On any given day Steven Reich is looked upon by a classroom full of eight year-olds for guidance in math, reading or writing.
The former is because Steven is a third grade teacher at P.H. Sheridan Elementary School in Kensington, the later is due to his huge social media following as a certified trainer. Steven dishes out fitness tips on Twitter and his own blog called Our Fitspiration, a WordPress site.
What inspired you to start your own fitness blog?
I think it is just a culmination of many things at once. I have always been one that likes writing, I am a big talker, I love to read, so just communicating through words in an exploratory way. It is my life. I am a teacher as well. I am obsessed with the gym and being physically healthy. I find it soothing, therapeutic and empowering. So all of those pieces together, helping other people, finding a way with words, loving fitness. It all made sense.
How long have you been going to the gym for?
I started going to the gym the moment my mom allowed me to at age 13. I would do pushups, squats and situps in my bedroom starting in fourth grade, I was all about it.
Did you ever think that you would have this many Twitter followers?
Yeah, I am at a little over 27,000. I honestly could not have foreseen that. I hit a rough patch in my life, and I started engaging in other things. I Just needed to keep myself purposely directed, hence writing the blog and helping other people with fitness and myself. And I just started to put pictures and tweets out there and something just picked up. From there I went from like 200 followers to 1,000 in like three days, and then I got to 2,000 and things started getting exciting. And thus I started researching it, like what statistically makes a more effective tweet. I started trying to integrate that to Instagram and connecting it to my blog. Concurrently I got certified as a trainer and having the tangible validation, having all of these followers, it was very encouraging.
What came first the idea to get certified as a trainer and then the followers? Or did the followers inspire you to continue on with this?
To give you a basic timeline, I have been obsessed with fitness all of my life. Then I went through a bad breakup and all that I had was fitness. The bad breakup made me feel insecure so I got really into the gym, I stopped eating, and then I got healthy again. I looked great. So, I posted on Instagram to feel good about myself, that picked it up. Got me connected to social media. I decided because I was being validated for fitness to become certified as a trainer, something to do that was purposeful, tried to translate to Twitter and create a blog. The blog was easy because I love to write, and like I said the Twitter just picked up. I started putting content up there based on facts and my own voice. Writers have their own voice.
How engaged are your followers with you?
I will be honest, before I got my full time teaching job I was a lot more engaged with social media. It was a primary focus before, so you could say I had close to 400,000 impressions on my tweets. I get hundreds of emails per day asking for advice. Since I have cooled off, I still get constant engagement, but I would say it’s cut down to a third of that. I still get like hundreds of emails, that I honestly answer infrequently. I try my best, but it is not my top priority at the moment, I have other professional goals. The more you put into it, sincerely, the more the engagement will arrive. There are systems out there like big Twitter accounts, but I guarantee you that they have limited engagement.
From that engagement, do you receive any compensation or sponsorships?
I don’t get any money from it, at all. I have a friend whose sole career is to be a trainer and he is struggling with that. So, I am thinking that I could use this to kind-of help him blossom his career, because it is all he has. From there, maybe I will get a secondary stream of income. But no, I like helping people out. I am really seeking influence in my life for that purpose, I really believe in my ability to help others and the principles I stand for. I believe that if I can get influence through social media, I have the means to really effectively help others in the way that I see fit. It sounds idealistic and phony but I am just being candid. Money is a means to an end but I want influence so that I can help others.
— Text, photos and information gathered by Aron Minkoff and Jamie Gray.