Fitness blogging extraordinaire, yoga instructor, musical theater nerd and all around promoter of a healthy and balanced lifestyle – Kayla Kleinman sure has a lot on her (extremely balanced!) plate. We caught up with Kayla to hear about the lightbulb moment that set her on a path towards a career in wellness, what it takes to make it as a trainer in New York City, and letting go of fear in order to create opportunity.

Kayla Kleinman NYC Fitness Professional

How long have you been a fitness instructor?

I started my fitness blog, Kayla in the City, about five years ago, and have been a fitness instructor for the past four years.

What sparked your passion for fitness?

I was always super-active growing up – I grew up as a dancer, doing a lot of musical theater. When I got to college, I started going to the gym as a way to procrastinate doing my homework, but then I started feeling the benefits of working out. Sure, I was seeing changes in my body, but I really loved the way I was feeling. Working out helped me deal with anxiety from college.

This is the message I still strive to bring to others, whether it’s on my fitness blog or during the classes I teach. Being active isn’t just about looking good or having a great body.

What inspired you to pursue it as a career?

To be honest, it just seemed like such an obvious choice because I had a background in performing mixed with this new found love of working out. I was the weirdo that loved our ab intensive warm-ups during dance classes, so much so that my teachers began saying that I should consider perusing fitness as a career. It seemed like a natural progression having been a performer my whole life.

What is your specialty/style as a fitness teacher?

I’m a NASM-certified personal trainer, and trained as a yoga teacher through Yoga Vida.

What’s the proudest moment/milestone in your career so far?

As a fitness blogger, one of my proudest moments was having been featured in Teen Vogue, as one the top 13 game-changers in fitness on Instagram. For me it was kind of a moment where I realized I wasn’t just speaking to a wall — other people are listening and recognizing what you’re doing. This was a real moment of acknowledging that for me.

Where do you see your career going in fitness?

I started my own company, Holistic Happening, and that’s been growing really fast. We’ve only been around for about six months now, creating interactive fitness events. We’ve seen it be a great success, and it’s been exciting to have my own space in wellness.

Kayla Kleinman NYC Fitness Professional

Can you tell us more about your meet-ups, Holistic Happening?

I created Holistic Happening with my partner, health coach Leslie McDonald, and it was inspired by the idea of bringing people together who are interested in wellness but perhaps a little intimidated by it.

I had approached Leslie and basically said, “Hey, you’re a health coach and really great at cooking – let’s see how we can combine our powers to create a really awesome dinner event.”

We ended up launching it illegally last summer, on a rooftop in Manhattan that we weren’t supposed to be using. Our first event was yoga and dinner — and we had a great turnout. Since then, we’ve been doing monthly events, now expanding to multiple events a month combining yoga and other wellness factors, whether those are food or special programs around goal setting, sleep, meditation and the like.

Who are some of your favorite fitness instructors? Someone you look up to or admire?

There are so many of them in this city! That’s really what is so exciting about being part of the fitness industry here in NYC. Liz Barnet, for me, has been a mentor since early on. She really took me under her wing and helped me really find my way as a personal trainer at first, giving me amazing opportunities that no one else had really done for me. She teaches at SLT and Uplift Studios in the city.

Additionally, there is Marianna Biribin, who teaches at Exceed. She’s just so inspiring to me, and we both have similar backgrounds – she was a theater major, who went into fitness. We’re both these teeny-tiny females, too! She’s the type of instructor that can really push me when I attend one of her classes, she’ll give me a coy smile while she’s grabbing me heavier weights. She’s the kind of trainer I’ve always wanted to be: encouraging people to be their best, but with a smile on her face. I’ve always been inspired by what an amazing instructor she is.

What are some qualities that you think make a fitness instructor great?

I think there is a style for everyone, and when it comes to fitness instructors, we all look for something different. One thing we can all agree on, whether you like a drill sergeant or a cheerleader, is that they’ve got to have passion. They have to be in it for the right reasons, and whether they’re having a good day or a bad day, that passion for helping others still has to shine through. I think that’s really the ultimate thing, regardless of your style as a trainer.

What is one tip you’d give someone who’s just starting a career in the fitness industry?

One really key thing is that you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Opportunities aren’t going to necessarily come to you – you to shamelessly put yourself out there, whether it’s on social media or elsewhere online.

Don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities if they aren’t coming to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a gym you really want to work at, or a studio you really want to teach at. It’s not the time and place to be shy, and you’ve really got to be confident enough to go after the things you want.

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Kayla Kleinman NYC Fitness Professional