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The Blog

yis is much more than just clothing - it's a lifestyle. 


So, You Started A Fitness Brand?

Justine Schofield

Since starting yis a couple of months ago, I’ve gotten a lot of imploring questions asking, What made you start a fitness clothing company? Coming from a background of writing and publishing, I suppose it’s a pretty reasonable question.

Looking back, it started with a series of events that I would have never anticipated would land me as an entrepreneur in the fitness and clothing industries. Yet, here I am.

The Beginning: My mom’s partner, Sandy, who she has been with for 12 years now, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 10 years old. In 2012, her kidneys officially gave out and she was forced to go on dialysis. This, coupled with the other crippling effects lifelong diabetes has on your body, didn’t paint a happy picture for her, or her future with my mom.

After making a series of calls, I found out I was a blood type match, making me a possible candidate to be a kidney donor. After many discussions, which mostly consisted of me exclaiming, “You’re taking my kidney! And you’re gonna like it!” (or something along those lines) and Sandy saying, “No way!” I finally convinced her and all her stubbornness to go through the testing process.

Sandy, Myself & My Mom, June 2014

Sandy, Myself & My Mom, June 2014

I was between states, traveling a lot for work, and living a generally hectic life, but we both finally completed all the tests necessary and were cleared for the surgery. During the whole process, I met with what seemed like a ridiculous number of doctors for just one kidney, and I talked to so many people in white coats that it was hard to keep them all straight. The one thing they all pressed upon me, over and over and over, was the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, particularly post-surgery.

Through my crash course in all things kidney-related, this is what I learned: your kidneys play an integral role in your overall health and their function helps to regulate really important things like your blood pressure. Those little bean-shaped bad boys also filter blood, remove waste from the body, and do a bunch of other things we probably don’t give them enough credit for. The list goes on, but in short, they are pretty damn important, and if you only have one, you better take care of it.

The Backstory: To be honest, prior to this, I was never an overly healthy person. I liked to pretend I was, but in reality, that was far from the truth. Sure, I dabbled in health and fitness, taking up going to the gym for a month or two here and there, trying to “diet” whenever I felt my jeans were getting a bit too tight for comfort.

I ate fruits and vegetables when I could, and felt this was good enough to constitute a healthy lifestyle. What I didn’t recognize at the time was that I supplemented my good-for-you foods and off-and-on relationship with exercise with nights of drinking too much alcohol, and eating fried, fast and, in general, fatty not-so-good-for-you foods.

You can get away with this for a while in your early 20’s, but this way of life takes its toll, and not just on your waistline. Feeding yourself crap, drinking excessively and not exercising (like, at all) seriously affects your energy level, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.

The Turning Point: July 9, 2014, I said see you later to one of my kidneys. My left one, to be precise.

[Disclaimer: This is generally where people get all sentimental and tell me what an amazing thing it is that I donated a kidney. I know it’s a big deal, donating one of my vital organs and all. I realize it was a gift both my Mom and Sandy are eternally grateful for, but I don’t think I’m a hero. I think most people underestimate how they’d respond in situations they’ve never been in. I did what I felt I had to do. When you have a Mom as amazing as mine, you’d do anything to help her be happy. Even give your kidney up for adoption, so to speak. Don’t worry, it’s in a good home now.]

Being one kidney down, I decided it was time to make some changes to be healthier. These changes were small at first. I tried to more consistently eat better, I drank less, and I started going to yoga, which was the first step I took to get moving and become more in tune with my body.

Around the same time I also started running, mostly because it was the easiest option for me. I didn’t belong to a gym, and it seemed like I had no excuse not to throw on a pair of sneakers and head out the door. Initially, I could barely run three blocks. It was a bit discouraging, to say the least, but I pushed myself daily, turning three blocks into four, then five, walking when I had to.

It took me a while—I mean, seriously, a while—but eventually I pushed myself to run a whole mile. I still remember this day clearly as I triumphantly texted my mom and sister exclaiming that I had completed a whole mile run, without stopping and, more impressively to me, without collapsing.

Yoga and running really helped to kick start what I now see was a complete lifestyle change. I began to look forward to the more active parts of my day. Where at first, I felt awkward and unsure of myself in yoga class, I began to feel inspired and fulfilled, and the slow, but steady progress I made with running pushed me to continue to do better and be stronger.

[Disclaimer #2: There are still many times I feel awkward or silly in yoga class. I wobble and shake. Sometimes I fall. Sometimes I even fall onto other people. There are plenty of days I just don’t feel in sync with my breath, and there are times when poses that typically come easy are a struggle. However, through my practice I’ve come to a place where I can laugh at myself and accept that sometimes, things are going to be awkward. That’s life, right? Don’t let fear of awkward stop you. From anything. Ever.]

The more I concentrated on doing active things that were good for me, the more I wanted to properly fuel my body and not fill it with junk and booze. I also began following a lot of fitness and yoga accounts on social media, which inspired me to continue to focus on and love myself. Without even really realizing it, I was consistently making choices that would change my way of life, for the better.

The Now: Throughout the last year I have grown tremendously as a person. I’ve achieved things I never even knew I had a desire to. I’ve moved from mostly cardio, to incorporating strength training into my workout routine. I strive to find a balance in my activities, which can at times be difficult, but I continue to try new classes, and do whatever feels right in my body any given day (which sometimes, is doing absolutely nothing at all). I even just recently ran my first 10K, something I would’ve laughed at as impossible a year ago.

Me, soaking up the good vibes.

Me, soaking up the good vibes.

Overall, in the past 15 months, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight—about 25 pounds. I think this is great, and is something I’m proud of, but it’s definitely not the most important accomplishment to me. I actually find this number funny, because my intent was never really to lose weight.

In the past, I concentrated on losing weight, which was never sustainable because it was a short-sighted goal. Making the decision to actually change the way I was living is what made all of my accomplishments and self-realizations possible.

I want to be clear, that when I say changing your lifestyle, this in no way means cutting out everything that could constitute being bad for you. Especially not if it makes you happy! Wine and pumpkin beer make me happy. I love cheeseburgers and ice cream, and if I have the desire to eat pizza, you better believe I eat pizza.

The difference now is these things are in no way staples in my diet and I still fuel my body with a lot of the green good-for-you stuff that makes me feel good. I try to create a balance that is sustainable. If I eat a cheeseburger and wash it down with a beer or two, great. I’m still going to go running the next day.

This balance in life has helped me to be a much happier, much healthier, and much more self-aware person. And damn, that feels really good.

The Conclusion: How does this all tie into my taking a leap of faith and starting a fitness & lifestyle clothing company? I want, more than anything, to inspire other people to either create or maintain a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle. I want to help people to also be able to say, damn, that feels really good.

As you can see, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I used to snub fitness, and would begrudgingly resort to it only when I felt it was necessary. (Newsflash: it’s always necessary!) I know that now, and I know the more you take care of your body, the more you want to continue to preserve what you’ve worked so hard for. It’s a great cycle of self-improvement, and one I think everyone deserves to experience. I hope what I’m doing at yis will help to inspire others to share in that experience.