Tenika is the kind of person who lives every day like it’s her last. While a lot of that can be contributed to her helping nature – she’s a devoted working parent, active member of her church, and regular volunteer in her community – part of it stems from all of the illness she’s witnessed in her 38 years.
“I’ve seen so many deaths around me from sickness,” she says, “I don’t want to be unhealthy. I look forward to living life and to seeing my son grow up and be successful. I want to be able to play with my grandkids.”
For most of her life, Tenika dreaded the idea of working out. “I was never that fitness person,” she says. She had tried gym memberships in the past, but never with any consistency. Always, her motivation went “up and down, up and down.” That changed when a friend introduced her to a Mixxed Fit class offered through Stronger Austin. From day one, Tenika was hooked.
In 2018, we launched Stronger Austin with a goal of making health an attainable goal for all of Austin. Informed by community input, the program provides free exercise and nutrition classes in historically underserved neighborhoods. Classes are taught by local members of the community and located in areas that make them easy for residents to access.
“I really like the fact that they try to cater to the demographics of the community,” says Tenika. “People may not have cars to get to the gym. Stronger Austin offers these classes for free and where people have easy access to get to them. They’re amazing. I love Stronger Austin.”
In a little over two years, Tenika’s gone from what she characterizes as “extremely unhealthy” to working out four times a week. She’s also started paying more attention to her nutrition. Her Mixxed Fit instructor, Sekoya, encouraged her to try a 10-day cleanse and introduced her to clean eating. “It really changed my taste palate,” she says. Tenika’s also applied a lot of information she’s received from the nutrition classes offered through Stronger Austin.
Perhaps one of Tenika’s most surprising accomplishments since joining Stronger Austin is getting certified as a Mixxed Fit instructor herself. She has always loved dancing, but admits that becoming an instructor is “something I never really saw myself doing.” Sekoya, along with some of Tenika’s other classmates, were her biggest supporters. Now, she teaches with Stronger Austin part-time and is always looking to welcome new students into the class. To her, the program is “like a family.”
“As an instructor, I get to connect with people who are just like me,” says Tenika. “I’ve had friends who would not step foot inside a gym, and they’ve all started coming. I feel like I have a little bit to do with that. I feel proud and it helps me keep going.”
For Tenika, success is about being happy and content with your life. She finds her purpose in helping others, including taking her family along to do community service and conducting outreach to help people register to vote.
Through Mixxed Fit, she is finding new ways to give back. She started a praise dance company for the youth in her church and regularly joins other members of the Mixxed Fit community to give master’s classes around the city.
We asked Tenika where she sees herself in the future. “I see myself maybe branching out and having my own Mixxed Fit studio in the future. But I want it to remain free, like Stronger Austin. I really, really like that they are trying to get our community into the healthy lifestyle. It is something that I would like to expand out even further.”
One of the things Tenika appreciates most about Stronger Austin is how inclusive it is. “For a lot of people, it’s hard to get to the gym or find places you can go work out with your kids” says Tenika. “Mixxed Fit is for everybody. You see that in our class. We have people from the ages of five to 80. All I ask of my students is that you keep moving and have fun.”
Looking back at where she started a few years ago, Tenika admits that the road hasn’t always been easy. “Sometimes you fall off,” she says. But over time, she’s developed the confidence to push past those hurdles. She’s also embraced the mindset that there’s no better time than the present.
“You know, you always hear people say, I’m going to start on Monday. I’ve had to switch my focus, and I’m like, you don’t have to wait. You can start tonight, with something simple. That first week, you’re going to suffer—you’re going to want to quit that first week, but after, it does get easier. Just getting started is the hardest part.”
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