Massy Arias is a fitness sensation with more than 2 million Instagram followers. About 20 percent of them are 13- to 17-year-olds, and Arias wants to empower those girls and all her followers with confidence. “I’m trying to get women to move and feel strong and feel confident in their own way, not just trying to fit any other mold,” the trainer says. The message is especially important to Arias now that she is an expectant mother. With every post, she thinks about what her daughter or a 13-year-old would see, and she wants her posts to empower rather than discourage.
The 27-year-old Dominican Republic–born trainer, who started working out as a way to beat clinical depression, says in an interview with Elle that exercise made her happy and actually saved her life. She credits not only exercise, but the accompanying positive benefits: getting her out of the house, keeping her active, introducing her to new people.
With training came clarity. Arias started out wanting to use exercise to add curves to her body so that she would feel more voluptuous and feminine, an ideal she says is valued in the Dominican culture. What she learned is that you are not going to be happy if you try to make over your body into a form it will never accept. As an ectomorph, the L.A.-based trainer is naturally slim. Her body structure resisted her efforts to transform into a curvy woman with wide hips.
She ultimately realized that women come in all shapes and body types. “It took me a little bit just to understand I have to love the body that I’m in because it’s still beautiful,” she says.
Working out in order to look like Arias or Kate Hudson or Beyoncé motivates only so long. Most people quit exercising because they think they should look like other gym regulars and they can’t reach that goal in three months, Arias says. The genetics that produce different body types dictate that exercise yields different results at different paces. Arias trained for two and a half years to develop the butt and abs her Instagram followers see today.
“Fitness for me is not about just achieving a body. It’s more than that. Fitness is about health and wellness and happiness—because if you take care of yourself, you’re gonna live longer, you’re gonna be happier,” she says. That’s the reason she focuses on performance to motivate and encourage. She wants to demonstrate that regular girls like her can become athletes.
“I don’t care who’s in the gym. I don’t care what the next person is doing. I don’t care how the next person is looking. This is my journey and I’m just looking to be better than I was yesterday,” Arias says.
She adds, “My core belief is “progress, not perfection.”