At 635 New Park Avenue, West Hartford, Conn., one Latina has used fitness to create a unified tribe. There are no judgments, everyone is included, workouts are innovative and everyone supports one another. Who is the leader of this tribe? Karla Medina.
Medina is a community focused, driven Latina. For more than 20 years she has been a law enforcement officer for the Hartford Police Department and an advocate for fitness. Two years ago she retired from the Hartford PD and began pursuing her passion for fitness full time. The result: Sudor Taino, a fitness studio founded on a unique approach to fitness that challenges the individual on a spiritual, mental and physical level that has received high acclaim and a dedicated following.
At 43, Medina is no stranger to adversity. She meets challenges head on and says “if it wasn’t difficult I probably wouldn’t do it because I love a challenge.”
Her work as a Latina in a male dominated field for two decades prepared her for the resistance she would find as a Latina in the fitness world where “no one looked like me” and where everyone assumed she was there to teach Zumba. And even before Zumba, the challenge was that she was a size 6 and the stereotypical fitness instructor was “blonde hair, blue eyes and a size 2.”
By the time she opened her revolutionary studio she was so grounded in authenticity that “it was like I was covered in Vaseline. Everything just rolled off my back.”
Sudor Taino, the name, is a tribute to her ancestors: the Taino Indian tribe who originally founded Puerto Rico. The word “sudor” comes from the Spanish word for “sweat.” She says that the deeper meaning is that the Taino tribe “cultivated the land, and we cultivate people.”
Her cultivation process starts with a spiritual approach. “We find out what moves someone and then we challenge them to do more.” She puts “spirit” at the forefront of her fitness ideology, saying that “if your spirit is in the right place the mind and body will follow.”Her group classes are composed of a tribe
mentality and a uniqueness one can find rarely anywhere else. “I tell them, in here we stand shoulder to shoulder, and we sweat together. You work for the person next to you when they don’t have the energy that day and they will do the same for you.”
The workouts themselves can be a combination of yoga and kickboxing one day and weight training and dance the next. The tribe must always be prepared for anything because she changes the group fitness schedule every two months.
But it is also so much more than this. Medina uses her knowledge, her talent and her gifts to create a larger world of contributions. She regularly does fundraisers to support Puerto Rico through its contemporary struggles.
She started with a simple drive where they collected $3,000. Then there was Fit Body, a collaboration with film students from CCSC where she mentored a group of individuals online who were held accountable to raise $1,000 each. The goal was $10,000. They raised $20,000 in one week. The money went to Puerto Rico in various ways.
On March 10, Medina will be the first Latina fitness studio owner to do a fitness summit. The summit is called Divinely Fit and she says it is an “explosion of yummies.”
Divinely Fit is not only the title of her summit, but the title of her new book, promised to release on Amazon March 27.
But don’t think any of this came easy. Medina says that “a lot of people look up to the instructors and want to be like us, but they are not willing to put in the work…. I have struggled with weight my entire life.”
In fact, Medina struggled so much it almost cost her life, a few times. Once when she rapidly gained and lost over 80 pounds, and another time where, as a police officer, she had reached into her car to switch the ignition when a teenager in the passenger’s seat put the car in gear. “If it wasn’t for my partner I would have been dragged to my death.”
The latter incident made her think, “If I hadn’t been so heavy would I have been able to do something different.”
It was then that she had a spiritual awakening and she began a new path. A hard path. One of work and sweat. But sweat, she says, is part of what cultivates a tribe. “We sweat together, we work hard together” just as the Taino tribe did over the land.
Medina says she doesn’t see all this success as exposure to herself, but rather serves as a blueprint for other communities, that they can do the same. They can cultivate the same closeness, the same tribe mentality within the community where everyone belongs regardless of gender, race or size.
Just to get a taste of what Sudor Taino is all about, here is an excerpt from her web page: “Our reward is being a part of your journey and being a part of each individual transformation as if it were our own. I am confident that as a result of your experience at Sudor Taino, that you will have the opportunity to discover your authentic self, personal passions and the hard core, warrior within.”
And just as one last inspirational reminder, at the close of every class, she ends with the Hindu word “Namaste” which means the light in me sees the light in you. “I end every class with this because I want them to know that whatever they see in me that they like, they have it in them, too.”
CTLatinoNews.com is proud to be a media sponsor of the “Divenly Fit’ summit on March 10th. To learn more about Medina, her work and Sudor Taino, visit her website: sudortaino.com