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Breaking The Mold: Why I Became A Fitness Influencer At The Age of 49

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I have never been very typical and have always been proud of that. I like being different in my opinions, ideas and outlook on life. It has allowed to continuously grow and enjoy experiences most people don't give themselves the opportunity to take advantage of. As a matter of fact, my teenage daughters will tell you my number one piece of parenting advice is to try and "not" fit in.


The less we worry about what others think, the more we can follow our heart and chase our dreams. So that is what I did at the age of 48 when I decided to do something totally outside the norm from what my female peers were doing. Instead of fighting the aging process, I decided to use my lifetime experiences in fitness, embrace my maturity and show others that age is just a number and we are only as old as we let ourselves feel. And so the journey to "One Million" social media followers begun.

Like every other challenge I have taken on, I approached this new venture with the same thoughtfulness. I can't count the number of times I have been asked this past year “How did you do it?" It's an anomaly for people to consider how it was possible to grow such a huge social media following in such a short amount of time. I think they believe there is some “magic trick' and want to hear my secret, but my answer is plain and simple. I did my homework and I remained true to myself. Every entrepreneur knows that success is the perfect combination of preparedness and good fortune. My success follows this same logic. I researched, read and asked questions of anyone who seemed to know about the world of social media. Not all of it was accurate and there were a lot of gray areas, still I took it all in and came to my own conclusions.

Then one cold February evening I took my first brave step, uploaded a video of me jumping rope and hit “post". I waited for something to happen. My nerves rattled a little as my very first comment came through. “Wow you are good!". Instant smile. Ok, good feedback. I will continue.

Photo courtesy of Janine Delaney

Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters.

As the days passed, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, sharing with whomever would welcome it, the world of fitness I had grown up with. A million doubts raced through my mind. What would people think? Would I get criticized for being too old? Still, I was determined and I knew if I did this right, I had the chance to impact so many people in such a positive way. I was not going to give up. I became more and more passionate about creating new and exciting content. I wanted to share everything I learned throughout my lifetime of fitness, from dancing professional ballet as a child, to teaching aerobic classes back in the 80's, to competing and placing in bodybuilding shows in my early forties. I had learned so much over the years and aside from being able to help my close friends, this was the first time I was getting the chance to share on a much broader level. It was amazing to see comments and questions from all over the globe. I felt connected and inspired in return. I was even given a nickname of the “Jump Rope Queen" because of my unique style of jump rope. I quickly became known for my energy and authenticity.

Not only did I focus on exercise, but as a Psychologist, the mind/body connection has always been a critical part of whom I am. I often spent hours writing content for my motivational posts.

I always told it like it was and people responded well to that. I made a point to network and reach out to others so we could find ways to support one another. Pretty soon, the sponsors started knocking, but I refrained to give in to temptation and focused instead on telling my story rather than looking to turn a buck for a product I didn't believe in. People could tell I was the real deal and came to me with questions on everything from diet to dealing with injuries. I always led them in the right direction if I did not know the answer and did not provide false information or try and take credit I wasn't worthy of. Building a community was first and foremost in my mind. I knew the business end would come down the road, but sometimes we need to hold off and be patient to reach our longer-term goals. This strategy worked for me and now I have a select group of brands I endorse because I have been a loyal consumer of theirs for years. That is refreshing in today's world of false advertising and it makes a valid point that there is still room for integrity.

Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters. Suddenly my momentum was on a fast and steady rise. I was encouraged to branch out to Facebook and YouTube and I partnered with a fitness app company to develop my very own training app that could be used by people all over the world for anywhere/anytime workouts. I hired a branding expert, a videographer and photographer. I even started doing live streams. I was really doing this! It was an amazing feeling to know that I represented every woman and helped them to feel good about themselves again, rather than getting discouraged over photoshopped images. I helped others see they didn't have to be in the field of fitness, or in their twenties to look and feel great, they just had to have the motivation and drive to make their well-being a priority.

I will say that despite the great reward and creativity my new venture has allowed, it is also quite a departure from my everyday life. I would be lying if I said it was easy. As my brand continues to grow, I need to find more and more ways to juggle my primary career and my family. A good friend of mine who is also an entrepreneur asked me how I was managing and what I felt I needed to give up. Then she laughed and said “sleep right?'. I still wonder how she knew. Like anything new, there are always sacrifices to be made, but in the end it is all worth it. What I love best is that I am showing my daughters through example what it means to be a strong independent woman and follow your dreams. I am also showing all women out there that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. If you can help others along the way, well that's really the icing on the cake. I am fortunate at this late stage in my life to create a new exciting adventure for myself, one that is continuing to grow on a daily basis. I wonder what the year ahead will bring. I also know that since I am doing something I feel so strongly about it will only get better and better!

I hope I have inspired you!

5 Min Read
Featured

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top

You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.