The Easy Way to Achieve Happiness, According to a Fitness Expert

Updated 04/18/19

Alexandra Bonetti was in management consulting when she found herself at a crossroads—she was miserable at her job and wanted to start a fitness business. So she quit. Then, she spent the entirety of her savings building the studio space. So for six months, she ran the entire show—from cleaning the bathrooms to teaching all the classes to running the books. Now, Bari Studio is one of the most in-demand workouts in New York (with plans to expand).

Bonetti stopped by College Fashionista's pop-up Clubhouse, a space for students to chill, get some work done, and find like-minded women to share networking advice and other wisdom, to explain how she got it all done. She touches on the true meaning of "being well," finding happiness, and where to start when you're feeling overwhelmed. Below, find her relatable, fascinating, and entirely real thoughts.

Fitness expert Alexandra Bonetti
Alexandra Bonetti

On Starting out Slow…

“When you dive into wellness, some try to be ‘overachievers,’ and that burns you out really quickly. You’re like, ‘Okay, it’s January 1’—we’ve all been there. You’re like, ‘I’m gonna be the healthiest, most amazing person this year, so I’m gonna quit all carbs and work out two hours a day and watch meditation videos every morning.’ That’s just not realistic; that consumes your life. For me, being well, like feeling good about yourself and being fit or healthy, is about feeling good. So what’s the one thing that makes you feel really good? Do that first. Some need to start with a workout, other people need to start with meditation, but it should be whatever you need to get to a place where you feel happy. What’s one thing you can do every day that’s going to make you feel a little happier? And sometimes it has nothing to do with a workout or what you’re eating. Sometimes it’s removing a shitty friend from your life. You really have to sit down and think, ‘What are all the things in my basket, and what’s one thing I can remove or add that’s gonna get me a step closer to happiness?’—and do that really consistently for a few months.

“For me, when I started and was running the business on my own, that thing was being able to get out during the day and get a breath of fresh air. I was working 20-hour days seven days a week, and I was going to lose my mind. I pretended I had a meeting at noon and I’d go for five-minute-long walks. That made me feel really good, and then I was like, ‘Maybe I want to start running,’ and I did. Start with one thing, and then move on to the next. If you want to workout, then choose Bari, obviously. There you go: Walk. Be happy. Do Bari."

Woman with long wavy brown hair wearing a cream-colored body
Everlane

On How Long It Takes to See Results…

“The result that you’re after is liking what you’re doing. That’s your result. At first, it’s overwhelming and hard. Especially with Bari. It’s like a yoga class; you shouldn’t walk in and expect to do a headstand that first day. It takes a second. And part of that journey into getting into it, that’s part of the fun. It’s like learning anything, building a puzzle or something. If you can connect with the workout, then you can be like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m not amazing at this right now, but this feels good and I can see myself doing this consistently.’ That’s the result you’re after. Because what truly gets results is getting into it and having fun. Doing something consistently. When I opened Bari, I thought, ‘The one thing I want to give people is a six-pack, that’s it, that’s happiness—everyone’s going be better off with a six-pack.’ And then a few months in, I realized, sure, you come in, fall in love with Bari, do it a ton, and your body changes. That does feel amazing. Those are the real results. It’s not about the tangible, the six-pack. It’s the fact that you gain a lot more confidence inside and outside the class. You’re walking into your meetings, your classes, your relationships like a different person because you believe in yourself. It’s subconscious.

“Now, looking back, I can connect the dots and I realize that’s what happened to me. I was in consulting, felt terrible about myself, and found fitness. I fell in love with fitness, yes, but what happened, as a result, is I fell in love with myself. I grew a pair of balls and left consulting to open Bari. I can track all of that back to being a lot more confident in myself. That’s really what you’re after, and that connection comes after a little bit of work, depending on where you are in your life. But you have to feel connected to what you’re doing. Then it won’t feel like ‘Ugh, I have to go run. I have to go to Bari. I have to go to these Pilates classes.’ It’s always hard to get to class, let’s be real. But when it’s right for you, you know that you’re going to love it. You know you’re going to feel a high afterward and that’s what’s most important. For some, that’s a three-week journey. For others, it’s three years. It really depends, but as long as you’re enjoying what you’re doing, then it’s an immediate success.”

View from behind of woman wearing olive green sports bra and workout biker shorts
Girlfriend Collective

On How to Fit in a Workout When You Don’t Have the Time (Or the Money) to Get to a Class…

“You don’t want to do anything in the vertical plane because we’re always walking, running, and spinning. That’s all the same plane of motion. Doing anything vertical won’t create change or shape. At Bari, we take you out of your plane of motion. We go sideways a lot, a lot of circles, a lot of diagonals. If I had 10 minutes, I would do a scorpion series (you can find a ton of videos on our Instagram), or if you want something a little bit harder, focus on angles and your core. As women, everything emanates from our core. It all starts from your stomach, and then you’re using your butt, your thighs. That’s what keeps women truly fit and tight. That’s what we need to open and to strengthen our bodies."

On How to Stay Healthy Throughout the Day…

“I mostly eat plant-based. I don’t eat a ton of meat. Here in New York, there’s a kale avocado salad at Juice Generation that is the best thing ever. But I think in the middle of the day, if you eat too much, then you can become a bit foggy. So a really fresh salad is my favorite. I would have never said that 10 years ago, but with wellness, that’s the other thing that happens. You start enjoying being healthy. So for me, the fact that I love a kale avocado salad is so weird. I also eat a lot of pizza. Balance. There’s a book I’m reading now called "Genius Foods." It’s so well backed-up by science, and it’s nothing extremist. It’s not about having to go vegan or not eating carbs. It says these are really good foods for your body and your brain. There are those few superfoods that just really make a difference. The more that you can nurture and nourish your body at lunch, the better the rest of your day is gonna be.”

Curly-haired woman wearing a charcoal grey sports bra and workout leggings
Girlfriend Collective

On What to Do When You’re Not Feeling Yourself…

“I’m an avid meditator. And I fake meditated for years. I used all the apps, the videos, all the classes. I’m loud and I love to dance and I’m always moving at a hundred—that’s just the way I am. I thought, maybe meditation just isn’t for me, because you have to sit there and be quiet. I really struggled with it for years; it just didn’t click with me. Then, I did a course when I had my first son. He was a dream during the day and then turned into this monster at night that didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep for weeks. It was really getting to me, and I had a lot of stress at work. I was like fainting because I was so tired. I hit rock bottom, and I went to this meditation course and started doing that. It’s a commitment like a workout. I meditate for 20 minutes a day, twice a day. That was over a year ago and I can say it truly changed my life. I went from having really, really bad anxiety. With meditation, I have zero anxiety. I don’t remember what it feels like. I’m a genuinely happier person—I get along better with everyone in my life from the people that I work with to my husband and my kids. I’m so much kinder to myself. Things don’t really phase me the same way they did before.”

On Finding the Right Meditation…

“It's called Vedic Path Meditation. It’s very similar to Transcendental Meditation. The two guys who started TM broke off and one began Vedic. It’s mantra-based, so you get a word, and you just sit there and close your eyes with your back supported. You don’t awkwardly sit there and pretend you’re Buddha, which is helpful because you can do it anywhere. I can do it at my house; I can do it on the train. It’s very down-to-earth; it doesn’t feel awkward. You just repeat that word for 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, you have a ton of thoughts as well. That’s part of meditation. It’s really important to think and let whatever comes up, come up and out. This way, you never feel like you’re doing it wrong. It’s okay to think and drift and come back. It’s effortless. You just exist for 20 minutes and then you go about your day. I think the fact that you feel like you’re always doing it correctly is what makes it different.”

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