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FITT Q&A: OLIVIA YOUNG – BOX + FLOW CREATOR AND MAGIC-MAKER

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RYAN DEER

MAY 12, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @BOXANDFLOW | INSTAGRAM

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in NYC’s fitness scene. Today, we’re chatting with Olivia Young — founder of Box + Flow and classically trained chef.

You might know Olivia from her shadowboxing and yoga IG Live classes, but we caught up with the SoHo instructor to talk about all the important things, like finding your purpose, the wonders of sleep, and spicy green sauce from Jack’s Wife Freda.

HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN FITNESS FOR YOU?

My background is not in fitness at all. I moved from Miami to NYC to attend French Culinary Institute so I could find a way into food journalism, which I did for Food & Wine. Wanting to get my hands dirty, I became an assistant to chef Michael White, and as the brand director of his Altamarea Group, grew the business from one to 18 — opening restaurants in London, Hong Kong, and multiple in NYC.

I had a great salary, but I was really unhappy and didn’t know why. When I was honest with myself, I came to the realization that I wasn’t what my job title said I was.

ENTER BOX + FLOW, RIGHT?

The feeling I was getting from working out every day [from fitness]—the strength of hitting a heavy bag and the solace of finding my heart on the yoga mat—that’s what finally convinced me to quit my job. I wanted to share that experience and the idea behind it, of learning to face yourself — “flow through the fight.”

YOUR ATTITUDE IS A HUGE PART OF WHAT MAKES BOX + FLOW WORKOUTS LEGIT. WHERE DOES THAT CONFIDENCE COME FROM?

When I opened my first studio, my perfectionism delayed me from opening on time. I had never taught a class before. And I didn’t teach before opening because I was so afraid of showing myself.

But once I opened, I made a commitment to myself to not get lost in what anybody else thought of me. I have to maintain my own self-confidence and self-worth. And I think that is a muscle you have to flex. We're not taught to love ourselves; we have to teach ourselves. It’s just like the front doors of my studio say, “everything you need is inside.”

ANY RITUALS IN KEEPING UP YOUR HUSTLE?

One thing I religiously do is take a photo of my feet with a timestamp every morning before I go for a run. To me, it symbolizes that whatever happened before this morning and whatever happens going forward, what matters right now is that I have my feet on the ground ready to begin again.

IS THERE TIME FOR WORK AND PLAY?

I think that it's an unsuccessful day if there's no time for fun or celebration, but also if there's no effort involved, even if it’s just running a mile. I always have an extra leotard, a key to the studio, and a canvas bag for the sweaty clothes zipped up in my jacket pockets, ready to make magic out of monotony.

@boxandflow | Instagram

YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH, AND PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT ON INSTA. BUT NOT ALL TRAINERS THINK THAT WAY...

I think social media doesn't often share a true depiction of the validity of a workout or overall wellness. It’s put undue pressure on people in the wellness world to be something that they're not. The whole fitness world is so focused on what it looks like, and I'm focused on how it feels.

SO WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD? WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO SELF-CARE?

Sleep is my biggest thing. If you’re not well-rested, you can’t give energy to yourself or anything else. Not only in terms of getting shit done but feeling your best.

IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO STICK TO A CERTAIN DIET?

No. What my body asks for is what I feed it. Sweet potatoes, avocados, sardines, Dutch-process dark chocolate cocoa powder, beer. I love all those things. It’s when we start putting rigidity around routine when life becomes either monotonous or more challenging for ourselves.

AND WHAT ABOUT WHEN YOUR BODY CALLS FOR A LAUGH?

Sit me down to watch two seconds of anything Sasha Baron Cohen, like Borat, and I lose myself. Stupid humor, like Step Brothers, Billy Madison, and… what’s that show? The last one he was tucking the other guy in bed. Oh, Dave, with Lil Dicky.

YOU TOLD US YOU’RE FINE WITH JUST BEING OLIVIA YOUNG, BUT WHAT CHARACTER (FROM ANY SHOW) ARE YOU?

Dr. Wendy Rhoades on Billions. It’s a great show, and that’s who I want to be when I grow up.

OKAY, LET’S GO PRE-COVID: DESCRIBE YOUR IDEA OF A TOTALLY PERFECT SATURDAY.

Saturdays are my favorite day to teach. I wake up early, I do my run, a dance class, go to yoga. I teach a class or two. And I was never much of a brunch person, but my new studio is next to Jack’s Wife Freda — I'm obsessed with their spicy green sauce. And my first studio is right by ATLA — they have the best margaritas.

If it's nice out, I’m wandering the city and bopping around… maybe going to see a solo movie on Saturday afternoon [at Angelika Film Center on Houston]. Then it’s something like grocery shopping, shower, and going out to eat with my friends.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF NYC THAT MAKES YOU FEEL SO ATTACHED?

Energy, connection, electricity, passion.

@boxandflow | Instagram

AND WITH NYC BEING HIT THE HARDEST OF ANYWHERE, HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED?

I had an option to stay where I was or to keep moving forward. I knew it wasn't gonna be perfect, and I've had to use what I had... I’m filming for IGTV with an iPad on a height chair.

But our Instagram following on Box + Flow grew by 5,000 in six weeks, so it’s working. And it’s connecting me to people all over the world — the fact that people are doing Box + Flow in Malaysia is still mind-blowing.

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Don’t miss Olivia on Box + Flow’s Instagram, live from her parents house, for an equal dose of grit and grace. And for more stories from local makers and shakers, workouts and recipes, and so much more, follow along with our feed.

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