After an unthinkable tragedy, this personal trainer is making fitness accessible to all.
Sydney Cummings is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. When Cummings experienced a profound loss, it changed her approach to life. Now she and her fiancé Dustin Houdyshell have co-founded Royal Change — a digital fitness company that offers free high-quality workouts with no ads to people all over the world.
“Royal Change actually formed into the digital media company that it is after the passing of my younger brother, Zac,” Cummings tells In The Know. “He was 24 years old. He just had a daughter, just got married and got in an ATV accident [after] which he passed away when he was about three weeks post-accident.”
At the time, Cummings was a personal trainer while Houdyshell worked as a freelance photographer and accountant. Neither of them felt fulfilled at their jobs and Zac’s death emphasized how short life is.
“My brother inspires me every day to continue to think bigger and level up and scale the service that I’m providing to people all over the world who, without this business, I would have never had the chance to meet or inspire,” Cummings says.
Just when the couple launched their YouTube channel in 2018, they faced another terrible setback. A group of four men attacked Cummings and Houdyshell as they were leaving their home. Cummings was shot in the foot. She couldn’t put any weight on her foot for three and a half months.
“Never having experienced any type of injury as a Division I athlete, as a lifelong athlete, this truly gave me a whole different perspective on strength and recovery,” she says.
The athlete put herself in the shoes of people who were in recovery or total beginners to exercise. She promised herself that as long as she could walk again, she would show up “in the best way possible for my workout.”
“I kind of committed to showing that to my YouTube audience no matter what. No matter how weak I felt, or how off-balance I felt,” Cummings recalls. “In my head, I just kept thinking there’s someone out there who needs this to be something that they see. And someone needs to be able to believe in the possibility of their comeback.”
As far as keeping up a fitness routine without burning out, Cummings’ advice is simple.
“You don’t have to change your whole life tonight and wake up tomorrow as a new person,” she says. “You just have to establish one habit that’s really beneficial for you and keep that habit going.”
Once you’ve formed the healthy habit, she says to try what she calls “habit stacking.”
“Where maybe tomorrow you start waking up and drinking water, and you really crush that for a week,” Cummings explains. “Then after that, maybe the next week you wake up and drink that water, still keeping that going, but also add in a stretch.”
Finding a supportive community is also crucial. However, it can be difficult since not everyone is always on board with changing their lifestyle.
“Reach out to the one or two people that you know do this already in your life, and tell them about your goals. Tell them what you’re going to start doing and just have that person there,” Cummmings advises.
The support can be offline or online as long as it makes you feel less alone in your journey. Her last piece of advice is to reward yourself for your hard work.
“Do things that keep you going in a positive direction. Keep you moving forward toward your goal,” she says. “So maybe it’s something like a new pair of socks that really feel great when you work out. Or it’s a new water bottle or some type of new fitness apparel that keeps you excited to be active.”
In the end, committing to fitness is just another way of prioritizing yourself.
“We all have different goals,” Cummings says. “But at the end of the day, the common denominator has to be that we dedicate ourselves, and we decide to keep the promise long after the mood is gone.”
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