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FITT Q&A: CHELSEA POTTER – FIERCE COMPETITOR AND HIIT ALL-STAR

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RYAN DEER

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA CHELSEA POTTER

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in NYC’s fitness scene. Today, we’re connecting with Chelsea Potter — Solace trainer, Equinox instructor, and former competitive exerciser.

You may have taken one of her full-body burners on YouTube, but we caught up with Chelsea about life off-screen, from waking up before sunrise and adventures on Citi Bikes to how the Big Bootie Mixes are the best workout playlists ever.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma and was always heavily involved in fitness. Through college, I was always competing in something—gymnastics, soccer, cheerleading—but when I graduated, I missed that part of my life… competition is in my nature. That’s when I got involved in the CrossFit circuit. I picked it up quickly, and it took me all the way to GRID League, so I got to be a professional athlete for a time.

That’s also when I found a passion for coaching, and competing gave me opportunities to coach outside of my state. I always knew I wanted to venture beyond Oklahoma to do bigger things, so when the opportunity presented itself three and a half years ago, I moved to New York. Presently, I teach CrossFit, HIIT, and personal training at Solace, just HIIT at Equinox, and also training on my own.

HOW HAVE YOU USED YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE AS A COACH?

I love seeing somebody come in and saying “I can't do CrossFit. I’ll try it once I’m in shape.” My biggest thing is that when I put out a program, it’s going to be challenging for everybody, with a lot options to make it scalable.

I love seeing that same person leaving saying “wow, I did it” and seeing that the most fit person in the world is also dying from the workout. It’s cool to bring everybody together through what I love.

BUT NOW YOU’VE “RETIRED” FROM CROSSFIT.

When the Games stopped being at the forefront of my mind, my grasp on CrossFit kind of faded. The years of gymnastics, cheerleading, and CrossFit have worn down my body, so I had to walk away. Completely aside from my personal aesthetic goals, I’m just such a competitive person that I wasn’t going to be okay with someone lifting more weight than me. I was always going to up the weight.

Now, it’s about living a healthy life and not being crazy-sore every single day. And with HIIT, I can still compete with people without being bulky. 90% of my workouts now are just for the sweat and endorphins — it’s a good feeling.

WHEN SOLACE AND EQUINOX CLOSED, DID YOUR BUSINESS SLOW DOWN?

It has been a huge adaptation to be as present virtually as I am now — YouTube, Instagram Live... I’m on Zoom for Solace, and I teach HIIT on Equinox’s new platform [Variis].

I’m actually very busy, but in a totally different way than I was before. I had to build my website, edit and then upload all my videos to YouTube, add music, struggle with copyrights… because who wants to work out without music?

Chelsea Potter

HOW HAS VIDEO COACHING BEEN GOING?

To be very honest, Zoom is a lot easier on me to teach for because I can actually see people moving. I don't have to continue moving the whole time either. I can take the time to go up the screen to coach and critique form.

Whereas on Instagram, it would be really awkward for me to stop moving and go to the screen and look at myself because I can't see anyone.

ANY STAGE FRIGHT IN HOSTING VIDEO CLASSES?

I've never really gotten nervous leading a class. But if I can’t finish a movement, I get a little self-conscious. If I’m halfway through the workout and getting so tired, I start to wonder what people are thinking. Like do they think: “Is she not fit? Or is she struggling as much as me?”

ANY BIG TIPS TO THE AT-HOME EXERCISER?

So many people have been asking me for my advice on what equipment to get at home. I’ll say that you do not need things like a 50lb. dumbbell. There’s only so much you can do with that; you’re limiting yourself. 15, 20, 25lb max is pretty much the perfect weight for most people, where you can rep out a lot of movement and it’ll still be challenging.

I actually find my bodyweight workouts harder than workouts where I have weights nowadays.

ANY MOVEMENT THAT GIVES YOU THE FEEL-GOOD VIBES LIKE HIIT CAN?

I love being outdoors, and I could run all day long. Oh, and I Citi Bike nonstop. That’s how I get to and from my clients.

Plus, after a hard workout or after a long run on the East River Greenway, I like to find a dock and bike back at a leisurely pace in the sun. When the weather’s nice, that’s my thing to do.

Chelsea Potter

BACK TO THE MUSIC. WHAT’S PLAYING?

I’m a huge fan of rock music, so I used to listen to Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, and things like that. But this changed a lot once I got into group fitness — 90% of my clientele won’t have it, so I changed it up.

The DJ duo Two Friends is really big for me now. They make the Big Bootie playlists, and they’re so good. It sounds so stupid, but there’s like 16 volumes of them, and they’re definitely on my list for working out.

When I need something more chill—and this goes back to my Oklahoma roots—the Chillin’ on a Dirt Road playlist on Spotify is my go-to.

WHAT ARE YOU EATING TO FUEL YOUR WORKOUTS?

I don’t really do a specific diet, and I hate counting macros. I'm a big supporter of intermittent fasting, but that’s just because of how well it works with my schedule. On a normal day, I have coffee and walk out the door at 4:45am, and I won’t get back until 1pm — that's when I'll have my first meal. It’s not for everyone.

In terms of what I eat, I stick with a high-protein diet. Lately, I’ve been mostly lactose- and grain-free too, which I’ve noticed has been really great for my gut health. But if I want a bite of ice cream, I’ll have it. And there’s always a pint in my freezer. Plain vanilla, mint chocolate chip… any type.

YOU’RE UP EARLY. YOU FAST. YOU MOVE NON-STOP. WHERE DOES YOUR SOCIAL LIFE FIT IN?

I know, in my line of business, it’s hard to be a spontaneous person. And I like sticking to a schedule, but I make time for work and play.

Anytime I can have my friends over to my apartment to drink and play board games, that’s my ideal. Rummikub is my go-to — it’s like adult Uno. But I don’t discriminate; you bring a game over, I’m gonna play it.

LET’S FINISH WITH THE CITY. TELL US YOUR FAVORITE 5 SPOTS IN NYC.

1.) My home in Midtown. We have this terrace off our apartment where I like to sit in the sun and do nothing.

2.) Tavern 29. I love the rooftop and hanging out with my friends there.

3.) Cafe Wha? is definitely one of my favorite places to go. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a dive bar in West Village, and The Cafe Wha? House Band is incredible. It’s composed of about 10 different people who all play a different instrument, and they cover songs all night long.

4.) This one’s for the summer: I love movie nights in Bryant Park.

5.) When it’s winter, going ice skating in Central Park.

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Work up a serious sweat with Chelsea on YouTube, during her classes with Solace on Zoom, or with the full library on her website. Up for a challenge? She gave us a full-body burn we’re still sore from. Discover that and more from local faves on Fitt NYC’s Insta.

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