There’s that tired and slightly demeaning phrase that is thrown with such frequency at women who dare to juggle a personal and professional life that it’s transformed into an eye-rolling cliché: “I don’t know how she does it.” It’s a statement that is hardly ever lodged at men, fueling the inherent misogyny behind the thought. But most offensively, it’s a statement that suggests women aren’t capable of greatness, or that the odds are automatically stacked against them. So when women are bosses of their personal and professional lives, meandering between the two to get shit done for their careers, family and themselves, we throw around that stupid phrase because we’re conditioned to think it’s the exception rather than the norm. Joanne Encarnacion is just one of the many impressive women proving that it can be done, even if it’s not supposed to be easy.
Encarnacion is the founder of a lifestyle and fitness blog called GOFITJO, which after going live three years ago, has become a premier source of fitness inspiration and a prominent social media influencer. She also runs several departments at VSCO, the photo editing app, owns a photography business with her husband, writes, photographs and parents two children. Sure, it seems like an exhausting plate, but all of those aspects are pieces of Encarnacion. Each one holds such importance that missing one would be like missing a piece of herself. It’s not just that she chooses to do all of these things; she has to, for the sake of who she is.
It was only when Encarnacion began to start a family of her own that she realized it was important to keep her desires and goals in mind as well, not brush them off to the side. That especially rang true when it came to her fitness. “When I became a mother 12 years ago, I was just about to start my 10 year career as a hairstylist and was also raising a family,” she said. “Like any new parent, when it came to choosing between myself or time with the family, I chose time with the family. Over the years I learned that doing that meant I was putting my health and self on the back burner.” With the birth of her second child, Encarnacion set out on a personal fitness journey to get herself back into shape in order to conquer her belief that getting in shape as a mother was impossible. From this, the GOFITJO blog was born.
“Writing has always provided me peace of mind, so creating this blog was simply for my own creative outlet to write down my thoughts and look back at the growth process over time.” Encarnacion’s vulnerability and sheer honestly resonated with many people, leading GOFITJO to develop a huge online and social media following. Teen Vogue even named her as one of the Top 13 Game Changing Fitness Accounts, and Popsugar dubbed Encarnacion as one of the Top 33 Healthy Inspiring Women to Follow on Instagram. Through it all, one mission statement has defined GOFITJO: “There’s more to fitness than the perfect body; it’s about health, it’s about getting your life together.”
Encarnacion knew her blog was truly helping people when she decided to share a story about her recent struggles with depression. “Anxiety and depression are very real things in my life, and prioritizing my health and fitness has truly helped me take control of these emotional onsets. When I shared this moment in life, there were so many other women who simply said ‘thank you’ for being so open and honest about depression.” This connection allowed GOFITJO to transcend a simple physical fitness blog into a source of inspiration and empowerment for anybody who wants to lead a healthier lifestyle. “GOFITJO has and always will be my way to share my journey and experiences while I continue to find health and happiness.”
With that said, Encarnacion has developed a unique approach to helping getting people in shape through her blog, eschewing fads or secret fitness routines in favor of taking a slow, committed approach to bettering oneself. “There really are no secrets to fitness, and I think the most incredible and wonderful component about fitness is that there are so many different avenues to get into shape or maintain your health, all depending on your fitness level and commitment.” Encarnacion swears by high-intensity interval training for her workout and fitness goals, claiming it helps her shed fat, retain lean muscle and doesn’t get too tedious. However, she knows this method isn’t for everybody, so she pushes a more general piece of fitness advice. “Trust the process! It’s always been my belief that discipline gets you started on day one, and grace and self-love will keep you on the journey.”
It’s true that no single exercise regimen or routine will work for everyone, and the same results one person receives can’t necessarily be mirrored. This oftentimes leads to frustration and doubt, but Encarnacion encourages people to stick with it. “If you can focus on the non-scale victories – the fact that you are challenging yourself, or that you’ve committed to a plan that you never had before, or that your clothes are fitting better – you’ll find yourself able to draw on positive experiences and moments in your journey, rather than how far left you have to go.”
Technology has played a huge role in Encarnacion’s fitness advice, the success of GOFITJO and her own motivation – particularly the power of social media. “I’ve made so many incredible relationships with so many people, and the connection has really helped to keep me going and to make me feel like I have a sense of belonging.” She’s also quick to praise fitness trackers and wearables that allow her to monitor and track fitness data. Her two favorites are the Polar a360 and the Apple Watch, both of which help her stay fit and connected. “[They] helped to push me even harder during my workouts and hold me accountable for my own training.”
While GOFITJO and her focus on fitness and lifestyle inspiration and advice has been the true earmark of Encarnacion’s notoriety, it’s but one aspect of her life and how she defines herself. Photography plays a huge role in her life, and this passion is evident in Encarnacion Photography, the wedding and lifestyle photography business she owns with her husband. Without an ounce of defeat in her voice, she notes upfront how she’s had to take a step back from this venture and allow her husband to take the wheel in order for her to focus her efforts on GOFITJO and her career at VSCO, yet another outlet to channel her love of photography through. Lest you think passions can only be singular, Encarnacion’s admiration for photography matches, and might even exceed, her feelings on fitness.
“I love being able to freeze moments in life. I spent most of my high school lunches in the dark room processing film and prints. There was something about seeing photos come to life while watching it in the liquid that made my heart flutter. It was kinda romantic to see if you can capture a moment in time the way your eyes and mind pictured it.” Thanks to her and her husband’s skills as photographers and their photography business, Encarnacion can count and rely on her husband to help with producing content for GOFITJO, a true partnership and collaboration that has come to define many of the balls she juggles. To keep them from dropping, Encarnacion had to come to a realization about what it means to live a balanced life.
“Balance is a word that has such an illusive meaning for me. I think for me, I’ve come to slowly understand, learn and accept that balance is more like a flow or rhythm. In order to find that rhythm, you have to accept that you will be offbeat sometimes. It’s never been equal across the board, and the sooner that I was able to come to terms with that, I felt balanced.” Encarnacion knows that she can’t devote equal time and energy to everything in her life, and coming to that conclusion has allowed her to redefine what balance truly means for her and achieve harmony in her life. There’s no such thing as perfection, and since discovering that, Encarnacion has been leading a happier, healthier, more balanced life ever since.