I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw Christa. To set the appropriate context, you should know that it was May 2010, and I was over 250 lbs –at my heaviest and my unhappiest, knowing I had to make changes but having no idea where to start or how to find something I could stick with. After hearing about Tuff Girl Fitness “boot camps” from a friend who was already taking them, I had set up my first complimentary class. I drove to East Rock Park, where classes used to be held in the old days, and sat in my car for over 10 minutes trying to work up the courage to get out. I was terrified.
When I finally did start making my way to the class, I immediately picked Christa out. She was wearing a sweet pair of Top Gun-ish aviator sunglasses, and I was totally intimidated, not gonna lie. But as soon as she saw me, her face opened up into a huge warm smile, and she came right over to me. “You must be Stephanie! I’m Christa. I’m so glad you’re here!” While I can’t say this welcome put me completely at ease (since I was still crapping myself about the workout) it lessened my anxiety and reassured me I was in the right place.
I feel like this first meeting perfectly demonstrates who Christa is. She can seem intimidating–she is, after all, a determined, driven, totally kickass strong woman who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals–but she is also a warm, compassionate person and a fierce advocate for and supporter of the women she trains. It is my privilege to share her badass story with you.
Christa is a dedicated mom to two adorable girls: Liv, 3 years, and Lea, 14 months. She and her husband Mike are co-owners of Bodyology Fitness Studio in Hamden, CT. Bodyology is the home of Tuff Girl Fitness (Christa’s original classes for women only) and Bodyology Co-Ed Group Performance Training. Although she has always been fit and committed to living healthfully, Christa recently undertook a no-excuses journey to earn her best body and has reached a level of fitness awesomeness that most women would call “impossible.” But that’s Christa for you–tell her it’s impossible and she’ll work her ass off to prove you wrong.
What Makes Her a Badass
This is sort of ridiculous when it comes to Christa, because everything about her screams “badass.” She pretty much defines the term as I perceive it. In fact, so overwhelming is her badassery that I have to split it up into several different categories.
Christa credits much of her determination to her high school basketball coach. He was the first person who really pushed her beyond her limits, who broke her down and then built her back up again. Ever since then, she’s been through many different levels of fitness, pushing herself to get faster, get stronger. She was an avid runner in her 20’s, often running 6+ miles almost daily.
While she was always “fit,” Christa wasn’t getting the results she wanted. Over the years, she refined her training, gradually moving away from running and into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and lifting progressively heavier weights. She got real with herself about her food and eating habits, and committed to eating clean and cutting the crap. Over the 2+ years that I’ve known and trained with her, she’s continued to tweak her eating habits to best fuel her body, build serious muscle, and lean up.
Have a look at this progression, and notice that in none of these photos would you say Christa was heavy or out of shape, but DAMN! You can definitely see the amazing results in physique that come from dedication to clean eating and training hard:
And here’s what Christa looks like now, after a year of focused dedication to hard work and clean eating, 95% of the time:
I know exactly what you’re thinking, and “Holy Shit!” about sums it up. Christa set a goal, worked her ass off, and crushed it.
Some idiot doctor told Christa she would never be tough enough to have an unmedicated vaginal delivery. (Pause for laughter. Seriously. What a moron.) As with all her other goals and decisions, Christa knew what she wanted to do, and opposition that she faced only strengthened her resolve.
She gave birth to her daughter Liv in January of 2009, an unmedicated water birth. Just over two years later, little Lea was born the same way:
If you can look at this picture and not shed a tear or at least catch your breath, check your pulse. You might be dead. Or maybe you’re a Vulcan. Seriously.
After Lea was born, Christa set out to prove that having a baby (or two) doesn’t mean a woman has lost her ability to have an amazing body and, most especially, cut up abs. And as much as I love words, I’m going to let these photos speak for themselves:
And, the finished product:
Beyond her dedication to being a role model of healthy, fit living for her 2 daughters, Christa has just about perfected the art of the work/family balance. She created the life and livelihood she dreamed of so she could be be there for her children and not have to compromise her family OR her passion for training. And speaking of her as a trainer…
Badass Business Owner
Badasses are huge risk-takers. They know that unless they’re willing to put faith in their awesomeness and make some scary leaps, they’ll never get the huge rewards, and instead will end up living humdrum mediocre lives. Unless you’ve been asleep for the last 900 or so words, you know that’s not how Christa rolls.
She started out as an Occupational Therapist, helping kids with varied issues and disabilities rehabilitate. When the bureaucracy of the job began to get in the way of her actually helping kids, Christa left. She worked in pharmaceutical sales next–a job that she hated, but it paid good money so she stuck it out for awhile. This is where she met her husband, Mike.
Christa was always training clients on the side, doing in-home boot camps on nights and weekends, driving all over hell and creation because her clients were so widely dispersed throughout Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. That all changed when Liv was born, and she left her job in pharma for good.
In May 2009, Christa took a leap and started Tuff Girl Fitness with just 5 clients who met up in the park. Her plan was to grow the business over time, and eventually get her own studio once her kids were in school. You know what they say about the best laid plans…
What happened next was truly amazing, and I credit Christa’s passion, dedication, and hard work 100%. Her business exploded, pretty much all through word-of-mouth. When I started with her in May 2010, I’d say there were maybe 30-50 women attending classes regularly…I don’t know, maybe it was closer to 100 at that point? I’m not sure. (Stop badgering me about it! You know I’m not good with numbers!!!) She added a few more classes. They got more crowded as more and more women kept showing up at the park to work their asses off with Christa.
In early November 2010, with Liv not quite 2 years old and Christa just a few months pregnant with Lea, Bodyology Fitness Studio–home of Tuff Girl Fitness–opened.
I just want to make sure you caught that: Christa opened her own fitness home for a huge group of clients that she attracted with her passion and awesomeness, all while she had a toddler at home AND was pregnant with another baby. A. MAZ. ING.
Christa at the opening celebration for the studio
The cycle continued. More classes added, followed by a part time trainer, the also-awesome Karin Christley. Annnnnnd, more growth. Classes got fuller and fuller as the word continued to spread about the fitness family Christa had created.
Just before Lea was born in the spring of 2011, Christa and Mike took a SERIOUS leap, the one that completely awes and inspires me. Mike left his secure, very-well-paying, benefitted job in medical sales to come on board full time at Bodyology as well. (And Mike is pretty awesome, too…check it out:)
Mike, demonstrating good form on deadlifts
Mike coaching a client on the TRX
Now, they had a family business that they were putting everything into. Is the idea of both earning spouses walking away from steady paychecks and benefits as terrifying to any of you as it is to me? Terrifying! REALLY!
But Christa’s doubts were few and far between. As she told me, she was never afraid of failure; that wasn’t even an option. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to balance her passion for training and empowering women with her role as mom; she didn’t want her kids to lose out if her attention was divided. Her other fear was that, in trying to accommodate the overwhelming growth of the business, they would have to compromise the integrity of their program.
I’m here to tell you that her fear was completely baseless. She and Mike–and Karin, who came on full time in June to accommodate ever MORE growth–are all conscientious and relentless trainers, completely focused on driving each of us to give our best and nothing less in a safe and motivating environment. Just look at how badass they all are:
I can only imagine how amazing it is for Christa to see what she has grown from her own hard work and passion, to know that she has not only taken huge risks for huge professional payoffs, but that she has also done it in such a way that doesn’t compromise her family or her integrity. Talk about inspiring.
IN HER OWN WORDS
What have been your biggest challenges along the way?
The challenge for me has always been finding time for myself and my family. The lines were becoming really blurred for awhile, so I had to work to set some clear boundaries between work and home life. For example, I won’t answer emails after 2pm on a Saturday. Saturday afternoon, and through the day Sunday is our time for our family. I want to be there 100% with my family, just like I’m there 100% with my classes, with my own training–with whatever I’m doing!–and setting those kinds of boundaries lets me do that.
What are your proudest moments?
“[As a Mom], my proudest moments were the birth of my two daughters, and having a natural and unmedicated birth for both of them. I am also extremely proud that I am raising respectful, kind, polite kids.
[As a trainer], I receive 3-4 emails a week from women thanking me for helping them, and these are all proud moments. Sometimes, it’s as simple as doing a box jump or a deadlift–an exercise they were afraid of–and my encouragement helped them do it. But it goes beyond that…I am so proud to empower women with fitness. I’ve had clients who have found the courage to leave abusive relationships because of the empowerment they felt during our workouts, and I am so proud and so honored to be a part of that moment when women conquer things they are afraid of and overcome their challenges.”
What advice would you give to all of us on a fitness (or other) journey into badassery?
“Hard work pays off. If you’re not willing to work, don’t expect to get it. The best things in life take time and patience. All of my accomplishments didn’t happen overnight; I saw every day as an opportunity for growth and used it to get to where I am. You’re stronger than you think you are, and you don’t know what you’re capable of until you put yourself out there and go after what you really want.”
With this long of a post, there’s really only one thing left to say: Christa Doran is a total BADASS, and I am so lucky to have been able to share her story with you.