The Femtourage had the honor of speaking with Tamika Harden, personal fitness trainer, mother, and coronavirus survivor, about her unexpected, recent battle with COVID-19.
During our conversation, we discovered that Tamika is no stranger to putting up a fight. Here's more about the fitness trainer and health advocate, and how she fought against the deadly diagnosis.
Who is Tamika Harden?
Growing up in South Jamaica Queens, NY, Tamika defeated becoming a stereotype and maneuvered her way into reaching success she once only dreamed about.
At an early age, Tamika knew she was unhealthy. She recalls being overweight most of her childhood and getting teased continuously by loved ones (who ironically were also overweight).
Not wanting to live a life being unhappy and unhealthy, Tamika began her fitness journey at the age of 16. Faced with many setbacks, Tamika could've easily given up, but she made it a mission to join a gym and lose weight.
At the time, Tamika needed a bank account to sign up for her local gym and searched endlessly for a bank that would issue her an account. She found one, and it allowed her to focus on her health.
She lost an astonishing 40 pounds! And by the age of 19, the New York native was managing health clubs and helping other women reach their fitness goals.
"My family had no clue what I was doing," says Tamika. And knowing how great of a cook her mom is, Tamika admits it was hard to shake the habit.
She drew strength from knowing how bad those Sunday meals were. Luckily, working at the supermarket allowed Tamika to eat healthily and purchase her own meals.
But Tamika confesses that she does indulge every now and then, enjoying meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. "For me, the desire isn't there as much because I know what it tastes like already," says Tamika.
She reveals that naturally, the longer you are on your fitness journey, the more willpower you have. And that's what makes it easy to say no to temptation in the form of food.
Throughout her 16-year fitness journey, Tamika has been able to completely transform the way she looks and eats. She's now a pescatarian and incorporates vegan dishes into her meal plans.
Flu or COVID-19?
Despite being in the best health of her life, Tamika was one of the thousands of people affected by coronavirus. However, she wasn't immediately made aware.
Initially, Tamika believed she had the flu. And when she placed a phone call to get tested, she didn't receive a call back until 3-weeks later. Her symptoms got worse, so she went to the nearest testing site but was denied for not scheduling an appointment.
Tamika learned that a trauma unit was going to be set up around her neighborhood the following day. It was her best bet of walking-in and getting a test.
Within five days, she got the news and tested positive.
"It felt like I had got hit by a truck," Tamika explains. "All I could do was sleep; I could barely drink the tea my family was giving me."
She describes it as being a wake-up call.
"I have to get people healthy!"
Tamika says she no longer doubted her purpose; she knew that without a doubt, getting people fit was her God-given mission.
She was knocked down for about two weeks from COVID-19, but was able to shake it.
And she credits her lifestyle as being the reason she was able to survive the virus. In fact, the first thing she did once she got healthy was exercise!
Before contacting the coronavirus, Tamika was training over 200 women per month. Instead of letting the virus keep her or her business down, Tamika tells how she ran a virtual aerobics class just 4 days after feeling better.
Her clients had no clue that she was just getting over the deadly disease!
Tamika is now more open to telling her story because she sees it as a way to motivate others to get into shape.
As a successful fitness trainer, Tamika Harden has built a career around being mentally and physically strong. But when faced with a deadly virus – nobody is immune to feelings of fear and anxiety.
When asked if things would have been different had she learned about her condition earlier, Tamika says she thinks her attitude would have changed. Initially concerned, once her diagnosis was confirmed as positive, Tamika was mentally strong and had a sense of gratitude.
With daily news surrounding the tragic effects of coronavirus, Tamika knew how deadly the virus was and thinks it would've caused her more panic had she been aware she was battling it from the beginning.
"The moment I felt better, I just felt like it was my responsibility to just get back to what I was doing and help people," exclaims Tamika.
Fighting back the tears, Tamika says she is 100% sure that her calling is to help her community and to give people the resources needed to live a healthier life.
Want to get healthy? Start NOW
The time to get serious about your health is yesterday, but seeing as how we can't turn back time – Tamika urges you to start now.
"Working out has a way of stimulating you mentally, "says Tamika, as she invites you to attend her virtual workout class. But it's not only for weight loss but also for mental strength – both are linked to one another. Tamika reminds us that because of where she was physically and mentally, it made her more successful at beating COVID-19.
"Surviving COVID-19 did something to me mentally and emotionally. It said to me, 'your life was spared because you have a greater purpose.'"
Her advice to the women and men looking to make a change: write down every negative word on a piece of paper. "I'm overweight, I'm not good enough" -- throw it away. She says our baggage and insecurities tend to hold us back.
Identify what's holding you back and then explore options that can help you, like fitness.
Fitness allowed her a way out of the crippling cycle of self-esteem issues and negative thoughts – and she knows it can work for you too.
You may be tempted to give up, but don't. Just reset, and try to have fun, Tamika advises. "As long as you don't quit and you don't stop, you're never going to go back to where you started from."
"COVID-19 has made me fearless," Tamika proudly states. And she's now more committed to helping others reach their fitness goals!
Her goal for the rest of 2020 is to keep people encouraged and to reach people all over the world by teaching aerobics.