She's Helping Black Women Prioritize Fitness
Sharita Jennings isn't sure where her fitness obsession started, but somewhere during her teenage years, she fell in love with working out, exercise videos, and just being as active as possible and hasn't looked back. That obsession led her to create GetFitLikeThat, a fitness movement aimed at spreading a health obsession with health and fitness. This service provides black women with customized workout plans, web-based personal training, and fun group fitness events.
When did you fall in love with wellness?
I fell in love with fitness as a young teenager. I was obsessed with fitness videos like Body Electric (very 80s looking program on PBS), Tae Bo and of course, Jillian Michaels. I was always moving the living room furniture to do a TV workout with my favorite trainers or create my own versions for fun. Yes, I know I sound like a pretty weird kid!
How important is fitness to today?
As I get older, (I’m now in my mid-thirties), fitness has become increasingly important in my life. I’m lucky that I’ve always enjoyed getting sweaty and challenging my body, because now more than ever, regular exercise is essential to maintaining my sanity and staying at a healthy weight. I pray that I am always this motivated to be active and I’m so grateful for the body I have and all that it allows me to do.
When it comes to nutrition, what do you usually eat before and after a workout?
First, I want to point out that pre-workout meals may differ from person to person. Some people cannot work out on an empty stomach at all, and others can barely eat before working out to avoid indigestion and other discomforts. So it may take some time to figure out what’s perfect for your body.
Now, with that being said, for morning workouts, I will usually just have coffee, water, and half a banana or a bit of yogurt. Something to stop my stomach from growling and make sure I have some energy in the tank. If I’m working out in the afternoon, I just try to have a small snack of a handful of nuts and maybe a piece of fruit as well before I head to the gym or out for a run.
After my workouts, I rush to get my protein in my body no longer than 1 hour after my workout. My go to is a Premier protein shake because I can pack it easily in my purse and keep plenty on hand in the fridge. If I don’t have that in my gym bag, my backup is greek yogurt with berries, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The immediate serving of protein with some carbs is essential to keeping those strength gains and helping my muscles rebuild and recover. If I have none of these on hand, I’ll head straight to 7 - 11 to get a protein bar to hold me over until my next meal.
How do you overcome a workout rut?
I occasionally get into workout ruts, especially now that I live abroad. It can be an extra struggle to stay on top of my workouts when I don’t have my usual set of friends to workout with, or my favorite fitness classes to get my sweat on. But, I have my ways not to stay off my game for long.
First, I try to get back on track as soon as possible by doing something active that I enjoy. This might be anything from going out for a challenging hike, trying out indoor rock climbing, or an entire night of nonstop salsa dancing. Even though working up the nerve to get out and be active is rough, I always feel 100% better when I’m done. I also enlist the help of a friend to check in on me and hold me accountable, even if that friend is thousands of miles away. Finally, I check myself and my negative thoughts. Being hard on myself doesn’t help anything so I try to look ahead, rather than look back at the workouts I may have missed out on.
What would you like to see happen/more of in the black wellness community?
I would love to see more and more representation of black men and women leading healthy lives on all social platforms, in television ads, movies and anywhere else with an audience. It makes a world of difference for our community to see black people making healthy decisions, like drinking water, cooking healthy meals, hiking, trying adventure sports, meditating, and the like.
So many black people of all ages may not be fully aware that leading an active and healthy lifestyle is an option for them. I believe that this is a consequence of a lack of access to healthy options, like health food stores, bike trails or even safe places to walk and exercise in our neighborhoods. Another reason that our community isn’t completely aware of how to lead a healthier lifestyle is that we just don’t see enough of ourselves being active and making smart eating choices in mainstream media.
Fortunately, we now have the opportunity to share countless examples of healthy black lifestyles so that our community is more aware of its options. Representation is everything!
As a fitness coach, what are the top 3 problems that you see for people of color in fitness? How do you help people break through these issues?
First, since a majority of my clients are women, I often notice an issue of women -- especially black women -- being uncomfortable with prioritizing themselves. As you know, you cannot pour from an empty cup. However, black women in particular fall into patterns of starting a fitness program and then using all their obligations to their jobs and families as an excuse to be inconsistent. I often work with my clients for weeks focused only on making the time to get the workout in and prepare healthy meals, and place that time high on their priority list. Specifically, I advise clients to block out times on their calendars -- just like they would for any business meeting, play date or important event -- and stick to that appointment whenever it comes up.
Second, I notice that people of color may not always have a great source of accountability and support within their families or social groups. It’s so ingrained in our nature to use food as a go-to for everything: celebrations, depression, catching up with friends, spending time with family, you name it! It’s not yet our instinct to say, “hey family, let’s go on a hike. Or let’s all have a zoodles for dinner because mom is trying to lose weight.”
I find that people of color struggle to stay on a healthy course because their environments aren’t always conducive to making healthy choices while maintaining a social life. Outside of the prescribed workouts, I encourage clients to find more outdoor activities to do with their friends and families so they get to spend time with the people they love and burn a few calories at the same time. My friends know that I am quick to suggest a scenic walk around my city for a happy hour whenever the weather is right!
Third, I notice a lack of knowledge among people of color in preparing healthy meals. I similarly struggle with just coming up with healthy and enjoyable meals to make on a regular basis. More often than not, people of color have grown up on food that isn’t always the healthiest. This issue is by no means impossible to overcome, rather it’s a matter of learning which ingredients to swap into their diets and unlearning the habits that have historically led to instances of high blood pressure, increased risk for diabetes, and heart disease.
What type of person would you recommend online training to vs in-person training?
I’d recommend that anyone with an “unusual” routine or schedule enlist the help of an online trainer. These individuals might travel constantly for work, or they have hours that just don’t work with traditional gym hours. An online trainer is typically the most flexible option out there and can help someone stay on course no matter where that person is or the type of schedule they keep.
Then, to the person who needs specific help with form, accommodating for an injury, or who just thrives off of someone helping them with a watchful eye, I’d recommend an in-person trainer. I’ve even referred some of my online clients to in-person trainers if they need to make adjustments to their form to avoid injury or reinjury.
When looking for a personal trainer, whether in-person or online, the most important thing is how you relate with that trainer. You’ll be sharing some personal stories and need to be very open with your trainer, so it is essential that you feel only good vibes from your trainer or you will be less likely to reach your goals.
What is your favorite part of the work you do?
My favorite part about the work I do is helping people find their untapped strength. In my classes or in my online programs, I seek out the perfect combination of exercises that my clients can enjoy while also pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. We all place limits on ourselves and simply don’t try to exceed those limits (if we can help it). So it’s my job to help clients realize just how strong they are and exactly what they are capable of accomplishing. When you get that taste of success with every single workout, that’s what keeps you coming back and getting closer to your goals.
The bonus is inspiring people who I have no idea are watching. My family members have started running races now, coworkers are showing off their muscles after joining my online challenges, and people approach me to brag about their workouts and healthy meals all the time. There’s nothing better than those out of the blue success stories!
Do you have any “health hacks” for people on the road?
Absolutely! I have been living abroad for about 8 months now and being away from home forces you to be even more intentional about your fitness and food choices. Here are a few hacks that have helped me while I’m away:
- Stay hydrated: Something about being on the road makes you forget the simple things. Being in control of your water intake is one of the easiest things to do when you’re traveling and it can help you maintain regularity, keep your energy levels high, and help you keep your immune system on high while you thrust your body into a new climate and environment.
- Pack your gym: My suitcase always has a set of mini resistance bands and a jump rope so that I can get a basic strength workout and some cardio whenever i need it. And I never EVER travel without running shoes. No matter where you are (pretty much) you can get a good challenging walk or jog in and you won’t have an excuse to avoid the gym if you have access to one in your hotel or temporary apartment.
- Pack probiotics: with every new destination, especially abroad, you’ll be exposing your body to new bacteria and there’s no way of knowing how your stomach will react. Avoid sickness and boost your immune system by taking probiotics and continuing to take them daily while you’re away. These have saved me on more than one occasion while living in South America.
What are you currently working on and where can we find more of you?
I’m currently working on sharing the energy from some of my favorite group fitness classes with people no matter where they are located. I’ll be kicking off the Summer edition of my 8 week series, SWEAT Season in May which is 8 weeks of 30 minute strength and HIIT workouts that can be downloaded onto any device and women can follow on their own schedules.
My fitness classes, grab-and-go programs and more can be found at GetFitLikeThat.com! And of course I put out tons of content on Instagram @GetFitLikeThat, and I love to connect with people there.