Roget Soukou played soccer and ran around like all the other kids, and he dreamed of becoming an engineer. He never expected to find himself teaching Les Mills SPRINT, BODYCOMBAT, RPM or CXWORX, but a health scare changed his path—and now he’s both an engineer and a beloved instructor who inspires his class members to work hard to become the best he knows they can be.
On a break during the filming of 24 Hour Fitness’ Worth It campaign, Soukou explained how group fitness transforms body and spirit and what he does daily to balance both.
24Life: What made you try a group fitness class?
Roget Soukou: Everybody’s story is different and mine came from a health scare that I got about six years ago. I almost lost my life. I knew I had to change my fitness, my diet, everything. So, I started going to the gym. The year that I became a BODYCOMBAT instructor was the year I wanted to run a Tough Mudder. I hurt my back and I couldn’t do it.
I still wanted to do something that year that I set my goal, something different in the fitness area. When the instructor approached me and said I should teach, I said no. But then I thought, Well, that will be my goal for the year.
24Life: You played team sports growing up. Is there a difference between that group experience and a group fitness class?
RS: There’s a distinct difference. When I’m teaching a class, it’s about seeing people who come in the same way that someone saw me years ago. I see the possibility of them changing everything about themselves for the better. Team sports are very goal oriented in a way that doesn’t always let you connect to people one-to-one.
24Life: How do you start and end your day?
RS: The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is say three things that I’m thankful for. I don’t touch my phone. I don’t do anything else. I just take my time and breathe and say, “I’m thankful that I’m healthy. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my job.” Then the day starts.
The last thing I do before I go to bed is something I started two years ago. I think of everything that happened during the day. Then I let the day go. Some people call it prayer. I just call it observing the day.
To be present for my gratitude [ritual], I find what works is to make sure there is no set routine to it because routine [makes it] mundane. I might be lying down or kneeling or standing; it doesn’t matter. It’s not like I have to sit in a certain place on a pillow and do something special. I just have to remember for those seconds that I’m being grateful, and it’s different almost every day. Then it’s time to go to bed and wherever the bed, I’m grateful.
24Life: The formats you teach can look intimidating to the newcomer. What should people know about your classes?
RS: In BODYCOMBAT, for example, we don’t only work on physical strength. You build character. People come to my class and their first time they are shy. Two weeks later, they’re confident—they’ll come to class and say, “What’s up?”
24Life: If you could say one thing to every person in the gym, what would it be?
RS: Yes, you can. I see too much self-doubt in people’s eyes, so I’d say, “Yes, you can.”
Photo and video credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com