Cassey Ho strolls onto the set of her Health cover shoot sporting short-shorts and a cropped T, looking every bit the California girl. "Hello!" she says, flashing a smile. Immediately you want to be her best friend. She's just so darn relatableÂ—which is probably one of the reasons why the POP Pilates creator has more than 2.6 million subscribers to her Blogilates YouTube channel. Her fans even include such famous fitness fanatics as Lolo Jones and Taylor Swift.
But it wasn't easy getting here. At an early age, Cassey struggled with her father's expectations (more on that later). Today, the 28-year-old is a power brand, helping women reach their fitness goals while spreading a body-positive message. Her workoutsÂ—fun mat Pilates choreographed to Top 40 musicÂ—are taught offline, too, in 24 Hour Fitness gyms.
Here, Cassey shares how she has stayed strong all these years. Better yet, she worked with us to create the 30-Day Total Body Challenge. Sign up for exclusive fitness videos and tips that will help you get a killer body and have fun doing it.
What is the first piece of get-healthy advice you would give us?
Find a workout you love. A lot of times people are like, "CrossFit is in, so I am going to do CrossFit," but it's not right for everyone. Neither is yoga or Pilates. When you wake up and you cannot wait to get going, that is the workout for you. You'll stick to it, it won't feel like a chore, and then everything else will fall into place. You'll start losing weight and you'll feel less stressedÂ—less stress will mean less cortisol, and you know, for women, stress leads you to hold extra fat in your lower belly.
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You make it sound so easy.
You just have to get on track. You don't have to feel good while you are doing it. Once you get through a workout, you should feel exhausted, but also strong. Build on that the next day!
What do you love most about exercise?
Working out makes me feel so victorious and like I can do anything. I love that it's not dependent on anything but you and how far you want to go.
You've built a pretty impressive brand. What's your secret?
I always tell people to just get started. That's what I did. I was working a job in a toxic environment and I wasn't happy, so I quit. The only plan I had was to believe in myself. A lot of people stay stuck, but you are the CEO of your own life, and you can make it what you want it to be. Seriously, just get your message out there. Everyone has a smartphone, and there are so many avenuesÂ—Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube.
What mind-set will help us succeed with our New Year's goals?
Even though you are on a weight-loss journey, you have to realize that you may not be happy when you get there, so you need to love your body and every step along the way. This is not about vanity; it's about finding the joy in working out and making it your lifestyle.
Did you always know you wanted a career in fitness?
My dad wanted me to be a doctor, but I had no passion for that. I wanted a different career, but he told me that I would fail. I was 16! He said I was dishonoring the family. We stopped talking for a few years. It was crazy stuff that could break a person, and it almost broke me. But I knew that I had to live for myself. Now my dad brags about me, and both my parents are very happy for me.
Do you ever feel pressure to stay camera-ready?
Absolutely. I feel the pressure to look a certain way every single day. And I get itÂ—I am a fitness instructor. But there are some people who think that because I don't have six-pack abs, I am not a great instructor. That has nothing to do with my 10 years of experience of teaching. It has nothing to do with all of the lives I've changed.
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What do you love most about your body?
My legsÂ—they are very strong. I can leg-press 270 pounds! Also, I love where my legs take me, metaphorically and realistically.
What gives you the most confidence?
Being sure of myself and continually working toward getting better and strongerÂ—that makes me feel beautiful from the inside out.
With social media, is it hard not to compare yourself with others?
You should only compare yourself with who you were yesterday and try to be stronger than that. If you are trying to be someone else, you have already lost yourself. Plus, on Instagram, people post the perfect portfolio of their life; it's not real. I don't post myself crying or stuffing my face with burritos.
What are you eating when we aren't looking? What's your cheat meal?
Instead of "cheat," which has a negative connotation, I say "YOLO."
As in you only live once?
Yes! I recommend one YOLO meal a week. Sometimes you just need to feed your soul! So there is this one place, and it has these fried French toast sticks with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and strawberry. But to be honest, as much as I love YOLO meals, I go into a food coma and just get sleepy because of all the sugar. I've found that the more you eat clean, the more your body wants to stay on that path.
What is your biggest fear?
Losing all motivation. I really believe that is the beginning point of everything; that is the thing that makes you get up in the morning. Once you lose it, you lose confidence. You kind of lose everything.
Take the 30-Day Total Body Challenge!
Cassey's Food Diary
"I love Paleo banana pancakes. All you need is two eggs and one ripe banana; mash them together until they form a batter, and then pour it into a skillet. And it's already sweet, so you don't need the syrup."
"Some type of salad, such as spinach with salmon, cranberries, nuts and raw onions with a little raspberry vinaigrette, or a chicken fiesta salad with corn, salsa, avocado and baby greens."
"A power smoothie is the best thing ever. I use orange juice, almond milk, strawberries and bananas. You can add spinach, too. It's also a great way to refuel post-workout."
"Brussels sprouts and salmon. Or I buy rice paper and fill the sheets with boiled chicken and lettuce, and then roll, roll, roll. I'll dip them in a homemade sauce made with hoisin, sriracha and tons of lemon juice. It is such a great healthy, make-it-at-the-table meal."
Cassey is wearing:
Stella McCartney jacket ($225; stellamccartney.com), Alo bra ($52; zappos.com), Koral leggings ($94; shopbop.com)