Jenny Gaither is one of my favorite SoulCycle instructors in the Bay Area. Her class was the first class I ever took and I have been drinking the Kool-Aide ever since. I love her anecdotes, her energy and all of the positive change she brings to the world around her. I have never left her class not feeling empowered and like I wasn’t able to conquer the world (the last part was taken from a mantra my grandfather gave me last week).
At the risk of sounding stereotypical, I have a lot of epiphanies at SoulCycle. Actually, I have a lot of epiphanies a lot of the time – running, walking down the stairs at work, hiking – so this isn’t that uncommon. I realized I wanted to be part of something that was empowering others to become the very best version of themselves.
Suddenly in class one day, Jenny mentioned that she had a non-profit, Movemeant Foundation. I immediately had to be a creep after class and ask her all about it and if she would be featured on AGIT since she is a cool person doing an incredibly cool, positive thing for young girls.
I never really talk about it, but I was a coach for Girls on the Run my senior year in college. I loved sharing my love of running with these little girls and watching how fitness made them feel better about themselves. Movemeant Foundation definitely tugged at my heartstrings. I am so excited to share my interview with Jenny today and hope you leave feeling as inspired by her as I am.
Could you tell us a little bit about your non-profit, Movemeant Foundation?
Movemeant uses fitness as a platform to help women of all ages build confidence and self-esteem. Through positive mentorship, engaging content about health and nutrition, and financial grants, we make fitness and physical movement a reality for those who might not otherwise have had the chance.
What was your inspiration in starting Movemeant Foundation?
As a dancer, I spent my early adolescence and teenage years basing my self-worth on my appearance and the number on a scale. When I turned 21, I moved to NYC and it was there- in the hustle of one of the most intimidating cities in the world with nothing but fear and uncertainty of what to do next with my life—that I learned what was holding me back. That my body image insecurities interfered with the choices I made in my every day life. That the only one standing in my way of finding happiness and of reaching my fullest potential was me, simply because I didn’t believe in myself enough.
I found SoulCycle within the first six months of living in the city and after my first class I was transformed. Through movement I found direction again. Through movement I remembered what it felt like to feel strong. In those loud, steamy, euphoric classes, I was able to piece myself back together because for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone in my insecurities.
I became a SoulCycle instructor four months after my first class in 2010, and through the community I built both on and off the bike, I discovered most women (and men) could relate to my body image issues. The problem was no one was talking about it. More so, the social issues that stem from body image problems were ever-increasing with a generation much younger than my own. So I decided to do something about it. I was finally confident enough in myself to be the voice of change and it was then that I founded Movemeant.
What was the biggest challenge in starting Movemeant Foundation? What has been most rewarding part?
The biggest challenge is patience. I want to help everyone and be involved in everything, however, the reality is that large-scale, nationwide impact does not happen over night. So for now, I try to focus on the people I can help on a day-to-day basis.
The most rewarding part is watching friends, family, and our supporters get super excited about the change we are creating together. You know you have a strong message when an army of people not only believe in what you’re doing, but have your back every step of the way.
How do you balance Movemeant Foundation, teaching SoulCycle and everything else in your life?
As an entrepreneur in the category of social change, our work is self-motivated and requires an enormous amount of discipline, focus, and responsibility. Layer a demanding and physical job on top of it, and it appears to be nearly impossible. But over the years, I’ve developed a keen understanding of where each seemingly disparate path intersects. This creates efficiencies that allow me to tackle profits and losses with the same voracity as building playlists for an upcoming class.
So when it comes to balancing two full-time jobs (SoulCycle, Movemeant) I relish in my opportunity to explore different sides of my personality—a duality for which many people don’t have the chance to see. By day, I have the chance to be resourceful, innovative and strategic in my long-term vision for Movemeant. There is constant multi-tasking, problem solving and creative thinking that lends itself to making the best decisions for the growth of our company. But by night or early morning (6 a.m. rooster classes), I have the chance to let out my inner rockstar. On the SoulCycle bike I get to be the wild, energetic and goofy side of myself.
A literal and figurative balancing act.
How did you become a SoulCycle instructor? What is the biggest reward in teaching?
My roommate from college found SoulCycle on Craigslist. She started managing at the first Upper West Side studio when I applied to work behind the desk in 2010. Four months later I auditioned, made it into the first SoulCycle training program, and had eight classes on the schedule.
The biggest reward is watching people leave class a stronger and more confident version of themselves. I’ve seen people against all odds and change their lives around because they finally believed they could. I’ve been teaching for five years now and still leave every class inspired.
Where do you see Movemeant found in one year? In five years?
In one year Movemeant will:
- Raise over 1 million dollars for our financial grant programs, providing women across the world with mentorship and opportunities to move in ways they never thought possible. Giving over 500,000 girls from the ages of 5-21 a chance to build a sustainable healthy and active lifestyle.
- Launch our nationwide mentorship program, providing young women with role models and fitness personalities/celebrities in their local communities who are accessible and relatable. These influential women will live and promote a realistic, healthy and active lifestyle. These fearless leaders will openly share their insecurities, and how through movement, they were able to conqueror everyday obstacles and challenges which enabled them build a deeper sense of self and profound strength.
In three years Movemeant will:
- Movemeant will have its own body positive curriculum to train women of all-ages in how to be spokesmen of positive body image and how to help women struggling with body image issues.
- Implement Movemeant after-school programs while restructuring PE curriculums nationwide to help young girls discover a passion and love for movement, build local communities where young women build one another up, and to promote self-love, acceptance, and confidence as something that is vital to living a healthy life.
What types of grants are available to assist you in helping others?
Movemeant Foundation offers financial grants on an individual, group, school and community level.
Individual: Want to learn to dance, surf, BMX or kickbox but you don’t have enough confidence to get it going? We’ll give you the means and know-how to overcome your fears, then team you up with girls like you and give you the tools and resources to do it together.
Groups: Nominate yourself and your friends to team up for a group activity – color runs, 5Ks, surf camp and more. We’ll cover your fees, provide you with gear and set you up on a six-week training plan with a mentor.
Schools: Your school in need of a PE makeover? Tennis courts? Basketball courts? Astroturf? We’ll get your school in the best shape of its life.
Community: Need assistance to take already existing campus programs about body image to the next level? Let us help you.
Since our official launch in November (although we’ve been at it since July), we have already garnered enough funds to support several organizations:
The Body Positive/Funkanometry: These are two Bay Area based non profit organizations for which we are putting a total of 26 coaches/mentors/instructors (from Funkanometry) through a proven and respected continuing education program (by The Body Positive.) This includes an extensive focus on body image curriculum so that each instructor in perpetuity, has the proper tools and language to educate their students about positive body image.
San Francisco Unified Public School District: We are working with middle schools (mostly in impoverished neighborhoods) to implement dance curriculum into their existing PE programs to better engage students who are failing to show up to school or are failing out of physical education because they are not motivated or too embarrassed to change into their gym clothes. Ages 12 – 14.
University of Wisconsin/Performing Ourselves: Undergraduate students of the University of Wisconsin head into seven distinct, impoverished neighborhoods of Madison to teach resiliency, self-esteem and leadership through dance to young women ages 8 – 17.
Grants applications are coming in from cities and towns nationwide, from Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Boston, Tampa and more. Interested in applying for a grant in 2015? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
for further details and for instructions on completing our grant application process.
Do you live in the Bay Area and want to get involved with Movemeant Foundation? Click through to buy tickets to their “Dare to Bare” fitness festival. Spend the day sweating it out with your friends and supporting an amazing cause in the process.
Join Movemeant Foundation’s “Dare to Bare” campaign on May 16th.
Chat with me:
Who is a positive role model in your life? Do you have memories of how fitness has changed you for the better? Any other thoughts?