Elaine Tran on Her Journey to Mobility (& Flexibility!)

You’re just a stretch away from changing your life!

Elaine Tran is a user experience designer by day and a fitness and stretching influencer by night; creating videos on Youtube and writing blog posts after hours. 

Ellipse 1Elaine’s fitness journey started in the Summer of 2013. She wanted to improve her health, having been underweight her whole life and often falling ill. During this time, Elaine stumbled across a pilates video on YouTube that geared her towards strength training. This notion of building muscle in tandem with gaining weight sparked her initial excitement for fitness. 

For the next 5 years, Elaine focused on pilates, HIIT and weight training. Building strength through consistency allowed her to explore various physical activities such as dragon boat racing, Muay Thai, bouldering and dance — activities that Elaine never imagined doing growing up. However, Elaine came to a point where she felt like she was going to the gym without a plan. She had built this entire identity around strength training, yet felt like it became dull and mindless. Elaine decided to continue her fitness journey by experimenting more in search of something that would make her excited again. 

It wasn’t until Elaine participated in a 30 day trial of pole dancing classes that she finally felt reengaged in her exercises. She was excited to see her peers’ process in their own journeys – seeing them struggle when learning a new move to mastering it a few classes later. Elaine wanted to be able to do the same. She soon discovered that the strength she had gained from years of weight lifting helped her with pole, but she lacked the flexibility that was required. When Elaine looked at her peers, she saw that they had the opposite problem- they had the flexibility, but not the strength. This realization marked the beginning of Elaine’s journey towards improving flexibility and mobility. 

When Elaine first started training for flexibility, she struggled to touch her toes. Growing up, Elaine did not participate in dance, martial arts, or gymnastics. Since she had never trained her flexibility at a young age, she was led to believe that she wouldn’t be able to now as an adult. Despite this, she decided to work on her flexibility by changing her mindset rather than avoiding it. She then made it her goal to stretch every day for an hour to see if her flexibility would increase. Elaine’s flexibility goals included being able to touch her toes, sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor, and achieve the front splits in less than a year. After five months and hundreds of hours of stretching, Elaine met each of her goals. She was able to achieve these flexible feats by researching stretching routines and developing her own personalized routine based on her knowledge of what was effective. 

Elaine felt so inspired by her own progress that she started a blog called Journey to Mobility in September 2019. Elaine’s blog served as a creative outlet and a movement to help people improve their range of motion. Elaine’s overarching goal is to reframe the idea of flexibility and provide resources for others to train for flexibility by sharing her own wealth of knowledge. 

“Flexibility is something that you can train for, at any age. I feel inspired to help people push beyond their own mental and physical barriers,” says Elaine, her personal journey being a testament to this statement. 

Stretching has changed Elaine’s life in that she has realized how interconnected both the mind and body are — if you want to train your body beyond its physical barriers, you have to train your mind first. 

“When you start to push beyond your limits, you will amaze yourself.”

Elaine’s advice for those interested in becoming more flexible is to, first and foremost, adopt the mindset of believing that you can achieve your mobility goals, rather than accepting that you are inflexible. Elaine also recommends outlining a stretching goal and mapping out daily steps to achieving your goal. Like every other goal, you need to know what you are working towards to move in that direction.

Another step that you can take in order to increase your flexibility is to watch some of Elaine’s awesome and accessible stretching videos on her YouTube channel! Over the course of the COVID pandemic, Elaine felt compelled to compliment her more static blog materials with follow-along videos, where she guides you through various stretching routines to target specific areas. 

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Since launching the channel back in August 2020, Elaine has amassed a following of over 3,700 subscribers and over 100,000 views on her YouTube stretching videos. The feedback that Elaine has gotten since creating her videos has been overwhelmingly positive. She has received feedback from viewers across the globe who have gained flexibility from viewing her videos. Elaine even received messages from her supporters who have cried from joy at the pain relief they have experienced through her flexibility training. 

The positive feedback that Elaine has received is a direct reflection of the time and energy she has put into developing helpful and insightful instruction. Elaine even tests all of her stretching routines with her family and boyfriend alike, to ensure that her routines are for those who are beginners to the practice. 

I have had the pleasure of receiving a stretching class from Elaine on relieving neck and back pain and can say with much certainty that Elaine and her expert stretching content are Ursula approved!

Where to Find Elaine:




CEO Sit Down: Anna Bilha on Activly

Activly, a company mobilizing millennials to get active and fit on their own terms.

Anna Bilha was born and raised in Brazil and moved to The United States for high school and to attend Babson College. Throughout her education, Anna hadn’t focussed a lot on studying entrepreneurship, which is what Babson is most well-known for, being the #1 college in the nation for entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until Anna went to study in San Francisco for a semester that she was exposed to a realm of entrepreneurship that she found herself extremely passionate about, involving design, fitness, community, and technology. From an initial idea in San Francisco to a full blown start-up, Anna’s new company Activly has just launched its first beta version of what will soon be a fitness community app geared towards millennials. 

Anna at Ned's Point-23 2Activly was inspired by Anna’s personal fitness journey. Being someone who struggled with weight and body image issues, fitness has always been a priority in Anna’s life. Yet, in college, Anna found it difficult to establish a routine and be as active as she would like. However, when Anna did make it to the gym, people would reach out to her for recommendations for how she was able to be more active and fierce in the gym.  

At first, Anna considered starting a blog that she could point people to for her tips, but quickly realized that making videos and living that “influencer lifestyle” was not so much her speed. Anna cites GymShark as being one of her biggest influences, which has a loyal community of passionate individuals that she truly believes in. Anna also mentions that Karina Elle is another fitness expert she looks up to, who, in many ways, has broken the status quo when it comes to representation within the fitness space.  Anna knew that she wanted to reach more people to offer them tips from her own personal fitness journey. “Fitness is about being happy and comfortable with your body and being healthy, not necessarily about losing weight or building muscle,” Anna mentions. “There is an aspect of going to the gym that is about challenging yourself and being mentally healthy as well.” 

Screen_Shot_2020-11-19_at_3.03.01_PM-removebg-previewAnna did a lot of research into why people are not exercising and what the pain points are within the fitness industry in order to understand better why people were asking her for fitness advice. She soon discovered that ⅔ of Americans are inactive! This led her to developing the idea for Activly, an attempt at making the fitness experience more simple and community based. Activly is designed to be a centralized platform for fitness instruction and inspiration. Anna wanted to ensure that this app serves as a place for everyone, no matter where they are in their fitness journey- a community for everyone. 

What differentiates Activly from other workout programs and apps is that it serves to aggregate content from multiple platforms in order to provide the best for each user. “In this app, you are not limited to finding information from one source, which would leave you at a disadvantage if you enjoy all different types of workouts” Anna mentions. Activly also does not create its own content for sale and distribution, which makes it more unbiased in recommending content for its users. 


Creating this app has not come without its challenges, however, both personal and professional. At the outset, Anna reveals that she suffered from imposter syndrome, where she was unsure if she had the ability to get the app off the ground running. Within the company itself, Anna also cites that building a platform such as this one involves complicated technology that she has had to learn a lot about throughout the process, something completely out of her comfort zone. “You have to be confident in your developer, they need to understand what you see and align with your vision” says Anna. 


Nevertheless, these dark moments have allowed for bright moments to shine even brighter. Some of the most rewarding aspects of starting this company for Anna has been growing her team. Although the company is not profitable yet, everyone within her team is extremely engaged and excited for what is to come, something Anna had never dreamt at the beginning. 

Overall, Anna is excited for her new business to help people that need guidance that are already active, but, more importantly, help those who are not active at all in order to work towards creating a more physically and mentally healthy world. 

Lance Svendsen on Beginner Running Tips

You’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the run of your life!

Lance, tell us about your background in running!

I started really running in 2012 after my Uncle Roy passed away because I was determined to run the NYC marathon in his memory. But I was always a solid runner. I ran a bunch of 5k’s for fun and did some tough mudders and spartan races when they were first introduced. I like the self competition the most, like how you can run the same distance on different courses and it’s a completely different race. I was always trying to beat my own times and push myself to the next mile marker or the next lower minute. It always always helped that I was the fastest kid I knew. That helped keep my interest 🙂

What is some advice you would give someone that is a beginner and thinking about starting to do some long distance running?

It’s almost annoying for beginners to hear from someone who has run in a 50 mile race but literally the way you start is to just start. Everyone can run, you just have to find if you actually want to do it. And the want can be either out of need or frustration. What I mean by that is some people need to run and work out for health so they will do it to get or stay fit. And then there are those who decide I’m done not hitting myself goals and starting now, I am doing what it takes. I was that second group. I always wanted to run a marathon but would come up with excuses. Then I decided enough is enough and I’m going to do it. I went out for that first long run and it was terrible and exhausting and I could taste blood I was so tired. But I realized I was in a new place that I’ve never been. I was a distance runner – not a good one yet – but I knew I could do it. 

What advice would you give beginner runners who think that they are too old, out of shape, or “not built” for running? 

I would say to someone who says one of those excuses that unless running causes you pain that would hurt you over the long term, then all the other things are just excuses. God built us to run.

Any of those excuses are because they are comparing themselves to other people. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is yourself last week. I bet if you train this week, you’ll be a better version of yourself next week. 

What is some advice you would give a beginner who has just started their running training?

Do not confuse being in pain and an injury. Injuries are one thing and if you have one, you stop running and recover. But pain, pain is something you feel when you are pushing yourself beyond what you are currently capable of. Pain is something you can push through and be better on the other side. Weak people stop when they feel the slightest bit of pain and it’s a mistake. 

What sneakers, clothing, or accessories do you recommend beginner runners purchase to help in their running journey?

Screen Shot 2020-10-04 at 4.03.26 PMThe main thing is train in whatever you are going to race in. It’s almost cute when a beginning runner will try something new on race day. It’s like “Oh no, that time has passed.” Don’t do anything new on race day. You’re training your running habits along with your legs and lungs. For purchases, I like running shorts with a lining and pockets. I always use the pocket for my phone. It’s just easier than fumbling with a runner belt for the phone, when you use it to change songs or select the next podcast. But in the longer runs I do wear a runners belt for the gels and snacks. I like to bring along pretzels and gummy bears. You can use money on performance snacks but if you look up the active ingredients, the same stuff is in rold gold pretzels and haribo gummy bears. And personally I choose Asics. Always Asics.

What are some good stretches or exercises that you do to help your body perform well on runs and prevent injury?

For me I have to make sure my achilles are being taken care of. After longer runs they feel almost crunchy which is as painful as it is gross sounding. And oddly enough I found my shoulders can get tired on runs so I like to make sure I move them a lot before and then while running relax them every few miles so they don’t tighten up. 

How would you advise beginner runners to set goals or milestones to track their journey?

Find out what motivates you. If it’s time or miles or weight lose or beating someone else’s time, then do that. Don’t try to motivate you by someone else’s standards, that’s not fun and won’t get you excited. But if you choose it and get excited by it then you will keep wanting to go out and pursue it. 

What foods do you recommend runners incorporate in their diet for optimal running?

Chia Seeds. Those things are amazing. They retain water in your body. And water is no joke, it’s so important. I put chia seeds in smoothies mostly. Also, it’s actually way more important the things you don’t eat than the things you do eat. If you can eliminate something potentially bad from your diet and don’t really miss it then do it that way. I’ve found that has helped me more than adding things that I know could be good for me. Like get rid of things that are obviously bad for you like soda and bacon, and then limit the things you really want to small portions like french fries and ice cream. Unless you’re training for an ultra, then you can eat pretty much anything. I’ve eating pizza while training for an ultra as I was running. There’s a saying, “If you run the engine hot enough, it will burn anything.” But again that’s at high miles over hours. 

What advice would you give beginner runners who feel discouraged in their progress or running outcomes?

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Running is something to be enjoyed so find ways to enjoy it. You’re most likely discouraged because you set an unrealistic goal for yourself and missed it. Setting small reasonable goals, although may not seem as exciting, are way better for you mentally. There’s something about being able to celebrate an accomplishment, that will keep you going for longer. Also, find a running mate. Someone to go on runs with and/or talk about running with. Some of my favorite training runs are the shorter ones where the goal is to talk the whole time, which works the lungs and gets you used to being uncomfortable and happy at the same time.

My Journey as a Runner

Not all races end at the finish line.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruited my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner, to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

I have always loved running since I was little. I remember being one of the fastest kids in Elementary School and every year appointed the captain of the girls relay race at our annual field day. Sprinting was a strong suite of mine, which got me involved in track and field and field hockey when I entered High School. However, it wasn’t until I was a Junior in High School that I decided that I wanted to run cross country. The supportive environment of the team was something that I always loved, despite the sport being relatively individualistic. Running these long distances was something that I was never proficient at, but I knew that I wanted to push myself- if I was able to compete on the team I would be showing myself that I was capable of doing something I had never thought I could do. A few races into the season, however, I was out of commission. At one of our 5k races, I left the start line feeling O.K., pacing myself and focusing on my breathing. Yet, as I entered the middle of the race, I could feel a sharp pain in my left ankle, as I was entering the steep woods portion of the race. What I thought was mere tightness in my ankle, I would later find out was a stress fracture in my left Fibula bone. I was out for the season after that, having to walk in a boot for several weeks. I remember dreaming of running again every day I drove past our school’s vast fields going to and from school. 


Upon entering college my Freshman year, I remember the gym as being a place of solace for me. My college gym had an indoor track on the second floor that I would frequent and found an immense stress relief. Whenever I felt bummed about not having plans on a Friday night or could feel my anxiety creeping up on me, I would shuffle my way to the gym for a run, music blasting on high. Sometimes, it was the only way that I could make it through the week- a way for me to just be present. When Sophomore year rolled around, I became incredibly busy with a new on-campus job and friends that I put off my regular running for a bit. Yet, when my anxieties ramped up again Junior year, I knew I had to return to my running for some much needed sanity. But, I needed a way to stay committed. I decided to sign up for the New York City Marathon, something that I never thought that I could do, but was on my bucket list. I began training in January of 2019, knowing that I would need a head start if I was going to complete this thing. I spent hours training, going on runs in the pouring train, indoors on the track, and outside in the Boston Spring air. As the summer came, I was really hitting the ground, coming home from my internships in New York City to run in the summer heat or running along the West Side highway after work. I went from barely being able to run over two miles without stopping, to running eight miles in one shot. I became the runner I never believed I could be. Until I hit a wall. After many bouts of heat stroke, constant stress in trying to balance my two internships, and an ankle injury, I knew enough was enough. I was going to have to put my dream of running the New York City Marathon on hold that year. I would complete the marathon at another time, and that would be O.K. 

06D70FBC-F6C3-4BCD-A1E8-3BF3AF7D5816I share my story because I want you to know that, even if you think that they can’t, you can become a runner too. Even during my runs, I would question how I could be doing all of this running. How could I mentally, physically, and emotionally get up and run almost every day? But, I just did. Forcing myself into my workout clothes also helped!

It is important to recognize that any progress is some progress. Every run of mine was hard in some way or at some point, which is a reality that is important to grasp. If you know that at some point the workout will be hard and you will want to quit, it becomes an inevitability that you know will pass once you get over that wall. And once you do that is where the magic is. Sometimes I would surpass that mental wall and find myself being able to run for miles- feeling a “runners high” that was altogether unexplainable. 

It just starts with one small step, then a leap, then a jog.


Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Remind yourself that you will hit a “wall” on your runs- acknowledging this is half the battle. Once you get over the “wall” of sluggishness you will feel amazing. You have to convince your body that you are deciding to spend your energy and calories on this run, the sluggishness comes from your body wanting to preserve the energy and calories you are spending. Basically it’s your body asking “Are we really doing this?”. 
  • Get a fanny pack to store your phone and keys while you run. They are way better than arm bands, as the weight is equally distributed to your center. 
  • In your mind, set a goal before you start and commit to it, you can surpass the goal or slightly modify it, but try to stick with it every time.
  • Keep track of your progress, this will motivate you when you are feeling down and show how much you have accomplished so far.
  • Share your progress with someone that can celebrate the small wins with you.
  • Take it slow, progress in running can take a long time and ramping up too much in the beginning will only lead to discouragement and injury. 
  • Get good running shoes, the less that is inhibiting you from being comfortable, the easier it will be to get out there and run.
  • Find a go-to song that will get you hyped up and energized when you are feeling sluggish in the middle of your run that can activate some much needed energy to help you get through. 
  • The best thing about running is that you can always convert the run to a walk and still be exercising, its O.K. to slow down sometimes when you aren’t feeling too hot.
  • Go for time not for milage if you are aiming to run long distance. My goals were running for an extra 5 to 10 minutes at a time, slowly increasing as I was able to run farther. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruit my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

Jenna Willis on being a Personal Trainer to the Stars

From actor to personal trainer, Jenna keeps fit and her clients fitter in sunny California.

Jenna Willis is a Jersey girl, born and raised, who grew up with three older brothers. With familial competition running deep in her veins, Jenna notes that athleticism was not a choice for her. While attending college, Jenna was the shortest Division 1 collegiate volleyball player in the nation, a credit to her natural knack for sports. However, Jenna involved herself in competitive sports as much as in theater and dreamt of becoming an actor one day. Jenna’s pursuit of professional acting led her to ultimately move to California to chase her dreams. 

Working as an actress in Los Angeles, Jenna never abandoned exercise and used it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety. She mentions that exercise was especially crucial for her when she was dealing with a difficult break up a few years ago. Jenna began exploring strength training and lifting more during this time, which helped to strengthen her body and clear her mind. As Jenna’s career took off and she was able to book more jobs in TV and modeling, she noticed that she was also attracting greater attention in the gym. On three separate occasions, Jenna had fellow gym-goers ask her for help with fitness techniques, using machines, and targeting parts of their body. Jenna took this as a sign that all of her dedication to fitness had led to a greater purpose: helping others achieve personal success in their health and wellness journeys. 

Jenna BandsImmediately, Jenna signed up for a course to become a certified personal trainer. Soon after, along with auditioning and booking acting jobs, Jenna started to train clients on the side in 2017, getting paid for what she loves to do. A win-win I would say! Jenna credits hard work and preparation in enabling her to be successful in her personal training business as well as the support she received from her friends. Since she started personal training, Jenna’s business has been growing tremendously, capturing the attention of celebrities like Tara Reid, Lala Kent, and Liza Koshy, all of whom she has trained.  

What differentiates Jenna from other personal trainers? Not many incorporate the mind, body, and spirit as she does, Jenna says. Jenna is adamant about the fact that what you see on the outside is only a fraction of what is important. The true magic is when the mind, body, and spirit are aligned in terms of healthy and holistic living. Jenna also wasn’t shy to mention that she is a natural goofball that isn’t afraid to show people who she truly is in front of her audience. Like all of us, she pokes fun at herself and embraces the awkwardness that can come along with working out. “We are all growing together. Fitness is not perfection” she states during our conversation, an important reminder for all of us to take to heart. 

IMG_5995 (1)Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jenna was doing virtual training sessions to people all over the world, which has made her exclusive transition to digital so smooth. Yet, Jenna notes that her biggest motivation in starting her newest program “Don’t Sweat It Alone” was her lack of motivation in the beginning of the pandemic. Jenna was having a hard time getting excited about doing her training and couldn’t imagine that if she couldn’t get up and do some squats, what others must be feeling like. As a result, Jenna made a promise to show up, not only for herself, but for her followers by going live on Instagram with her workouts. Jenna received such positive feedback from doing those sessions, which motivated her viewers to get out of bed in the morning, that she turned the Instagram Live sessions into a regular occurrence. Jenna has since formalized “Don’t Sweat It Alone” into a virtual fitness and healthy living membership and community that is all online. Jenna goes live three times a week within the community, with workouts that are tailored to working out home with minimal equipment. Jenna also ends every workout with a meditation and brings in nutritionists and experts from across the fitness spectrum to talk on the platform. If you sign up for the program get ready for sweaty selfies, free giveaways, and a lot of plank rows and squat presses- two of Jenna’s favorite at-home moves! 

What has been the most challenging part of starting this venture of personal training? Jenna mentions that there is always going to be road bumps, but it’s figuring out how to pave them. Every time you take two steps forward, be prepared to take five steps back, but be motivated enough to make the leap forward again. “Trust the process” is what Jenna says, a mantra that we can all use to benefit from.

Want to get in on all that “Don’t Sweat It Alone” has to offer?

Head to the website and follow her on Instagram

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