By Taroue Brooks
How did you get into the fitness industry?
I grew up very active and with a passion for sports. It has always been second nature to me. After high school, my goal was to join the military. As I stated before, I grew up in a small town in Mississippi, so I wanted to do something different and explore the opportunity to see beyond that which I had been accustomed to. However, my grandmother had a different plan for me. Her protective nature desired for me to attend a nearby college where two older cousins were already enrolled. To her, this was an ideal move for me, so I applied, and that is where young adult life began for me. I was not content with just attending college, but I was willing to make the best of it.
A few weeks in, I was heading to class one morning and noticed people in uniform running around the campus in formation. It immediately caught my attention, so I began to inquire about who they were and how I could find more information about them. This group was a part of the college’s ROTC program. I wasn’t familiar with the program because we didn’t have it as an option when I was in high school. The next day, I located the ROTC building and inquired around for someone who could answer some questions. After all, I had already honored my grandma’s wish by attending college. She never said I couldn’t join the military, so I joined the college’s ROTC program, which would allow me to attend school and work towards my military goal as a commissioned officer.
During my time in ROTC, I became very knowledgeable about military life and the many options serving my country had to offer. I found a way to stay in college and join the military, which would help pay for my college degree. I connected with a recruiter in the surrounding area, and we discussed options to take a break from college to attend basic training and technical school, and then return to finish my degree. The only requirement was for me to attend military duty one weekend each month and two weeks each year. It was all in the books now. I was an active member of the military, college ROTC program participant, and a college student. I was WINNING.
After college graduation, I moved to the coast to work for the Air Force. I was there for less than a year when Hurricane Ivan hit, and I decided that I did not want to continue fighting against the storms. I moved to Atlanta and landed a job as a loan officer, as well as worked part time at a gym near my apartment. One evening while working at the juice bar in the gym, a gentleman who had come to purchase supplements asked if I had ever thought of doing fitness competitions. He said I looked like I worked out and that I probably would do well in the competition. Not knowledgeable of the competition world, I responded with an “absolutely not!” My image of female bodybuilders was not something I wanted for myself, so I politely declined. He attempted to explain the difference, but I wasn’t interested.
Later that day, a young lady came into the juice bar with a book. She introduced herself to me and stated that she was asked to come in and show me some pictures of her as a fitness competitor. I was in awe. She looked amazing. At that moment, I was sold and ready to begin training to become a fitness competitor.
I joined their gym and began training and prepping myself for upcoming shows. I learned quickly that fitness competitions are not for the faint of heart. It is a serious business, and it requires a commitment of time and effort, as well as a flawless diet. I began training for my first fitness competition in 2006. I hit the stage in April of 2007, where I placed 4th out of 32 competitors in the nationally recognized Supernatural Bodybuilding and Fitness Competition. I later competed in another show where I put first overall, which allowed me to compete world-wide in a Pro-Status—an accomplishment that can take many years to reach. From that point, I competed in shows where I’ve won many titles and awards. I was also crowned Miss Georgia Fitness for two years in a row.
During this time, my body changed dramatically, and everyone noticed. I would be out shopping and people would approach to ask questions as if I was a professional trainer, and would ask if I could train them. For a long time, I would say no and direct them to one of the trainers at the gym until I realized that this had become my lifestyle, and I had the knowledge to guide people just as I had been guided.
It became a journey of not only sculpturing my body but having the ability to affect the lives of others as well. I trained clients to compete in numerous shows. Along the way, I gained several certifications and was on the road to becoming one of the best trainers in the game. To experience the impact my training had on transforming people’s lives—whether for image, health concerns or self-confidence—passion burned within me and grew increasingly over the years.
As a trainer and professional figure competitor, my passion was focused on helping people achieve their goals in living a happy, healthy, and successful life. I was dedicated to developing results-driven programs that were individually designed to help people achieve optimal health. Although my main focus was on personal training and fitness, my ultimate goal was to help people become successful in all areas of their lives; physical, personal, and professional. Everything I did was meant to educate, inspire, motivate, and, above all, empower people to create the life they deserved.
After almost 15 years in the game, I had created a lane for myself. Celebrity trainer and coach, nutritionist, First Sergeant and Instructor in the US Air Force, an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Vice President of my motorcycle club, LaFemme TTG, MC. It was time to branch out and embark on a new journey in the world of health and fitness—creating the fitness apparel brand, 8Figured.
Tell us more about the services you offer.
As a Certified Fitness Coach and trainer, I offer health and wellness coaching via the virtual platform as well as personal training. This coaching includes writing personalized meal plans and training plans to fit each individual’s lifestyle and needs.
What inspired you to create the 8Figured brand?
Being a Personal Trainer for over 14 years, I was able to see firsthand the fact that a lot of people do not love and accept who they are. They idealize who and what they want to be instead of understand and embracing the uniqueness of themselves. The name 8Figured represents the idea of self-worth. It’s about accepting who you are and being an engineer of the body you were given. Self-Love, Acceptance and Self-Respect. It’s also about being resilient and bouncing back from the things life throws at us. These experience may bend us, but they do not have to break us. That’s the 8Figured Mindset.
What sets 8Figured apart from competition?
There are many things that sets 8Figured apart from the competition. One thing is that 8Figured is more than a fitness brand; it’s a representation of one’s worth. 8Figured is a lifestyle. It’s about accepting who you are and being an engineer of the body you were given. Our bodies are priceless, and we should treat them as such. 8Figured’s mission is to empower, educate, and to help others to realize self-worth and total acceptance. Our goal is to help create a cultural change that aligns with social acceptability while embracing individuality.
What’s advice do you have for eating when staying fit?
The advice I have for eating when staying fit is to aim to educate yourself to know and understand the foods that you are putting in your system. You should know what eating healthy looks like and what certain foods do to your body.
How are you suggesting people work out during Covid-19?
With some gyms still closed or people deciding not to go due to the coronavirus pandemic, engaging in physical fitness activities can be challenging. But finding creative ways to adapt to these new conditions is vital to preserving our health. Devote some time at least three days a week to focus on your physical fitness. Yoga can be done just about anywhere. All you need to get started is a mat, comfortable attire and a program to follow. For training, most of us don’t have an in-home gym, but you can still train at home using dumbbells or resistance bands. If you don’t have those items, you can make your own weights using common household items. You can also just use your own bodyweight to hit each muscle group for a full workout. Even while sheltering in place, you can get your cardio in by walking or jogging by yourself in your neighborhood
How do you motivate people to get fit?
My number one thing is getting them to find their “why”, their reasoning for wanting to do what they do. Maybe they’re tired of their clothes not fitting. Maybe they’re managing a health condition that requires better habits. Maybe it’s vanity. Maybe it’s a desire for more energy or better sleep or a prolonged life or higher performance. Maybe it’s general prevention. Maybe it’s something else. Regardless, the key is to connect them with a specific goal that feels personal. They will be more likely to take steps toward a destination when they’ve said, out loud, where they’d like to go.
Where do you see the fitness industry in the next five years?
Fitness trends are changing and technology is playing an increasing role. With fitness interest at an all-time high, companies are rethinking the gym experience. I think we can expect far more innovative tech, peak social experiences, and unlikely brick-and-mortar locations.
What special tips can you give senior citizens who strive to be fit?
Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age—and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. Don’t get discouraged by health problems, aches and pains, or concerns about injuries or falls. At least three times a day just getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.