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Renee’s reaching for the stars


LEANNE TASHER, [email protected]

Renee’s reaching for the stars

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RENEE CRICHLOW suits up in her tights, sports top and sneakers. She stretches and then gets into business mode. The 34-year-old fitness instructor is owner of React Fitness, a four-year-old venture.

No matter what obstacles come her way, Renee refuses to scale down her goals.

That’s because being a progressive, strong, independent woman is high on her agenda. With every lunge, squat and push-up that she does, she hopes to achieve much more than a toned body.

In an interview with EASY magazine, Crichlow explained that she viewed exercise as a tool for inspiring and empowering women. She said she could attest to benefits of working out because it had transformed her life in many ways.

She now describes herself as being more assertive, energetic and positive, but this was not always the case. As a teenager, Crichlow was self-conscious about her physical appearance. The former Louis Lynch student said she became unhappy with her extremely petite body when she started comparing herself with schoolmates. So she naturally she became obsessed with gaining a few more pounds.

“In the back of my mind, every time I looked in a mirror I’d be, like, ‘You are still so small. Why you just don’t give up? It doesn’t make any sense, it’s your genetics. You will never look the way that you want to look’. And then when I would go shopping for clothes that I like obviously, I am seeing [my body as] a Pine Hill Dairy box juice – just straight, no shape, no nothing. That’s what I would see.

“ . . . . People would think that when you’re slim, you don’t have body image issues. [But] the same things that people who are on the bigger side would go through, I went through all of those things,” she said.

Renee was on a mission to change her look.

“At first I thought I wasn’t working out hard enough so I started working out harder and still I was not gaining the weight. Then I looked at my nutrition so [and] I started to improve on that, [but] still nothing was happening. I [later] realised . . . that [improving your body] has a lot to do with your mindset. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to get into fitness. I wanted to help women so that they don’t have to struggle the way I did,” she said.

It took some years before she discovered the core of her body issues – her mind. Thanks to online personal development courses, Renee started to think about herself and her approach to working out differently. It was the “negative self-talk” that held her back, she said.

“That helped me change the way I was looking at myself, because there was really a lot of self-hate,” she said. “Once I got over the self-hate and started to go towards self-love, and appreciating what I am, knowing that it was just a temporary state, that’s when I was able to start to transform. Everything I did then was to look a certain way but not really appreciating who I was. I also realised some of those same traits women go through every day.”

Her quest for self-development also included academic pursuits. Now the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified personal trainer has a bachelor of science in information technology. With certificates in nutrition, dancing through pregnancy and mind map under her belt, she has become an unstoppable force. She is currently pursuing a certificate in mind map mastery.

Several times a week, this programme analyst of ten years becomes a fun-loving fitness trainer, who keeps participants’ bodies pumping with the Rock Your Body, Body Rise and Rhythm Party workout sessions. However, her success did not come without a good sweat.

Crichlow said setting up her business was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. Since starting the fitness class in 2012 she came close to throwing in the towel on many occasions, she said.

“There have been struggles as a business person all along the four years. When I started, I was outdoors by Bay Street. And I gradually had to build from there. Sometimes I would say to myself, ‘Well, this business is not working, I feel like giving up’. So it has been a hard struggle. [But I got support],  whether it was letting me know about a space I can use or giving me advice when I had one of my many meltdowns,” she said.

Managing her time with a nine-to-five job and self-operated business is not always easy, but Crichlow’s passion for fitness keeps her motivated. Her interest in physical activity could be traced back to her primary school days at St Paul’s Primary School, playing netball and track and field and at university, she competed in the inter-campus games.

She said her love for fitness was also in her genes, noting that her father, Neil Crichlow, is an athletics coach, mother Agnes represented Barbados in hockey, netball and track and field; and sister Desiree competes in high jump and triple jump.

Knowing that she is making a difference in women’s lives gives Crichlow a sense of accomplishment. “I like to know that I am helping women. I like to know that they are progressing and seeing them transform.”

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