March 2023 Member Spotlight: Alyssa Bennett

Our member Spotlight for March is Alyssa Bennett. We love to spotlight our new moms and Alyssa and her husband Austin just celebrated their son Vincent’s first birthday. He’s a cutie if you haven’t had the chance to meet him in person.  Alyssa was also willing to be very honest about a difficult experience before Vincent was born. And we appreciate her sharing her story. Let’s meet Alyssa.

Alyssa grew up in Chesterfield but moved to Cleveland, OH when she was 12. Growing up she played soccer, mainly defense. She comments, “I was pretty good, though I did take advantage of being so small by being a little aggressive (I figured the refs wouldn’t call me on it)!” Alyssa was not a fan of Ohio and moved back to St. Louis to go to college at Webster University where she majored in advertising/marketing. She met her husband Austin at Webster.  “We started dating freshman year and got engaged on our 4- year anniversary. We have been married for 10 years now!”

I knew that Alyssa is currently the general manager at Mauhaus but I did not know the story of how she got there and I loved learning it. I also may need to see if I can get her to bake me a pie sometime. “I got a job in advertising right out of college, and I did that for a few years after college but really didn’t enjoy it. So, one day I woke up and told my husband Austin that I wanted to open a pie shop. He was very supportive and after a year of getting things set up, I started selling pies at various farmers markets on the weekends! My business was called PieCraft. It wasn’t super profitable though so eventually I had to stop. I worked a few jobs until I finally got a job as the head baker at Mauhaus! I am now the general manager.” Besides her interesting work career Alyssa and Austin are new parents, “Most important though is that I had Vincent last year and he is the most amazing baby ever.” 

I asked Alyssa why health and fitness are important to her, and this is what she had to say. “Growing up my dad always tried to get me to go to the gym with him. He found physical appearance very important and he was always interested in me losing weight even though I was a very healthy weight in high school.  I think because he pushed so hard, and because I felt kind of insulted that he thought I didn’t look good enough, I never wanted to go to the gym. But as I got older, I did start to gain some weight. More importantly though, I started to hurt. My job requires me to carry 25-50 pounds and often be bent over decorating intricate cookies. I would have headaches for days at a time and I just felt awful. I would go to a chiropractor (my dad sees one every week) and get massages but I felt like that was treating a symptom instead of solving a problem. Now that I work out regularly I don’t hurt anymore! My job is easier, I don’t get headaches like I used to, and I’m able to do more fun things with friends (like going on long hikes or going skiing)”

Working so close to Forward Fitness made it easy for Alyssa to find us. She commented, “I work just a few doors down from Forward Fitness and would always walk past while classes were going on. They looked so interesting and I liked the idea of someone helping me get in shape instead of going to a big gym and just getting on the treadmill because the other machines scared me! I also figured that since I worked so close I would never have a good excuse to skip!”  

When I asked Alyssa about any challenges that she had faced in her fitness journey she was willing to share the depression that she experienced after having a miscarriage and how she got through that time. As she mentions this is not an uncommon experience, but few people want to discuss it.  We thought it might be helpful for others to hear her story in her own words, “I had a miscarriage. It was awful. I still think about it all the time and get upset. It was early in the pregnancy but that didn’t make it hurt any less. It destroyed me for a while. I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t talk to anyone, I just stayed at home and cried for days. I couldn’t even look at my husband because I felt so guilty (and I know that it was nothing I had control over). Eventually though, I thought it might be good to tell my friends why I had been so distant. Talking to them helped so much. Reaching out to people and having that support felt amazing. I am such a lucky person to have such wonderful friends in my life. Honestly it helps talking about it now, I hate how most women feel like they can’t talk about it, like it’s something to be ashamed of. Of course, if they are uncomfortable talking about it, or if it’s too difficult then I understand. But I have gotten comfortable talking about mine and I think it helps other women. It’s common, a lot more common than you think, and it is awful. You KNOW it’s not your fault and it just happens but that doesn’t change how much it hurts or how much guilt you feel. I hope I can be that support for others, as it truly helps me deal with my miscarriage.” 

Knowing that exercise and strength can help prevent injury and pain have been the motivation for Alyssa to stick with her fitness routine. She explains, “I have a very bad shoulder. The muscles in my neck and shoulder are all knotted up. My dad and brother are the same way. This means I can’t really lift weight over my head for an extended period of time and also that it is very easy for me to hurt myself. Also, if I get a headache it lasts for 3 days (fun!). Going to the gym has made a huge difference in this part of my life. By building strength I have found I have less pain in my neck and shoulder. Going to the gym has also really taught me how to be aware of hunching my shoulders or holding myself in a way that will cause me to hurt later. Seriously, it has been life changing. It used to be that Mon-Wed I would have a headache from work, now I maybe get a headache once every 2 months or so and they have become much more manageable. Also, I like the way it feels. I like being sore and feeling like I accomplished something. I like getting stronger and finding things like lifting a heavy bag of flour much easier. It feels really cool to be strong!”

When asked what fitness accomplishment she was most proud of Alyssa had this to say, “Before my pregnancy I was working my way to unassisted pull-ups which was awesome. I loved that I could even do the band assisted ones! I am hoping to get back there by the end of the year. Currently I am pressing (not overhead) 30 lbs and that is pretty freaking awesome!” 

What advice would Alyssa give someone considering adding a fitness routine to their life? “Do it. I know you think that you might look silly or that you don’t know what you are doing and that’s ok. If you knew what you were doing, then you would already be working out! You have to start somewhere and people only want you to succeed.”

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