Name: Reyna Munves
Hometown: Allentown, PA
Current Location: Center City, Philly
Instructor at: Unite Fitness (Philly East location)
Classes taught per week: 4; Tuesday 5:45 AM and 7:15 AM; Thursday 5:45 AM and 7:15 AM; plus personal training
Reyna was one of our very first followers and supporters when we launched our IG account in January (and our blog later in March). I was immediately a fangirl of Reyna’s—solely from working out alongside her at Unite Fitness and thinking she was hardcore. After finally getting into a few of her classes—some of the best workouts EVER—her intense work ethic, drive, and determination were apparent and unique. We had to sit down with Reyna and hear her story. From multiple degrees and careers to bodybuilding competitions and more, we were blown away by everything we learned from chatting with Reyna. Prepare to be inspired…
Philly Fit Foodies: How did you get into fitness?
Reyna Munves: The first time I ever really worked out was in 2006, after college. I came out of college with probably 20 extra pounds on me. I was working at the Borgata, and they had a deal with a local gym, so I signed up. I was on the treadmill, pushing myself really hard—especially considering I couldn’t remember the last time I had run—and I hurt my knee. I went up to this random trainer and said, “Uh… hey. I can’t walk. Can you help me?” And she became my personal trainer. I had three free personal training sessions and was so motivated after the first one. I lost about 20 pounds with her, and then I lost 15 more on my own.
Since then, I’ve had multiple personal trainers, only switching as I moved to new areas. Each one really motivated me to get to the next level and try something different, and that’s eventually why I ended up becoming one—because of all of the changes and positive results I saw while having someone to personally motivate me. Once you start to see the results of what you do in the gym and in the kitchen, it’s kind of hard not to keep doing it. That’s the thing about the gym—a lot of things in life are so unpredictable, and you can only control so much, but with fitness and nutrition, you always know you’re guaranteed a result. That’s one of the main things I love about fitness. I also love the rush of endorphins. There’s no better therapy than the gym.
PFF: How has the fitness scene in Philly changed since you moved here in 2014?
RM: There are a lot more boutique gyms, a lot more pop-up fitness events, a lot more community. Because of social media, there’s just that big connection between everyone. Even if you don’t know people, you know of them, because everyone loops in the same circle. I think before social media, people weren’t sure where to go other than a standard gym. But now, because social media is so prevalent and because ClassPass exists, there’s great exposure to everything.
PFF: How did you get into personal training and group fitness coaching?
RM: Personal trainers have been in my life since 2006. Each one of them has gotten me to the point where I’m like, This is really rewarding. I see how they’ve changed my life, and I want to change people’s lives. So, I got really into health and fitness and started training with my friend above the 12th Street Gym. I knew I wanted to leave my teaching job and get into fitness, but I didn’t have real plans other than a passion to make it happen.
In 2014, I ran boot camps at the art museum with friends—one, two people at a time. I started sharing pictures on social media, and they started sharing stuff, too. Eventually, my network got pretty huge, just from showing people what I was doing. People near and far would be like, “Reyna, it looks like you’re doing really well! I’d love to come to one of your boot camps!” So, word just passed along that way.
After completing my personal training certification in 2014, I ended up training clients at a local gym. That’s when I took on my first personal client. I posted a lot on social media and people started reaching out to me. I mostly trained personal clients and ran art museum boot camps once or twice a week. I was also training for a bodybuilding competition during this time.
After competing as a bodybuilder, I just needed something different. I started going to Unite Fitness in November 2015. They’d see me killing it in class—I’m very competitive and noticed my good form—but I never told them I was a trainer because I was intimidated by the class scene. It was new to me. It just seemed like a well-oiled machine, and I was afraid I’d need all these extra certifications, so I flew under the radar.
Eventually, Juliet (co-owner) approached me and was like, “Reyna, would you ever consider training here?” I said, “Uh… yeah!” I went through auditions in January 2016 and became an official coach in April 2016.
PFF: What do you love most about group fitness coaching?
RM: It’s a performance. I feel like an actress. But for me, it’s not even the drama portion of it—it’s the connection and the fact that you’re motivating people. You’re in front of 26 people who are looking for a really kick-ass workout, and it’s not even just about the workout—it’s about the therapy. Some people just need a stress reliever. Some people walk in without any idea of what they want out of it. Some people suffered loss or are having a bad day. Whatever background they come from, we all come together, and it’s my job to get them from A to B with a ton of positivity and motivation.
I love meeting new people all the time and the reward of hearing, “That was the best class ever!” “You’re such a great coach!” “You really motivate me!” or “I look forward to your classes!” I’ve always thrived on appreciation—there and in my full-time jobs, too—because I know that I put a lot of effort into things. I don’t just do it for the reward, but it is a reward to know that you’re changing people’s hearts, muscles and minds. Everyone feeds off each other, and the energy is indescribable.
PFF: What do you like about personal training versus group coaching?
RM: It’s different. Surprisingly, I kind of get overwhelmed in large crowds. I’m more of an intimate person. I’d rather have a one-on-one conversation. I just hide in bigger groups. I enjoy that about personal training—I can get to know people. And by working with them individually, I can really see the results and changes. The energy is definitely different. They’re not looking for me to scream at them.
PFF: We love the themes behind your circuits. How did they start and where do you get your inspiration?
RM: A few months after starting at Unite, I started using themes in my classes. I was a teacher so creativity is part of my skill set. I just did it the one time—I wanted to see what people thought of it. It was minor, but people really liked it. After a couple times doing the themes, I remember Mark (veteran Unite trainer) saying, “These are great and all, but you know you’re not gonna be able to keep it up. You’re gonna run out of ideas.” I was like, “You know what, not true!” I got this.
To take you through the process of how it comes together, I’ll give you an example. I did a Justin Timberlake theme. So, wrote out his songs in my phone… Sexy Back, Girlfriend, etc. Then, I think about what day it is—legs with back, shoulders with chest, etc. Then I just start thinking about the syllables within each word and start rhyming. So, Justin TimberLEGS was the theme. Sexy BACK = legs and back. Girlfriend, Girl, curl = CURLfriend. Cry Me a River = THIGH Me A River. The rhyming comes naturally to me. I just know how to go right through the alphabet with a syllable, and the rest follows. My inspiration can be as superficial as categories of things or as specific to holidays, current events, etc. Sometimes the music correlates to the theme.
PFF: You recently got a corporate job. What is it? Why did you leave full-time training and coaching?
RM: I used to teach 8 classes per week, and I had a full book for personal training, but I needed more stability. I’m someone who works really well with structure and routine. The inconsistent training appointments, all-over-the-place, long days, and constant planning…the days are really long and the money isn’t amazing unless you’re running a gym. I just didn’t see a future of stability for me, and it was kind of taking away from what I love about fitness. I was serving on top of that, too. I had all these jobs and just wanted one job to really thrive at.
In January 2016, I went back to school for a second Master’s in Instructional Design. (My first Master’s is in Education.) It seemed to be a combination of all of my skills. No matter what I’ve done, the underlying theme has always been training and education, so that’s what led me to Instructional Design. Every business needs training, and it’s my job to figure out the most engaging way to deliver training content to employees. I currently work for a recruiting company designing training for recruiters.
The plan was to leave training completely when I got a full-time job, but I just couldn’t do it. Part of what was going to help me do that was my plan to move to Austin, TX. I was graduating with my second Master’s, my lease was ending—it was time to get a new job, too. In my mind I was like, I’m going. I made the commitment—I just needed to find a job. Then this job found me here in Philly, and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up right out of school.
I’ve cut back on classes and gotten rid of most of my training clients. My mornings are either Unite or personal training, then I go to work for a full day, and then I go to the gym. Austin is still on the brain. I don’t know anyone there—I just loved it. I’m not afraid to make changes, but I think about it for a while. I’m not impulsive.
PFF: How did you get into bodybuilding? Would you do it again?
RM: I got into bodybuilding because of a trainer I worked with. I had no idea what I was agreeing to. I started training in February 2015 and competed twice—in May and July—that year. Prior to that, I had been lifting like a bodybuilder, but I didn’t have the diet of a bodybuilder.
I started a very strict, three-month program on February 1, 2015. I ate every 2.5-3 hours—starting with a protein and a carb for my first meal, protein and veggies for my second meal—and I repeated that three times each throughout the day, so I’d eat six times per day. I started with a lot more food than I ended up with by the end, and I carb cycled. My training, for the most part, stayed the same as it already was, just with more abs. I trained for about three hours/day. The cardio was just steady-state cardio, and I cycled that, too.
The nutrition side of it was super hard. It made me very anti-social. You’re already very observant of the fact that you can’t eat what anyone else is eating, you can’t drink, and you start to realize that life is surrounded by food and alcohol, no matter what you’re doing. You become hyper-focused on food because you’re so restricted.
I saw changes very fast. It was crazy. I ended up competing the day after my 31st birthday and got second place.
It was a crazy experience, but to see your body transform in such a short time was unreal. My abs were sick. You’re forced to stare at the mirror every single day. My coach would know if you cheated. The first time I didn’t cheat once. He would point out every imperfection that you needed to correct. Between training and staring at yourself, you knew your body to a T.
My plan was to be done with it after my first competition, but I had gained 16 pounds in a week and a half and 26 pounds overall. Most people can never experience what that feels like. But every pound that I gained, I could feel it on my body. It felt so much heavier than a pound would feel to anyone else. It hurt. Every pound that you gain, you see in the mirror, because we were forced to look in the mirror and see every imperfection. The mental aspect of that tore you down, and you felt like shit about yourself. So, like I said, I didn’t want to compete again. But, I had no reverse dieting plan, because my coach’s thing was, “I make people beautiful, not healthy.” I decided I’d do the next competition so I could get myself back to normal.
I only need two months to prepare, and it was harder because it wasn’t my first time—I knew what to expect—and there wasn’t as big of a group supporting me. I needed to find something to work for the reverse diet this time. I used this prep time to figure out how to reverse diet and get back to normal after. I was reading self-help books, looking at different diets—whatever I could do to help me be normal again.
I had a great plan in my head, but the second you get your mouth on something you haven’t had in two months—your body doesn’t know how to stop. I was binging like crazy, which happened the first time, too. I ate a cereal box, or two, at a time. I was a bottomless pit. I could eat all day, every day, be full for thirty minutes, and then do it all over again. I would get upset, cry, and think, this sucks. I had this whole plan, but it still didn’t work. I was like, How are people going to perceive me [as a personal trainer] if I don’t look the part?
It was an emotional roller coaster. Awful. I did more intense cardio because of it and gained more weight because I was hungrier. That’s when I found Unite. Thank God. I was still training at LIFT, but everyone there was still bodybuilding. Unite was a godsend for me. That’s also when I started to change my diet. Unite changed my life.
I would never do bodybuilding again. I don’t recommend it for anyone. I’ve had people reach out to me to train them to compete. Before I agree to do it, I’m upfront—”Are you prepared to accept that your stage look isn’t sustainable? Are you prepared to deal with the mental side effects, too?”—because I know what I went through. If you decide you’re going to do it no matter what, I’d rather you do it with me because I will commit to you. I will take you through the reverse dieting and hold you accountable. Some people are okay, but I know more people who went through the roller coaster that I did.
I still, to this day, suffer from some side effects. I still kind of eat according to a clock, I still think about food all the time. It never feels like enough. I struggle. I don’t ever post that, but I’ve wanted to, because I want people to know that trainers suffer, too.
I’ve been seeking some kind of balance, but I’m not there yet. It’s cool to look at my pictures, but there’s way more negative. I felt good about what I accomplished, but I don’t ever remember having these problems before. Can I stop thinking about food for once in my life? Do I have to meal prep every meal?
I would love to help people with body image and balance issues, because every part of your life in some way is unified. So, if there’s chaos in your diet or at your job, then there’s chaos elsewhere. I would love to help people through that, but I have to nail it for myself first.
PFF: Anything else you want people to know?
RM: There is no “one-size-fits-all” for health and fitness. Just because someone looks really good, doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is going to make you look really good. And maybe that “really good” won’t look really good on you either.
In terms of fitness, try things out. See what gives you not only the physical benefits, but the mental benefits, too. That’s the other part of fitness—it gives you great positive energy and endorphins. Exercise for the health reasons. Do it for whatever makes you feel good all around and, not just for what you see in the mirror.
Try out different ways of eating—don’t be so focused on it, but try to live a clean yet balanced life, so that you can have the best of both worlds. The more obsessive you become, the more of a challenge your goals become. Balance is key. In life. In work. In your health. In your fitness. Don’t get so hung up your bad days that they become bad weeks or bad months. You would never appreciate the days where you felt good if you didn’t have the days where you felt bad. Embrace the bad with the good, as they keep us in check.
Don’t define your progress according to others’ progress. Celebrate your own successes and learn from your own failures. The only right and wrong is how you define it, and how you define “right” should be whatever makes you feel the best version of you.
This post is part of our instructor interview series—where we’ll shine a spotlight on some of our favorite instructors in Philly. Want to be featured or recommend an instructor for us to interview? Contact us to get started.