New York City is full of more boutique fitness studios, gyms, recreational sports leagues, and running paths than a fitness junkie could ever wish for. But that doesn't mean that everyone is motivated to get moving. So, instead of hoping that she could convince communities to break a sweat for their health, Andia Winslow had a different approach: creating off-the-wall (but totally effective) get-fit videos.

Her viral movement The Fit Cycle began in Arizona, where she was coaching and playing pro golf and volunteering with a Native American community with a high type 2 diabetes rate. At first, she shot workout videos on her phone and posted them online. Their popularity grew, and some went viral. (For example, a simple bench up exercise video amassed more than 35,000 views.)

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Michael Schwartz
Michael Schwartz

Winslow already had a triple-threat sports career before she got internet famous. She was the fourth African American to play in an LPGA event, sprinted with US Track and Field, and trained in Lake Placid in hopes of being an Olympian in the sport of skeleton.

A move to New York City's Spanish Harlem in 2012 – where she saw residents struggle with the same health issues that spurred her to action in Arizona – convinced her to continue her project. Except this time, she had a little help. She partnered with a college friend, filmmaker Monique Walton, and brought in a professional camera crew. In 2012, they shot workout videos with Winslow demoing moves in public places around the city. They range from Winslow doing pull-ups in an empty subway car, dancing her way into a squat in the laundromat and showing kids how to exercise – and have fun – on the playground. Her philosophy? "Get it in where you can fit it in," she says.

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Images courtesy of Andia Winslow
Images courtesy of Andia Winslow

The series is meant to show an alternate use of public space and disrupt people's thinking about how fitness fits into their daily routines. "We made the videos more artful," Winslow says. "We celebrate the vibrancy of people, music, and art in the communities that we're trying to reach."

The videos went viral almost immediately. Suddenly, she started getting approached by strangers on the street who told her that she was changing their lives.The first time, she was walking out of work as a golf and fitness instructor at Chelsea Piers in New York, and some kids yelled out to her, "The Fit Cycle!"

"I turned around, and they started mimicking some of the moves from the videos," she recalls.

Michael Schwartz
Michael Schwartz

Parents told her that her videos got their families thinking about nutrition. Compliments poured in from around the globe. "We saw the potential for generational change around the world," she says. "And that was very sobering and humbling."

Though she's not competing now, she exercises daily to avoid feeling depressed and stressed. "When I'm feeling unmotivated to work out, I just meditate on what a gift it is to be pain-free, to be spry, to have the freedom to use my body because I know a lot of folks don't have those things," she says.

Winslow's planning a return to professional golf in 2018, is pitching a TV show and has some new collaborations in the works.

As for those who still are reluctant to get off their couch?

"If they try a workout and they don't like it, then so be it," she says. "If they try it and it was difficult, that challenge means there's growth potential. If they try it and love it—excellent! But not trying something for fear of embarrassment or failure leaves you in the exact position in which you started. We want forward motion."

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