Social influencer and 24 Hour Fitness member Rayy Syymone Hardy knows the first step is the most important, because it’s a step she almost didn’t take. Hardy was a kid desperate to run and play. Born with a nevus, a potentially cancerous mole on her back, Hardy underwent multiple surgeries and doctors and family limited her physical activity.

She finally took the first step on her journey to health after she was hospitalized again—this time, for an intestinal blockage—and released with a discharge sheet that said she was morbidly obese. She worked hard to lose 100 pounds using exercise and a vegan diet.

In addition to promoting health and fitness via her social media, Hardy now counsels adults struggling with homelessness and mental health issues and helps them acquire life skills. For the second year in a row, Hardy is featured in the 24 Hour Fitness marketing brand campaign.  We asked about her journey and how she continues to find the strength to fight for herself and her health.

24Life: Tell us about your fitness journey. How did you get started?

Rayy Syymone Hardy (RSH): I was suffering from depression as a result of trauma I experienced as a kid, and I was wearing that trauma on my body. Now, I’m in a healthy relationship, but about three years ago I got a little too comfortable with that newfound happiness, and I gained weight.

I started to exercise and hired a personal trainer. But I also wanted to help other people. I eventually got certified to be a personal trainer myself and started sharing my journey with my followers. I still struggle with my food addiction and it’s been tough to battle with that. I still have moments where I’m very depressed. It helps me realize that we’re all in this together. Where you are right now is the perfect time to start. You should start right where you are.

24Life: We know you love to inspire people on social media. How does that translate to the rest of life?

RSH: I work at an adult school with people who are dealing with homelessness and depression. A lot of what I do is inspiring people and teaching life skills like how to groom yourself, how to take care of yourself.  I also work with clients online as a virtual personal trainer, I’m launching my own fitness clothing line and I have a fitness equipment line with resistance bands. I want people to stay active at home, and I want them to feel good about themselves, so my fitness apparel is geared towards people who are starting out, who shouldn’t have to worry if things are too tight or transparent.

24Life: How do you deal with getting stuck, or setbacks?

RSH: COVID really kicked me in the butt. I attended the gym five to seven days a week and when the gym was taken away it felt like my outlet was ripped away. When I couldn’t do that I had to scale back and say, “Well I don’t have the fitness equipment I want, but there’s still a lot of things I can do.” Just like you have to say, “Hey, OK, I gained a few pounds but I still haven’t given up on myself and I’m going to find alternatives.”

Now I use the 24 Hour Fitness outdoor gyms, and I was also fortunate to be able to purchase a squat rack for my home. Not everyone has that ability. I think regardless of your resources, it’s important to find alternatives.

24Life: How important is mental health to your fitness practice?

RSH: The world is finally starting to focus more on mental health. For so long, people avoided it. People say it’s only you keeping yourself from getting to where you want to go. And people have responsibilities like kids, and they say they things like they want to get healthy to be there for their kids. But I think the mindset that’s healthiest is taking care of yourself and putting your health first. You have to make sure you’re healthy first, so you can take care of other people. No matter where you’re starting, you can make It happen for yourself.

Photo credit: Rayy Hardy Symone; Tom Casey,