Strong in Mind, Body and Spirit | Joanne Encarnacion aka GOFITJO

Mother of two, wife, fitness and lifestyle blogger, working woman – these are just some of the labels that Joanne Encarnacion impressively boasts. But above all, she’s someone who leads by example and an inspiration to women everywhere. Jo started her fitness journey in 2013, documenting the ups and downs of her life, and sharing her incredible story on social media. Little did she know that her story would capture the hearts of mothers and working women all around the world, earning her the title of “One of the Game Changing Fitness Instagrammers" by Teen Vogue. We caught up with the beautiful fitness mogul and had a chat about how she became GOFITJO, how she finds balance amidst her busy schedule, and what keeps her going even through the toughest days.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into fitness!
I’m a modern day millennial mutha hustler. I don’t really know what better way to describe myself in one swift sentence, so I think that will do. I’m a mother to two wonderful young ladies who are 6 and 12 years old, and I'm married to an incredible husband who happens to be my #ighusband and photographer for my blog. By day, I’m working at VSCO as the Director of Curation and when I’ve got the time, I’m writing for my blog GOFITJO and trying to spread the message of self-love and fitness being a tool to get your life together on social media. I got into fitness because I reached a low point in my adult life.

I was 29 years old and going through a pretty rough patch of depression and not understanding why. I had a wonderful and simple family life with my daughters and husband, a career I was thriving and loving, and all the mid-20s woes were in the distance. I was never an active person growing up, and I struggled attempt after attempt to lose the baby weight after my first daughter was born. Like most career-driven mothers, my focus, energy, and attention was poured into my career and supporting the family rather than putting my health first. I came to a hard realization that the reason why I was so unhappy,was because I was miserable with my day to day output, due to how I felt about my self-image and my current state of health at the time. I didn’t have any health issues, but I lacked the energy, focus, and drive I needed to be a role model to my kids and to keep up with their high-energy personalities.

We love the collection of photos and motivational quotes on your Instagram, @gofitjo! What prompted you to take to social media to share your incredible story?
Ever since I was younger, I believed that by sharing our stories of hopes, dreams, successes, and failures, we can learn from one another and grow from one another. Finding that connection is the key to most successful adventures, whether it is in business or in personal development. When I saw other women successfully juggling a busy life of a career and family, along with accomplishing health goals, I thought I could do the same thing. Seeing the stories of strangers was a motivating factor for me, so I figured why not do the same and share mine. If I can help one person find that inner strength within themselves, then I’ve lived out my purpose.

Speaking of IG, congratulations on being named “One of the Top 13 Game Changing Fitness Instagrammers” by TeenVogue. What has that been like for you and your fitness blog?
Thank you! It’s definitely helped increase growth and followers which is nice, but ultimately it provides me with a sense of validation that my story is worth telling. In the digital age where media and content doesn’t live for longer than a few hours, it's often hard as a creative to feel that your work, storytelling, creativity, or heart is being heard.

I have a 12-year-old daughter and in just a few short months, she will be a teenager who will probably have her hands in social media, regardless of whether we allow her to or not. I think it's important for anyone who decides to share their worlds on social media to not only share beautiful imagery and words, but to also share the glimmer of hardship, struggle, and what it means to work hard towards your goals and dreams. Our young women need to learn how to choose bravery and courage over perfection so that we can continue to redefine the meaning of beauty and womanhood for our future generations.

In the world of Kayla Itsines’ BBG, Soul Cycle, and weight-lifting, do you have a favorite go-to workout?
I am still a die-hard fan of weight lifting. There is something about learning the importance of form, muscle structure, and what exercise are essential to building the right body parts with the right exercises or machines, that make me feel like a bad ass woman! I love the plyometrics of BBG. I’ve never been a huge fan of steady state cardio or boring work. Kayla keeps her exercises refreshing each week, so if you can learn to partner that with weights, it really rounds you out as an everyday athlete.

You’ve competed in three bikini competitions. Was that something you’d imagined yourself ever doing?
HECK NO! Before the first time I stepped on stage, I could barely imagine myself ever being comfortable in a bikini. But I had accomplished so much in that short period of time, and had always been curious about the sport, so after losing the baby weightI thought I could never lose, I thought what the hell. Let’s give this a shot!

“Never give up! The road to success is never linear and neither is your fitness journey. You will have setbacks and failures and many, many accomplishments along the way. Celebrate the wins and learn from the failures, it will teach you something about yourself and what you’re capable of becoming.”

What was the most challenging aspect of competing?
There is such a rigidness about competition prep. The plan provided to you by your coach is the plan and there is little to no negotiation. I mean, you can tell your coach "here are the things I’d like to see on my plan," but it's pretty restrictive as far as having cheat meals, or eating things you know are pretty healthy such as Acai Bowls or Avocado Toast. Most of the beautifully photographed items you see on a lot of health and fitness feeds are full of sugars and high on fats. They are ok occasionally, but if you are trying to prep for a show in 12 weeks, they are things you have to reduce from your diet during prep. In hindsight, this strictness can teach someone discipline towards their goals. If your goal is to get somewhere you’ve never been and you have a short period of time to accomplish it, then you have to make some sacrifices.

Run us through a typical day.
My typical day starts at 5:00 when my first round of alarms go off. I wake up, head downstairs to the kitchen and start making my BCAAs and post-workout protein shake. Then I’m off on my 35-mile commute to Oakland from the South bay to head to the gym. Workout is typically complete by 9AM and then I head into work to start my meetings from about 10AM - 3PM. At 4PM I wrap up my work day and head home to enjoy dinner with the family. My husband and I will watch an episode or two of our favorite TV series, and then its off to dream land by 10:30PM.

Juggling work, fitness, and motherhood must keep you constantly busy. How do you balance all your responsibilities on top of maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
I don’t really. I mean don’t get me wrong I do, I find ways, but I’m constantly winging it and constantly figuring it out as I go. I’m grateful for a husband who owns his own business and has taken the helm of being the day to day carer of our kids. Without his support, I don’t know if I could juggle any of it, really. He’s my partner in crime, my #ighusband/main photographer for my blog, and he’s my baby daddy all rolled up into one!

Organizing your day, your thoughts and your priorities is KEY to becoming a high capacity individual. I’ve built my own system in my day to day productivity to allocate my time. For example, Mondays are used to catch up on work-related emails, plan the priorities of the week with the team I manage, and review any major deadlines that are needed for the week. Tuesday and Wednesdays are the days I reserve for 1:1 meetings with my direct reports. I try to look at my day or priorities like a pie, and understand that each priority will take up a certain percentage of the whole picture. When I can visualize the areas of importance, I know what needs to be juggled and when. On top of all this, I’m truly grateful to have a role and position at VSCO that I love, and to be a part of a company that really believes in work-life balance. Just the other day, my CEO and I were having a conversation and he encouraged me to never forget about family and that I’m a woman who’s cup never runneth over, and I’m only best to them when I’m finding ways to keep myself full and whole.

Do you believe it is important to inspire your children to be physically active?
I do, but more than that I strongly believe that it's important we teach our children by being an example. Each and every day I see my kids pick up a little more personality and character from us, and it’s not one that we directly teach at all. Children are sponges, they soak up everything, and it’s so vital that we share our worlds with them so that they can become more knowledgeable adults.

Who inspires you most as a fitness mogul, mother and all-around MISSBISH?
One of them is Lindsay Jang, she seriously SLAYS in all areas of motherhood, fitness, creative living, and business! And have you checked out her wardrobe? I die, is she a size 5 shoe? If so hook a sister from another mister up!

Many who embark on this fitness journey face similar mental and physical challenges. Do you have some favorite pieces of advice to keep yourself motivated in times of hardship?
Never give up! The road to success is never linear and neither is your fitness journey. You will have setbacks and failures and many, many accomplishments along the way. Celebrate the wins and learn from the failures, it will teach you something about yourself and what you’re capable of becoming.

What have been some of the most memorable opportunities that have come along since you started @gofitjo?
One of the most memorable opportunities that comes to mind is my recent Muscle Milk video/feature. I’ve never done anything like that before and it was so alien to me to be filmed on video or to even share my story through a completely different platform. I recently did a podcast interview, which was so fun. One of the things I’ve come to learn is how powerful vulnerability can be, especially when you’re putting yourself out there as an ordinary person. I’m not a superhero, I don’t have super powers, nor do I see myself as anything more than a mother balancing life and using fitness as a tool to frame my world around. What was one decision to change my life for myself, created a ripple effect in the hearts of others. It’s an honor to share my story to a community of open hearts. It’s crazy to hear the positive impact of my journey from strangers and people from my past. Imagine if each person would share their hearts and minds more openly, what would it do for the world? We’d have a revolution! Maybe we would see less broken relationships, people less medicated on anti-depressants, and more people fully engaged in living a whole-hearted life. It could be magic!

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH to me means strong, brave, and bold female voice. It's that voice that represents that lioness rumble that is growing in strength and waiting for the right moment to take her place in society; when the world is ready to hear the brand new definition of a strong, brave, and bold woman.

Photos by: Jonathan Encarnacion