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I fell in love with intensity when…

I fell in love with intensity…when it stopped being punishment.

“Growing up, whenever I made a mistake or ate something unhealthy, my father would make me go for a run. I turned this negative into a positive by taking ownership of my fitness and bringing my high school baseball team together to work hard in the weight room and on the track. I became captain, leading our team’s conditioning sessions. My baseball career ended after high school, but the gym remained one of the only constants in my life. Today, I train for marathons, triathlons, and more. I’m thankful for everything intense training has taught me.”

Arlen Guerrero, complex personal training manager at Equinox Brickell and Brickell Heights in Miami, Florida

I fell in love with intensity…after a major panic attack.

“In 2017, I was diagnosed with panic and general anxiety disorders after a gruesome episode. Learning to live with the diagnosis took a while, but then a friend who had been through a similar experience suggested I try intense workouts as a way to unplug. It worked. HIIT sessions that leave me dripping in sweat help clear my mind and offer a daily reset that I haven’t found anywhere else. Afterward, I feel more relaxed and confident, not anxious and panicked. Now, I prioritize fitness as a means of self-care.”

—Maggie Hickey, account executive, Boston

I fell in love with intensity…when I found true confidence.

“In high school, I often assumed I was meant for mediocrity. I dabbled with exercise only because it seemed like the surest way to get abs and thus catch the eyes of girls I liked. Then a friend took me to his gym and I met a group of competitive bodybuilders. They gave me a different perspective on training.

Those workouts changed my body and more importantly, my mentality. I no longer tried to fit in by doing what everyone else was doing. Instead, intense training became my thing. The weight room humbled me and gave me confidence, helping me grow in mind, body, and spirit. My lifts became my hallowed ground. I grew into the man I am today because of all those repetitions.”

Kevin Mullins, master instructor and Tier 3+ personal trainer at Sports Club Washington, DC

I fell in love with intensity…once I redefined it.

“At 17, I weighed 265 pounds and essentially trained like a powerlifter every day while playing for a national football team. Moving as much weight as possible made me a better athlete, but by 22, I’d had three tendon repair surgeries and many aches and pains. I felt much older in my body than I wanted to.  

I spent the next three years learning everything I could about anatomy and movement. I started doing more loaded stretches (my new form of meditation) and using kettlebells. I lost weight, gained range of motion, and noticed less wear and tear on my joints and tissues. Now, my training is intense in a different, more sustainable way. I can do handstands, pistol squats, the splits, and all sorts of cool expressions with my body that I never thought possible.”

Scott Fournier, Tier 3+ trainer and master instructor at Yorkville in Toronto

I fell in love with intensity…post-breakup.

“I learned the ins and outs of the weight room from a college boyfriend. When we broke things off, the slow, solo lift sessions left me feeling nostalgic, lonely, and without a high, so I started frequenting HIIT classes with friends. When I was crushing an AMRAP of burpees or sled pushes, there was no time to think about heartbreak or his biceps or how he used to tweak my dumbbell row form. Not to mention, the endorphin rush I got from hard-as-hell workouts made me feel better.”

-Lauren Mazzo, editor, New York City