Updated: Jan 13
I’ve met a number of inspiring trainers through Redprint. Each has a different path that led them to fitness and lessons they've learned along the way. To share their story and introduce you to the Redprint training team we’ve started an interview series where we will dive into the background of each, to understand how they overcame the challenges everyone faces when starting out in fitness.
To kick off the series I spoke with University of Buffalo student and NASM certified trainer Lilly. We discuss how she found her passion for fitness, turning that passion into a lifestyle, a trial-and-error approach to fitness education, and how she stays consistent with a jam packed schedule. I hope you enjoy our conversation and get some inspiration from her story. Lastly, a big thank you to Lilly for being the first interviewee of the series. You can check out her social media and learn how to contact her for personal training at the bottom of the article.
Brennick: Where are you from originally?
Lilly: I’m from Albany. I went to Shenendehowa high school. I was born in Kenmore though, and lived in Buffalo until I was four. That's why I ended up coming back here.
Brennick: Do you still have family out here?
Lilly: All my family lives out here. It’s the main reason I decided to come back here.
Brennick: Why did you move to Albany? Family?
Lilly: My dad's job, so he moved, we moved to Baltimore first and then to Albany.
So I lived in Albany from third grade until senior year. Then I said, I want to come home. So we came home. Buffalo's just always been home for me. Holidays here. Summer's here. Everybody's here. Makes sense. It just felt right.
Brennick: How'd you get started in fitness?
Lilly: So I was having a hard time figuring out exactly where I was in life because I was running track cross-country, and I loved and hated it at the same time. I hated it for a really long time, and then for a week I decided I liked it. So I started trying really hard and then I got a hip injury.
I ended up in the gym with a friend and I just fell in love with it. I don't know if it was because I wanted to hang out with them more or because I actually liked it, but eventually it turned into my own thing. It started as just oh, I wanna hang out with this person, so I'm gonna do this more. But then it turned into my own thing, and then I had a really hard time with eating.
It took me a long time to figure out that, in order to get the results I wanted, I had to eat. Whereas growing up as a girl, the only thing that you ever do is try to eat less to look better. Whereas it switched, it switched everything.
Brennick: The whole mentality.
Lilly: Yeah. So working out, in my head, it started as oh, this is fun, and then it turned into how can I get as big as possible?
And a lot of girls don't think that way. But it didn't take me long to start being that way because I've always been the kid who wrestles, plays football and be one of the boys. I just don't really care about much, I just do me.
It's never been something like I want to look prettier, this and that. Becoming as big as possible just turned into the best thing it could have ever happened to me. It turned everything that I thought I'd do upside down, and I actually found something I enjoyed a lot because I had always been looking for something I was good at. I was good at cross country and track, but not good enough to go to school for it, I guess. Lifting is something that I like enough to actually make a lifestyle and that's my main goal is to make it a lifestyle.
Brennick: How long did it take for you to have that change from just working out as a social hobby to fully embracing it and deciding this is what I'm passionate about?
Lilly: A year. At first I tried to lift in the same way that I was eating. I always had a really bad relationship with food. I thought, if I didn't eat, and drank a lot of protein shakes that I would be skinny, but have muscle at the same time.
Everybody thinks stupid things when they start lifting. That's just how it always goes. They have these weird ideas of what will work when they just have to look it up and find the right answers. Look in the right places.
Brennick: Where did you look?
Lilly: KK fit on Instagram [@kk_fit_] was my go-to. I remember I found them on Instagram and I said, I want to look like that.
Then from there, I really just used my family. I didn't do a bunch of Googling about how to get strong the fastest. I didn't watch a lot of Instagram videos at all.
I relied on what my dad said was right.
That's kind of how I do life. He tells me what to do and I do it.
And he hasn't steered me wrong yet.
My little brother wrestled a lot, so he was into lifting too. I just followed whatever he did. So if they drank protein, I drank the protein, if they ate, I ate. That was easy for me. And then once I made it my own thing, I did my own research and figured out what worked for me.
Brennick: Who would you say taught you how to go to the gym? This friend that you went with, was he a mentor to you who taught you how to workout or did he just spark the passion for it?
Lilly: Yeah, he was a little bit of a mentor, but it was more so just we wanted to hang out together. So a little bit, but my mentor was more so my dad at the time because he was the only person I've ever seen lift weights, and I finally had found something that we could do together, which was cool.
Me and my dad always bonded on little things and it was running and tracking cross-country and then it turned into lifting. He was kind of more my mentor and whereas the other thing was kinda just a social thing that I enjoyed.
Brennick: At the very beginning, what was the biggest challenge for you that you faced?
Lilly: Definitely eating. I had a very hard time trying to figure out that I had to be okay with this number on the scale going up and realizing that I was gonna have to eat double, triple. Whereas when I was running track across the country, I was the skinniest I've ever been in my whole life. I remember I'd eat a cliff bar and then go for an eight mile run and then come back and be fine. I have no idea how I did it. I would eat a stupid school lunch and then a cliff bar and go out for my run, come home and have pasta for dinner every night.
It worked, but it definitely was not healthy, and if I would've had more knowledge of what I was doing, I would've never done that. Looking back, I was just breaking down my muscle. So it took me even longer to grow back once I decided that's what I wanted to do.
Brennick: Are you currently following a workout split? What's your training style?
Lilly: I was taking working out very seriously and then I came to a point where I realized that I have other goals in life than just being the biggest version of myself.
That is cool and that's fun, but I have two jobs right now plus babysitting. So I had to make lifting and working out my lifestyle opposed to a hobby, I guess. For a while it was fun and it's still fun, but I had to switch over to a lifestyle.
So right now I go to the gym when it works with my schedule, and I go to the gym when it feels right, instead of forcing myself. Because I was forcing myself for a while, and then I wasn't sleeping.
Brennick: How has going to the gym affected your mental health?
Lilly: It helps a lot. If I have a bad day and I go to the gym, most of the time, I feel a million times better. But the days that it doesn't make me feel better, at least I got out of my apartment and did something.
Even if I go to the gym and I listen to sad music the whole time, feeling upset the entire workout, at least I'm thinking about it and trying to move through it instead of just blocking it out and pushing it away.
The gym is where I can actually focus on what's going on in my life because when I work and go to school, I don't think about anything. I just go through the motions. But then when I go to the gym, everything slows down and I get to pick the songs I'm gonna play. I'm in control. I choose what I want to do, and it helps me get a grasp on what I'm doing in life.
Brennick: Morning or night workout?
Lilly: Both. Literally whenever, whenever I can get there. I don't have the luxury right now to choose. If I did probably morning cuz then I can take pre-workout and not worry that I'm not going to fall sleep.
My nighttime workouts don't really end up the best workouts ever, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I'm hoping at one point in my life I'll have the luxury to work out whenever I want, but maybe, maybe a little bit over the summer, but probably not. That's when I decide to work full time.
Brennick: Do you usually workout solo instead of with a workout partner?
Lilly: Yeah. I used to work out with a partner and I loved it. My best friend is my favorite person to work out with, but I just don't have that luxury anymore around different schedules, and it just doesn't really work out. But if I do work out with somebody, I can coordinate it. I just have to plan it a week in advance, which not a lot of people do for a workout.
Brennick: How did you make social connections inside the gym?
Lilly: When I started working there at this gym, that helped a lot. But I had known people, from the gym that I worked at beforehand, then I had ended up reaching out to the owner of the gym to see if I could work there.
I've come outta my shell a lot since I moved to Buffalo. That's something I never would've done at my gym in Clifton Park.
Brennick: Do you think the gym helped contribute to coming out of your shell or was there something else that helped?
Lilly: I think moving to Buffalo. I used to work at a gym, I was at VENT, I kind of kept my head down. The gym definitely brought me confidence, but not like UB. I had confidence, but I never would dance. I never danced in the gym.
Then I came to Buffalo and I met my best friend, her name's Hailey. She goes by Leale [@itzleale], she's a rapper and because she's a rapper and a girl, She taught me that you can't be afraid of what other people say. I just saw that as you're rapping, you're a girl, and you're a white and people still take you seriously. I'm lifting, I'm a girl and I kind of look like a guy. Like come on, people gotta take me seriously too. So that really helped me and I give her credit for that all the time.
Now I dance in the gym. I don't care what anybody thinks and I don't let anybody get to me anymore. And if you don't like me, then whatever, we can talk about it. I'll change it, whatever you want, but that confidence definitely changed a lot.
Brennick: The gym in general is pretty intimidating, but I think even more so for women. It sounds like you relied on some of your friends, but how did you overcome that?
Lilly: Yeah, I remember one of my first times in the gym I was working out with somebody and they left and I was standing there and didn't know what to do.
I was like am I supposed to do my set? Am I supposed to just sit on my phone? They went to the bathroom and they were probably gone for like five minutes, but I was like what am I supposed to do? I remember freaking out. I was gonna text him. What am I supposed to do?
I just feel like overnight all of a sudden I'm lifting more weight than you. I saw these guys lifting the same weight as me. Once I started to bench 135, I just got that sense of oh, I'm, maybe I'm stronger than that little kid over there. Once you start to see even a bicep muscle or you see, literally anything. Once you see the product of what you're doing, that is when you get the confidence in the gym.
It can be hard in the beginning and I think that having a friend or a partner is important. Because you're not gonna be able to get over that fear unless you have somebody telling you that you're doing it right.
That's where Redprint can really help, if you have that partner within your phone, they can tell you that you're doing something right. Then it gives you that confidence that nobody's gonna make fun of you because I just saw how to do it.
Because that's what people always think, "people are gonna make fun of me cause I'm doing this exercise wrong". But have you ever gone to the gym to watch people to make fun of them? No, there's extreme cases, but just pure stupidity is different than somebody actually trying to work out and doing something a little wrong. Maybe you go over to help them out. But I'm talking about sitting there with all your friends, being like, "Yo look at him". I've never genuinely seen that.
I feel like when you go into the gym, you're so much more worried about yourself. I look at myself in the mirror probably the whole time. I don't care if you're doing your bicep curls next to me. I look good. So that's all. I don't care. I feel that's where a lot of people that are in the gym who have been going for a while are at. They don't really care what you're doing.
Just knowing that as a gym beginner, it’s something that I think really helps. But you wouldn't know that unless you talk to somebody who's already been in the gym before. So yeah, I think Redprint can definitely help with that. Because it's like you have your own gym partner on your phone.
Brennick: I used to save workouts on Instagram. I'd scroll through and find an exercise that I saw someone do, but I at the same time, didn't want other people to see that I was teaching myself right there. Once I was there long enough I realized the exact same thing. That the guys that have been there for a while, they're not paying attention to you.
Lilly: I still do that. I still save stuff on Instagram to find new workouts to do.
Also, I mean, I don't know if you've done this, but I will go to set up a workout and I'll hate it and I'll put everything back. I'll take 30 minutes to set up a whole new hip thrust thing that I saw on Instagram and then hate it and then put it all back after I do it. And yeah, I look stupid. I do.
Brennick: You're just trying something. You have to do that. Especially with the way you workout, where you're trying something, seeing what works and then going forward based off of that. You don't get that confidence to test something out until you're there for a while or you have a friend that guides you.
What would you say to girls that are interested in getting fit, that are scared and nervous to get started?
Lilly: I would say don't be set on being skinny. Don't make being skinny your only goal.
Because at the end of the day, strength is different for everybody, but everybody needs some type of strength in their life, whether that's mental strength or physical strength. The gym is only going to support you in positive ways, not negative ways.
So just showing up, even if you just walk around. The first time you go to the gym, you get a membership, walk around and leave. Come back the next day. Try out one machine, try out something else. Leave. The third day. You're probably going to see a familiar face that you saw the first day. See if when you're in the locker room, they hesitate before they leave, see if they want to talk to you. Try to find familiarity in going often. You don't even have to do anything while you're there.
You can literally go bring your homework and sit in the lounge area and just watch people come in and out. Watch what people do. And just chill out. If somebody asks you what you're doing, just say you're just nervous to work out. I'm going to do it next week.
And then maybe that person who asks you "what are you doing here?" Maybe they'd be willing to help you.
Brennick: Most people are extremely excited to show you what to do or just spend time sharing their story or will invite you to work out with them. I don't think everybody realizes that.
What are your personal fitness goals?
Lilly: I guess just be as strong as possible. But that's not just physically, I want to be mentally and physically as strong as possible. I just wanna keep growing.
Brennick: For you it seems more of a lifestyle, like you said. It's just a piece of you. Do you plan to compete in the future or are you focused on giving back to the community and training people?
Lilly: I definitely want to keep giving back to the community. I said earlier, the end goal is to own my own gym. I also want a daycare with it. I think that that would bring everything that I love together in one. I've always loved kids and I love the gym and obviously those things will go together super well.
Brennick: Have you ever had to deal with negative male attention in the gym? how did you deal with it?
Lilly: Recently on my lifting account, I posted a motivational reel, but my butt came up on the bench. And it got 174,000 views. I thought, this is cool. I got sh*t on by all the little boys in the gym community for it. I just let it roll off my back. But that was the first time I had to deal with the internet.
When I was working at my old gym, I had a guy taking pictures. I worry, but I have pepper spray. So I guess that's how I deal with it.
If you go to the gym and you are dealing with something like that, just go tell the front desk. Because most of the time there's a young girl who works at the front desk too, and she'll go tell the big boss man and he'll take care of it. Not that the guys have to take care of our problems, but it's a lot easier for a grown man to tell another grown man. I mean, in my situation my manager was a girl and she went and screamed at him. So you just have to find powerful people in life.
That's what they're paid for. and I don't think anybody nowadays thinks that that's acceptable.
Brennick: It has definitely changed.
Lilly: Yeah, it used to be a male-dominated community. But that's changed a lot. You used to see only guys working at the gym but things are changing. It's definitely not equal, but a lot closer.
Brennick: How can someone contact you for personal training?
Lilly: I have my Instagram, @lill_lifts, and if you go to my Linktree, you can just click and there's a Google form in there. You can fill out the Google form. I was just trying to check that actually before this to see if anybody filled it out recently. I'm probably gonna start out with five clients and see how that works out to figure out how I want to go about personal training.
Connect with Lilly
Lilly’s Instagram: @lill_lifts
Lilly’s Linktree: linktr.ee/lill_lifts