LaToya Brassell originally came to Columbus to work as a chaplain at St. Francis Hospital. But she soon felt called in another direction -- that of fitness.
She said while she was a chaplain, she was taking care of other people but not herself. She found out she was 20 pounds overweight and wanted to do something about it. So she started walking on her treadmill and eating better.
After losing half the excess weight that way, she hired a personal trainer to help with the rest and ended up becoming a personal trainer herself.
When she became pregnant she was able to maintain an exercise routine through her fifth month, but then had to stop per doctor's order. Postpartum she was caught up in caring for her child and again neglected to care for herself, she said.
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"One day I just looked in the mirror and not only did I not like what I saw, I didn't like how I felt," Brassell said. "I didn't have any energy, I was drained. And so I decided to become my own client."
While she lost the extra baby weight, she still wasn't feeling quite as good as she wanted. So she started researching yoga. While she liked the exercises the practice introduced, as a Christian she wanted something that combined her faith and her workout.
Online research led her to WholyFit, a program based out of California, that combines strength- and flexibility-building movements with Christian scripture.
"With the Christian aspect, it's just a perfect marriage of the physical and the spiritual," she said.
She's now a certified WholyFit instructor and offers the classes twice a day, two times a week at The Wynn House Community Center through her company Song of Deborah Fitness.
"I feel so much better now physically, not only because I'm teaching scripture along with movement, but I've learned with flexibility, this is the only way our joints get nourishment, by movement obviously," Brassell said, noting that she used to think stretching was a waste of time.
"It was a new niche. There's a very strong yoga community here, but there's not a Christian aspect to it," she said. "Since faith is such an important part of my life, I just want to infuse faith into my movement journey. So I found out about WholyFit and I saw that there weren't any classes in the Columbus area and that's one of the reasons I was so excited about becoming certified."
In addition to WholyFit, Brassell offers personal training and a weight-loss support group called Women's Fitness Witness. In September, she'll add prenatal WholyFit and Abs Restoration, which is a postpartum class designed to work on the specific needs of women's abdominal muscles after pregnancy.
"I focus on health. Especially with women, we have so many images -- that we're supposed to be a certain size and if we're not a certain size there's something wrong with us," Brassell said. "But God wants us to be healthy. We all have a different body type and that's how God made us. We should celebrate that instead of trying to fit into this one image. The mission statement of Song of Deborah is, 'I teach women the joy of having healthy bodies that glorify God and move with Grace and purpose.'"
Brassell said she works exclusively with women not because she can't or doesn't enjoy working with men, but because she feels it was her calling.
"We all have a passion and my passion is working with women because I've been there and I've done that," she said.