Bringing Bodies to Life with Fitness Guru Natalie Uhling
Need energy? Give NuFit creator Natalie Uhling a call, because this girl is better than a cup of coffee. The passion, the devotion, and the enthusiasm for her mission to empower women to be the most purposeful, athletic versions of themselves is nothing short of magnetic. But where does all her thrill come from? Answer: a highly - like, super highly - active lifestyle. This girl gets energy by giving it. Rather than focusing on individual methods to transform the body and mind, her NuFit approach to fitness focuses on putting you in unique environments, for strengthening sensory (though not overload) experience. But don't just take it from us, read on to hear from the fitness guru herself...
A MIND + BODY WITH A PURPOSE
"If you ask anyone I went to Junior High with, they’ll say, ‘Of course Natalie is doing what she’s doing…’ Because this is just what I’ve always known I needed to do. Moving my body is my vehicle of self expression. When I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be some form of an entertainer because I loved performing and putting clothes together. I liked school, but I wasn’t necessarily that studious. In elementary school, I made it a point to literally kick every guy's ass in gym class. When we ran the mile, I'd always win. It was just a natural fit for me. I grew up swimming, and as for my cross training, I fell in love with dance.
When I was 14, a dancer and kick-boxer named Elise took me under her wing when I started taking her aerobics classes. She saw something in me and wanted me to be her protégé. I was like, 'Hell yeah, I want to be trained by you and rock that pony tail and do the whole damn thing.’ We would work every day after school and she would help me queue. I learned everything from old-school aerobics, step-aerobics, to putting playlists together, to how to do eight counts... All of it. Then I started teaching half of her classes, and when I turned 15, she hired me full time. At that point, I remember thinking, 'This is really my mission and this is what I need to do.’ I really fell in love with it. I come to life when I move. I just turn into this wild beast!
From there, I went to college at FIT in New York, and after graduation (mixed with working for Ralph Lauren for four years) I was teaching kickboxing classes at night at 24 Hour Fitness, really packing the effing house, like 80 women deep. At the time, the fitness scene in NY wasn’t what it is today, but it was sick, and such an amazing experience and I was really a pioneer in the space of fitness.
I've been in NY for 12 years now, and looking back, I've grinded this city out like no one's business. When SoulCycle came to town, I was one of their original people and did the training program for them. When Barry’s Boot Camp came to town, I left Soul because I wanted to learn another method. Then SLT came, and I went there for two years and was really running the gauntlet. It all made me realize that people were coming to class for an energy and magic in the room. That’s when I birthed my NuFit method - which is a hybrid of dance kickboxing and toning all together. It's music based, so it's really about the music, and then I focus on the moves. That is how I build my choreography, and that's how I think of flow, and the whole thing.
I've been doing that for two years now, along with numerous things. I work with professional athletes, I'm signed with Under Armor Athlete and travel all over the country for them. I was on a TV show last year called Radius for NBC, I did South by Southwest and Super Bowl Week. I've sat on panels with the execs of Google, and FitBit. I've done it all.
I literally wake up everyday so pumped. I know that sounds crazy, but I'm like a kid in a candy store. I love my job so much. I'm like, 'Woo!' I'm the biggest cheerleader all day long. I think my first love is to have intense passion like you would not believe. I literally have that much passion for what I do. It is everything to me. That is number one. I'm very lighthearted. I just like life and I feel very fortunate to be alive.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
"I’m from the mountains in Sun Valley, which is one of the most metaphysical places on earth. When I’m home, I gather such a sense of knowing that I am doing exactly what I’m suppose to be doing. The fresh air, the good feelings, the great food... All of it really grounds me and inspires me to invoke those kinds of feelings into my work.
It's funny and I'my going to be honest with you, but I always had a lot of self confidence as a kid, because I think my dad is pretty boss. He's like, 'Whoa, my daughters rock,' and he was always telling us not to depend on any guy to give you confidence. You give yourself confidence. As a young girl, I remember him always being in the hustle. We'd get up at 5am to go swimming, and shoot hoops in the backyard. My dad was wanting me to play with the boys. It was things like that.
And because I’m an athlete, food is a huge part of what I do. Growing up, my mom suffered from a lot of autoimmune disorders, so when she got healthy and completely changed her lifestyle, my whole family starting eating well too. Everything was organic and nourishing. My parents are both athletes as well, so they were very active and focused on fueling us to stay healthy and strong and fueling our bodies so that they perform the way they're supposed to. My sister and I were taught at a very young age what food does and why eating well is crazy important. We never ate like shit.
Wherever I go, I have to make sure that there’s high quality, healthy food, or else I just can’t function. My job is so physical, that my body is my business. At the end of day it is. Food is just the pivot point. I am highly allergic to shitty food. Fueling up in a healthy way is at the center of what I do. It makes my world go ‘round. But, I refuse to give up my black coffee with steamed almond milk in the morning. The smell, the ritual... It's all so comforting and reminds me of home."
SHOWING THE BOYS WHO'S BOSS
"Being a female in my space has been a huge wall. I think that at the beginning, a lot of people didn’t take me seriously because I was also modeling, and I had people being like, ‘Oh you’re just a model with a pretty face.’ But that fueled me even more. I was like, 'No, I can crush this and I am a visionary and I am a creator and I have a drive like no one's business and I have a will to win.'
During one particular time when I was really being broken down to a cellular level, I started working with a mind coach who taught me to write everything down on paper, because when we hold onto all that negativity, it's just an unnecessary, heavy back-pack. You've got to get it out. She taught me to send so much love and light to all the people and things that were breaking me apart. I started imagining this bright aura around it all, so that when I actually went into a negative situation or talked to the person bringing me down, I already had some preconceived good feelings and peace about the whole thing. Learning to understand that things aren't always about me - meaning, don't take things personally - has been huge. It was really tough, but then, as all things bad come, so do the the rainbows. Now it's like, 'God I've gotten amazing training, and I met all these amazing people, and have been put in these situations for a reason. Now I see why this has all happened to me. Now I can do other things. Hell yeah, I've been up against so many challenges. I may be tough, but I'm a butterfly when it comes to emotion. I feel very deeply."
ON THE NEXT CHAPTER FOR NUFIT
"Music is such a crucial part of what I do and I come to life when I move - I turn into this wild beast. Right now, I’m putting a lot of focus into creating really unique workout environments in really unconventional ways. That's what's next for NUFIT.
I’m creating all these new concepts where I want to fuse artists and different media in terms of nature, the outdoors, feelings, emotions, lights and sound. I want to really invoke these specific vibes, and blow people’s minds. I'm working on a concept called ‘Sweat Sound Senses’ - it’s a hybrid of pulling in sensors from essential oil therapy to sound medicine, and unique body movements. With this I will be collaborating with live musicians that are total experts in their space, electronic violinists, tap dancers, people that do what they do because it’s in their heritage. Their grandfathers were doing it. They're from a long lineage of what they're doing. People that are doing unbelievable things that no one even knows about. That’s what I want to seek out - I want to bring their stories to life.
I was in Australia last week, and there was this kid doing the sickest stuff in the street with drums, and beats, and all that. I was like, 'Yes!' I just want people to let loose. That's the gist of it all. I want to collaborate with all these different people, and then take them into unique spaces. Whether that be the mountains where I'm from, or here in NYC. Where people can feel like, 'Damn, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is fresh air, and all these vibes, and all these things.' That's what I want to do."
FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR BODY
"I know that I'm very fortunate to be strong because I’m built like an athlete. I’m not stick skinny... I have muscle. Growing up I was a cheerleader in high school, we didn't just stand there. We were tumblers, athletes, gymnasts. We competed, traveled, won state. We were sick. I got injured like no one's business from doing crazy shit, but I remember being in high school, and being like, "Oh my arms are too jacked,". Now I'm like, What was I thinking?! As a young girl you want to be this waif, but I've really grown into this mindset of thinking, "Wow, I have an athletic build, and I really love that." It means I take care of myself by moving and putting high quality, life giving things into it and also onto it. I use this athletic body in a highly efficient way, for a purpose. I have a vehicle and my vehicle is running like this because it has a purpose. That to me has really been just an enlightenment. I get it. I was built this way because I have a purpose to do something.
That being said, body image is a huge part of what I do, especially working with young athletic girls. I consider myself a coach for young girls because I feel an obligation to help lift them up and provide some form of strength, just like I got from my dad growing up. People putting little girls down about their athletic bodies has to stop. It happens all over the world, not just here.
I want women to understand their bodies better. Being able to move is such a blessing, because there are so many people who can't. I've tweaked programs across the country, and everything I create is completely customizable to the individual. Everyone is built differently. A big mission of mine is just showing the younger generation how beautiful their unique bodies are. You were built to do certain things. None of us are the same. A size zero looks like a size zero in so many different ways. These beautiful girls that are cinching their waists and plucking away their bushy eyebrows makes me sad. There comes a time when you're so tainted by what everyone is telling you that this certain 'size or thing' will bring you happiness, when actually it brings you nothing. It's like, what's left? You feel soulless, and more terrible than before.
I want girls to love who they are. I would love to go on a world tour and start a whole movement, telling girls how to empower themselves, and talk bout their bodies, and athleticism, and food. I want them to know that they can do anything they want in life, and not feel held back by how others expect them to look and be. I want them to feel free."
"I'm really big into deep tissue massages... They have completely changed my life. I go at least once every two weeks. It's been a huge injury prevention part of my training. I get so tight, that I have to get the really hard core ones, where they literally rip the muscle away from the bone and get so deep down in there. The guy I go to is like, 'You take pressure harder than anyone that I work with!' I know it sounds insane, but I have to do it. It opens up my body in so many beautiful ways. I feel light as a feather afterwards.
I'm also always telling people to take care of and focus on their feet. The feet are the mother-ship of your whole vehicle. They are super, super important and hold so much, and I mean more than just your body. They hold feelings and emotions. You must remember to care for them and treat them kindly.
Oh! And Epsom Salt baths are life. They're so delicious - they take everything out of your body and flush the all the toxins and lactic acid away. I'm always traveling, and as soon as I get off a plane, I have to go straight into an Epsom Salt bath, and then, I'm ready to roll."