Healthy minds and healthy bodies: Samira Howard’s lessons on fitness

Photo courtesy of Isabel Smith (C’20).

By Jasmine Huang
Junior Editor

Filing into the McGriff Alumni House, students milled about with snacks in hand as they waited for guest speaker and fitness instructor Samira Howard. While interning for her, Chandler Davenport (C’19), co-director of the Bairnwick Women’s Center, had seen Howard oversee a workshop on body positivity and health, and wanted to bring the experience onto campus. This became a two-day event series which occurred on November 30 through December 1.

After a brief introduction, Howard began her presentation. Speaking before the crowd, she recalled one particular story about a young girl who was struggling in college. Following a messy divorce between her parents and the difficulties of adjusting to a new life at university, she became depressed and suicidal, wrestling with her mental and physical well-being as she tried to stay afloat.

Looking at everyone in the room, Howard declared, “That girl was me.” Once her doctor recommended that she start going to the gym to feel better, the rest was history. After finishing university with a degree in kinesiology with a focus on the anatomy, biology, and biomechanics of cardiovascular health, Howard went on to found the program “Fitness is Fundamental” and obtain a certificate in group fitness instruction.

Photos courtesy of Isabel Smith (C’20).

“As a kinesiology student, we spend a significant amount of time learning about how our physical state can never be severed from our mental state. Science has proven over and over again that the body can only overcome challenge if the mind can rise to the occasion,” said Howard.

Diving into the science of physical health and wellbeing, she provided facts about the benefits of fitness, as well as tips for those beginning to work out.

Towards the end of the event, she asked, “How many of you guys openly say that you love your body to others?” After a resounding silence filled the room, she remarked, “Listen, my little girls love talking about body image, and so do my teens, but I think it’s still relevant even when you’re in college. There are women in their 50s who are still insecure with themselves, and that makes me so sad––can you imagine getting to your 50s and 60s and still not being comfortable with yourself?”

Turning to the projector screen, she played a Dove commercial from their series of Real Beauty Sketches titled “You’re More Beautiful Than You Think.”

Following an extensive Q&A session, Howard continued answering questions for the more intimate “After Talk” in the Wick’s living room. The next day, she led a 30-minute workout on high-intensity interval training in the Fowler Gymnasium for a group of approximately 15 students.

Reflecting on the experience, Amanda Bell (C’21) commented, “I enjoyed learning about positive body image and discussing self-love and acceptance. Hearing Samira encouraged me to love the little things about myself, and I’m now learning to be kinder in how I speak and treat myself.”

“I think it’s important for young women but also young men to hear Samira’s message because everywhere you turn people are getting surgeries to look a certain type of way and then selling these unhealthy products,” Davenport said.

She concluded, “What I love most about her message is that it teaches you to set your own body goals. You shouldn’t look like anybody else but you. It helps you have a better self-assessment as to who you are.”