Bobby Wilson: From rolling burritos in Charleston, South Carolina to dropping burpees in Shanghai, China.
Bobby and I work together, and it took me about 2 months of continuous rejections before convincing him to come try one of our FitFam workouts. Over this short time period, Bobby never shied away from telling me how he felt about the concept of waking up early to exercise: “You guys are insane… There’s no way I’m waking up at 5:30 to work out.” he repeated.
Thankfully (and for reasons I can’t recollect) a workout was organized at Luwan Stadium in Shanghai sometime in the spring last year which, luckily, is only a 5-minute bike ride from Bobby’s apartment. Barely 10 minutes into the workout and half-way through our first lap, he approached me with a slight grin on his face and confessed: “Damn it… I’m sold.”
This is his FitFam story.
Asking rich people for money.
Hailing from South Carolina by way of New York, Bobby moved to Shanghai in December 2016 after working in the non-profit industry for a few years. His job, as he describes it, was a bit “soul-draining, asking rich people for money and with little to no work-life balance.” He’s worked for multiple causes over his time in the U.S., including helping set up former prisoners with housing and education and providing unclaimed food for those in need.
As exhausting as his role was, Bobby isn’t afraid of the hustle. Much like a majority of students in the United States, he began working part-time at the age of 16 all through university to help pay the bills. After graduation, it became his full-time job until he left his hometown of Charleston.
Despite his best intent to help others, the competitiveness of working for non-profits and the low financial rewards offered made keeping a healthy and happy social life rather difficult, particularly in a city like New York. Teaching English in China, on the other hand, sounded like the perfect opportunity for him to unwind: “I totally didn’t plan this out and didn’t even think to look at other cities or countries,” he told me. “Moving to Shanghai sounded kind of cool, so I just went for it.”
A transformation he never saw coming.
May 5th, 2017 was Bobby’s first day at FitFam, which he and I both remember vividly. “My first few weeks were all suffering, but in a good way” he said. “You feel it all over your body.” After developing some rather unhealthy habits his first few months living in Shanghai, Bobby was now hooked on fitness.
He was suddenly making smoothies after his FitFam morning sessions and swiftly became a regular member. By the end of the summer, he was attending 3-4 workouts a week (sometimes 5), started running on top of them and signed up for a Guava pass to supplement his FitFam days. But most importantly, it took no more than two and a half months for Bobby to notice some significant physical results: “I’m not one to check my weight, but some of my clothes wouldn’t fit anymore” he recalled.
That summer would pave the way for a brand new lifestyle; one which he, at times, admits changed his life: “A beer looks totally different to me now.”
It was only the beginning.
It was a burning hot Friday morning when Bobby and I went to grab some coffee after a morning session. As we sipped our Americanos, he reminded me of a tennis game we were meant to play against other people we'd never met that Saturday evening. Our short conversation on the matter went as follows:
- Bobby: Don’t forget we have tennis tomorrow. Should we FitFam in the morning?
- Me: No.
- Bobby: I am.
- Me: No dude, rest.
- Bobby: I am.
- Me: No, don’t!
- Bobby: I will… (He did.)
Soon after, we both set out to convince others in our office to join the community. To ease the transition, we began by organizing evening sessions on Sundays after a long weekend at the office (Read: “a long weekend of teaching, dancing and flipping vocab flashcards around with dozens of 4-year-olds…)
Our first session was pretty small with only three people showing up that night: Bobby, myself and Alfie - who would eventually become another regular member and a hardcore runner at FitFam (including a 5AM run to the Bund with our friend Kelly and I in the snow). By the end of August, we counted an average 10 people from our office every Sunday evening.
Bobby led many of those workouts.
Bringing my own friends into our community and witnessing their personal growth showed me once again how truly impactful FitFam can be - not just for those joining us, but for myself as well. I no longer wake up just to exercise - I wake up with a purpose
Thanks for your inspiring commitment, Bobby. Keep pushing for those gains.