. “I went from a black environment to all-white environment, where it was just 20 blacks and 1500 whites. So there was still a lot of segregation and discrimination, and we couldn’t play on different teams, and we couldn’t use the equipment at school.”
She said she’d pass around a basketball with her friends after-hours on the courts, and in her early 20s, participate on office softball teams. But she didn’t enter a gym until age 27, after receiving a 2-week free trial. She fell in love with it, and has “been in the gym ever since” – mostly doing group fitness.
“I always liked group fitness, I always liked being in a group,” she said. “You can feed off the energy, and people talking back and forth.”
Juliet started teaching at VIDA Fitness when it opened, a little over seven years ago. After serving as the group fitness manager, she realized she “didn’t want to work at a desk” and wanted to devote her time to being in the classroom.
“I found that teaching was my heart,” she said.
Currently, Juliet teaches VIDA Body, VIDA Rx, cycling, and yoga classes; and for each of them, she emphasizes that anyone with any background can join.
“One reason why I do feel that I’m all-inclusive is that I couldn’t do these things before,” she said. “And I can see when people come into a class if they’re feeling like, I’m not a part of this. You can actually see it on their face: I don’t belong. I have to get in shape before I come into this class. And I try to dispel that as soon as they walk in the door.”
It’s tricky to facilitate a feeling of belonging, but Juliet has a strategy. “A woman was like that today, she was sort of hanging out by the door looking around, and I grabbed her a mat and said, ‘Ok, come over here in the front!’ I didn’t give her time to get nervous. I grabbed her weights, and told her to start on her own, take her time. And of course two minutes in she was fine. Nobody’s paying attention because they’re all doing their own thing.”
“Mine was a black-white issue,” she says of the discriminatory and non-inclusive environment where she grew up. But that doesn’t mean that divides don’t still exist between gender, age, and athletic abilities; and Juliet strives to bring down these barriers in her classroom.
“You have old women in here that want to be a part, and they can stand right next to a 21-year-old guy who’s pushing it, and they can all do their thing,” she said. “Just include everybody. Deconditioned women, from whatever age, they want to be there too. So it’s like, can I teach to everybody? That’s what I want to do.”