Neila Rey (pictured above) was in free-flow, wondering what to do with her life. After spending 10 years as a web developer and a graphic designer, she grew tired of seeing her ideas picked apart to the point of being unrecognizable.
When she heard that Google was starting a social network, she tracked down a friend of a friend and begged for an invite to Google+. It was her first social networking experience, so she just did what she saw everyone else doing, posting cards, memes and jokes.
Before long, she was sucked in, spending every waking moment on Google+. Eventually, she discovered it wasn’t just about memes and jokes. People were also sharing ideas that could change the world. Rey was excited, but still didn’t know where she fit in.
“It wasn’t like a forum. There was no hiding behind a fake name or an avatar,” she said. “It was the kind of place where you could connect with real people about real ideas.”
One day, Rey shared one of her fitness routines; it was just a simple poster with a themed illustration of her workout. This was a big step for her. She had been creating these routines since she was a teenager, but fitness had always been her personal escape.
She didn’t expect much engagement, but to her surprise, the poster went viral in about an hour. So she kept sharing routines, along with other fitness tips. She said that even people who weren’t into exercise seemed to get excited. She knew she was onto something. When Communities were introduced, Rey created the first Google+ fitness community, which is one of the most popular to date. “I didn’t want it to be about me,” she said. “I wanted a place where people could discuss fitness and share their tips too.” As she created and shared more posters, she also grew more popular within the community and it became difficult for her to recall certain workouts. She needed a place to post her tips, so she decided to create a website. Eventually, she found herself dedicated full-time to the fitness community, but she had no interest in becoming a personal trainer. She didn’t want to turn another passion into a job.
“I genuinely wanted to help people,” she said. “The project is about accessible fitness, free forever, for everyone.”
Now, Rey’s fitness posters can be found on NeilaRey.com. Still, she said the only reason she started the website was to make it easier to share her content with the Google+ community. The project, which uses the same business model as Wikipedia, also has a team of volunteers, who help her create and refine her workout routines by using a private Google+ community as their HQ.
Rey said that her goal is to help people be healthy and strong — and have fun with it, rather than being shamed. She went from being a chubby girl with an eating disorder, afraid of interacting with people, to being the creator of the first fitness community on Google+ — a community she credits with inspiring her to take her passion to the world.
In the end, Rey said fitness is something that can make us all feel like super heroes. “I just wanted to be like Wonder Woman,” she laughed.