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Angela Manuel Davis on How Physical Exercise Has Transformed Her Spiritual Life

Everyone has felt the sting of the pandemic in different ways, and one of the strangely irritating ways it has taken a toll is on our fitness routines. One-time gym rats have been waylaid by social distancing guidelines, meaning more investment in resistance bands and kettle bells. And people looking to turn over a new exercise leaf while on lockdown find it hard to stay motivated when so much of the world feels so, well, un-motivating.

This article is part of a fall wellness series RELEVANT is producing in partnership with Unite Health Share Ministries.

That’s where Angela Manuel Davis comes in. As a former member of USA Track and Field Team, Angela was a five-time All-American who has now turned her attention to AARMY, where she’s the Co-Founder & Chief Motivation Officer. She’s trained the likes of Beyoncé , Jay-Z, David Beckham and Kerry Washington, and now she’s trying to help others discover the connections between fitness and spirituality. She told RELEVANT a little about her style of fitness and why it feels so revolutionary.

So tell me a little about what you do. What is AARMY? 

It’s a fitness brand where we fight for and with each other for our best lives. I like to describe it as communal connective fitness. It’s an opportunity for me as a coach to marry sport and spirituality, to take advantage of physicality in the sense of putting my athletes — we call every participant an athlete. If you have a body, you’re an athlete — so being able to put all of my athletes through these challenging exercises or movements, where they can be broke open spiritually, emotionally. And that is my opportunity to pour  love and goodness into them, and really take advantage of this opportunity for a re-wiring to happen.

I like to think that you come into the experience one way and you get to leave a better version of yourself. We get to reinforce that you were created in purpose, on purpose, for a purpose. We get to reinforce that your dreams are valid. We get to reinforce that you are equipped for moments such as these.

The idea of marrying spirituality and fitness is pretty innovative. What misconceptions have you found that people have about the connections between the two?

I don’t know that there are necessarily misconceptions, I just think that people need to make it more of a specific priority. For me, the aesthetics of physicality has never been the priority. There is something so much more powerful that we can do in that moment.

At the end of the day, my belief system is that our body is what houses our gifts and talents. And really the point and purpose of getting strong in your body is to live the life you were intended to live. I just have a very specific intention behind the vehicle that fitness could be.

How do you keep that prioritized? People are having a difficult time staying motivated to work out right now, with the pandemic and all. 

For me, it’s a lifeline. I have two kids. I know that I want to be around for my kids and I know part of me being around is me being healthy. I have two boys who are athletes. I married a world championship gold medalist. I ran track professionally. So for me, being healthy and being energized is a way of living. It’s a way of life that is mandatory for my day-to-day with my family.

But I get it. I get that it’s hard. Like so many other families all over the world, I had to become a teacher and start homeschooling. In January, we opened our doors to our business AARMY the LA location and by March, our doors were closed because of the pandemic.

So I’m teaching free IG Live classes from my backyard. My partners and I decided that we would show up on Instagram Live every day for 150 days straight and just give away free classes. We knew that it was our opportunity to serve our community and show up for our community.

We are really juggling this new load of working from home and being our kids’ teachers at home. It was overwhelming. It was challenging. The only way that I knew how to get through it was to find a way to stay strong in my mental, spiritual and emotional state and physicality. And what I do allows me to do that while staying in community. That’s one of the things about connective fitness that I think is so beautiful.

The connected fitness piece was imperative for me and I think that can be motivation for people who are in the season, where they feel so overwhelmed and not motivated. Just know that, “Hey, well, if I can just find a group of people to train with every day, that’ll hold me accountable to continue to show up.” That breathes life into you in a different way.

How has the IG Live workout situation been going? 

It’s good. We did it for 150 days straight and we’re not doing it anymore. It was incredible. We actually built our global army and we were training with people all over the world.

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One thing the pandemic did, it united us in a different way. We were all fighting the same enemy. It birthed this unity and humanity that was so needed when people were in quarantine and isolating and some people by themselves. It really gave us an opportunity to be in this moment together.

There are so many options out there for people looking to take fitness more seriously. What sets AARMY apart? 

It’s the coaching. There’s a difference between being a coach and being an instructor. I was an instructor for years. An instructor is someone that gives cues, “and one and two, and now we’re doing this.” A coach is someone that just has this ability to reach in and pull out your greatness. And I think what differentiates us, is that we’re coaches. We’re not just in it to give good workouts, but we’re really in this to help you see that you are created in purpose, on purpose, for a purpose. It’s a different intention. I won’t say bigger. It’s just a different intention.

What sort of impact has fitness had on your own personal spiritual journey? 

It has really deepened my faith. I pioneered this style of coaching, where I do marry sport and spirituality. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone do that to the degree in which I do. And that is a scary thing to step out and do something that hadn’t been done before in the way that I’m doing it.

So it just deepened my faith. I was going to these functions and hearing, “No, you need to say this, you should be saying that, speak to that.” It seems so unprecedented to talk about the things that I began to talk about. It wasn’t normal. I had to trust it and I had to believe that I was being directed and guided in a bigger way. I needed to be obedient to the call. That outweighed it for me, that outweighed whether people were into it or not into it, it outweighed whether people would be offended or turned off by it, it outweighed it, me just honoring the call on my life and being obedient to that moment. And so it really, it deepened my spirituality and my faith.

You can read more about AARMY here.

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