The winter chill is leaving and spring is finally here! But as we shed our winter layers, we realize that we may still be hanging onto
10 pounds a little winter weight. Thankfully, YouTube pilates instructor Cassey Ho is here to save the day. Ho has built an empire called Blogilates, a hub for recipes, blog posts, and POP Pilates videos (pilates moves set to pop tunes) that encourage her fans (called POPsters) and followers to embrace healthy living in every aspect of their lives.
Her first fitness book, Hot Body Year Round, includes new moves, recipes, and enough positive motivation to help you find the confidence to rock a bikini (or trunks) this summer. Ho’s book is actually divided by the four seasons, meaning that whether you need an extra push in the winter, warm recipes in the fall, sun dress worthy legs for spring, or rockin’ abs to show off in the summer, she has you covered. Here, we talk with Ho about her journey from Biology major to Blogilates entrepreneur.
Bookish: When did you decide that you wanted to write a book? And why did you decide to divide the book into seasons?
Cassey Ho: I write a lot; I come from a blogging background, and I thought it would be really cool to put everything in one place like a Blogilates bible—complete with an exercise library, new recipes, and heartfelt motivational notes for when you’re feeling down. That was my initial thought for the book, about two years ago. Then I decided to have the book cover an entire year.
A lot of my videos are based on goals: Summer is bikini season so the workouts are a bit harder. Winter is when people need to get motivated just to get up and moving. So it felt natural to shape the book in the same way by covering the four seasons.
Bookish: What were the challenges of writing about pilates instruction rather than teaching it?
CH: I can write blog posts for two or three hours every night, but going into full-author mode and having to write down the technical aspects of pilates took forever. The exercise library was probably the hardest thing for me to write. When you’re teaching a bunch of students, you’re all working together and talking together and motivating each other, it just kind of flows. But actually writing it down was so technical, I enjoyed that part the least. What I enjoyed the most was working on the motivation parts, and getting the food ready and making sure everything tasted good.
Bookish: You took amazing outdoor photos for each season. What are some great places you’re looking forward to practicing pilates this season that you couldn’t in winter?
CH: It’s interesting actually. We tried doing a POP Pilates beach workout about a year and a half ago. We were really excited to be getting out of my apartment to shoot, but the fans weren’t gravitating towards it. They like working out in my living room and apartment because they felt that was relatable. So, for the most part, POP Pilates videos will be shot in my apartment.
But, as far as DVDs or instructional videos for my POP Pilates instructors, I’m excited to shoot anywhere outdoors. California has so many great locations. I really want to head to a natural flower field for one; I think that would be amazing.
Bookish: A lot of the shots in the book required traveling, what was that like?
CH: It was an awesome and challenging experience. When we first started planning this book, they just wanted me to send over photos that they could put on a white background. But I didn’t think readers were going to feel the seasons unless there were lots of great pictures. We wanted to get it right and when I do things, I do them 100%. So we flew our photographer out to all of these different locations.
For spring, we had just missed the season and had to hunt until we found the tiniest flower field ever just to get the shot. We found it just as the sun was setting. It rained in Utah the night before we shot on the Salt Flats, so I was balancing and doing pilates while my mat was on top of a foam board on top of water. We were literally just there for the night, we had no choice but to get it done. In Boston, I checked the fall foliage website to make sure that the leaves would be red and of course we head over there and they’re still green and yellow. I swear, we found the only red tree in a 30 mile radius. There’s so much story behind these pictures.
Bookish: Your videos reflect your desire to give 100% to your students. Unlike many other pilates instructors, you don’t simply instruct, you share your own experiences and ask to hear those of your viewers as well.
CH: I really like keeping it personal with my students. I don’t just want to train them, I want to be their friend and I know they want to be my friend, too. If they’re surrounded with negative people or a family that doesn’t believe in the journey that they’re going on, I want to be there for them and to let them know they can do this. The best way to do that is to be tough but train with a smile. It works. Overall, these girls have lost hundreds of pounds. People have overcome eating disorders and completely changed their lives. It’s really been awesome to witness. It’s all thanks to the fans, without them I know I would not be where I am today.
Bookish: You also spend a lot of the book talking about the importance of clean eating (eating foods that are un- or minimally processed). For beginners, it can seem like a drastic change. When did you start eating clean and what helped you adjust?
CH: I grew up in an Asian family, so I ate a lot of rice, and my mom worked in a bakery so she always brought home cakes and sweets. I started clean eating mid-2011, when I read The Eat-Clean Diet. I realized then that if I cut out certain foods and trained right, I wouldn’t have to think so much about calories. For me, it has not only helped my body but also my energy levels. When you’re eating really nutrient dense foods everything changes about you: you have this extra glow, you power through your workouts.
For beginners, just cut out a little bit at a time. In the beginning, cutting processed foods out of your diet, you want it a little here and there, but once you recognized how good you feel, you won’t even think about it. Instead, you think about how good you want to look and feel.
And I always say you can have one YOLO meal a week. I usually reserve mine for Friday or Saturday with friends. I can just go out and eat whatever I want. But it’s not like you can’t eat tasty and eat clean. I think people just need to try it and feel that change. Once you get a taste of that feeling, you get addicted to eating clean.
Bookish: Are there any new moves or recipes in the book that we haven’t seen on Blogilates?
CH: Oh yeah, there’s actually a lot of new moves and the recipes are all brand new. The recipes were really hard. I’d have to spend the weekend basically having a cooking experiment-fest. There were some failed recipes or recipes that tasted good but had way too many calories. It was strenuous, but afterwards we always had a ton of food, so that was fun. And once we started hitting that balance of nutrient dense, clean, and good taste, I was really excited.
Bookish: In the book, you talk about the challenges of achieving your dreams without the initial support of your parents. You graduated with honors in Biology from Whittier College and then, instead of going to med school as they wanted, you set out on your own path. Where did you find the courage to set out without that support?
CH: When I was younger, I told my dad I wanted to be a fashion designer. He told me, “You will not be successful. You will not make money. You will not have friends.” I cried uncontrollably and ended up deciding to major in Biology to make my parents happy. I had grown up a very obedient child, who always got really good grades and always thought my parents were right. In college, I had this internal struggle: Should I be living to make myself happy or to make my parents happy? Halfway through, I decided Biology was not what I wanted. I thought, What if I can be successful? What if I can make money and have friends? What did my dad know? Once I realized that, I knew the direction I had to go in, but it was not easy. I decided to sabotage myself by dropping out of organic chemistry, making it impossible to apply to med school. My parents and I fought, we screamed, I cried. I had very dark thoughts sometimes. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.
In the end, I knew that if I was not going to give myself the 100% chance to succeed and do what I want, I was always going to regret it. So, I went for it! I followed my passion and started designing yoga bags. One of my bags was featured in Shape magazine and once that happened I quit my job (which I hated anyway), bought a ticket on Friday to China, and flew there on Sunday. I was like, I’m going to go hard right now. And when the bags started getting produced in a factory overseas, I had more time to blog and put videos on YouTube. That’s when the channel started growing. It’s become a thriving ecosystem between my passion for design, social media, and video content. I’m really fortunate that it worked out. But it really all came from the decision to believe in and trust myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Without that you’ve got nothing.
Bookish: Since pilates deals with the way our body moves and works, do you find yourself using anything you learned from your Biology background when teaching?
CH: Oh yeah, absolutely. I had to take Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, Bio, and it really does come into play with what I do every day. If I knew then where I was going today, maybe I would’ve gotten some kind of nutritional degree. But it doesn’t mean I don’t understand the core science behind everything I do. It’s helped me a lot, and also helps the legitimacy of what I say. When writing the book, Anatomy and Physiology helped when talking about the muscles I targeted.
Bookish: In your acknowledgements, you describe Youtube as the Wild West. Can you tell us more about why you call it that?
CH: A lot of people in the industry call it that because right now the TV world and the YouTube digital online content world are starting to merge. And it seems like the TV world is getting scared because it’s changing how people watch things. Kids growing up don’t care about the difference between TV and YouTube. If you’re on a screen, you’re a star and they like watching you.
We’re all figuring out what it means for us and the future. It’s exciting for us content creators especially because traditionally you’d have to go through so many levels to get your show approved or audition. Now if you have an idea you can literally film it with one camera, edit it yourself, and put it up online. If people like it, they like it. It’s really cool and allows for a lot of creativity.
Bookish: You’re extremely active in the POPster community and frequently share the stories they send you on Transformation Tuesday. Over the years, has one story in particular stuck with you?
CH: There are a couple girls who, while following Blogilates, lost a ton of weight, and I remember them sticking out to me through social media. When we launched the POP Pilates Certification Program in 2014, those girls actually came to training to become POP Pilates instructors!That was my favorite. To me, that is 100% full circle.
Bookish: Your book radiates positive energy and pushes readers to make their dreams real. When you’re having a less than positive day, what are three things that help you turn it around?
CH: Number one: Being around people that make me happy, people that radiate positive energy when I need them to like my friends and family.
Two: Finding my confidence by reminding myself that one bad experience does not definite my whole life or worth and by remembering everything I’ve accomplished.
Three: Having a really good workout or going dancing to get my mind off of everything.
Cassey Ho is an internationally renowned, award-winning fitness instructor and online personality. She is the creator of Blogilates, the #1 female fitness channel on Youtube with over 200 million video views and 2 million subscribers. In a revolutionary partnership, Cassey’s unique format, POP Pilates© which launched on Youtube in 2009, is now being turned into a live class that can be taken at 24 Hour Fitness gyms nationally beginning in 2015. She’s also the star of her own top selling POP Pilates DVDs at Target stores. Cassey is the designer of an activewear collection, BODYPOP Active which launched in Fall 2014. Her designs feminine silhouettes and colorful palettes have proven to be extremely popular.
Cassey’s blog, blogilates.com, was named the top healthy living blog by Fitness Magazine in 2012 and, recently, she took home the Streamy Award for Best Health and Wellness Channel for 2014. Greatist named her one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the world in Health and Fitness for 2015. She has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Extra, The Steve Harvey Show, The Wendy Williams Showand in Shape, Fitness, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen magazines, among many others.