The Gentlewomen Series: Gita Sjahrir

The Gentlewomen Series is an ode to women who we look up to and have shown incredible strength during these unprecedented times. They are partners, professionals, breadwinners and mothers. They are also now teachers, psychologists, and homemakers. All achieved with the uttermost kindness, gentleness and grace.
Gita Sjahrir 
For someone who founded the first boutique indoor cycling studio in Indonesia that has a very active lifestyle, it is hard to believe Gita Sjahrir is an introvert. During the pandemic, R Fitness (formerly known as RIDE Jakarta) launched its first online classes, offering various exercises from high intensity interval training to meditation classes via Zoom — “The beauty of movement is you do not have to go anywhere to do it. What matters is the showing up, not the goal. The process is the goal.”

Although the pandemic has brought challenges for many, Gita sees it as a learning opportunity for everyone to grow and innovate even further. Her inspirational journey have long began since 2004, when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Her well-being became her priority, feeling good rather than being skinny or having rock solid abs. 

Ultimately, she wanted to build a positive fitness culture community where people go because they love themselves and appreciate what their bodies can do, rather than because they hate their bodies and want to shrink them to feel accepted. It is important to embed that mindset early on in one’s physical and mental journey.

In her own personal journey, growing up her parents were her guiding light. When inheritance or financial support were neither an option for her, her father believed his best gift to her was: access to incredible education, a thirst for learning and most importantly, his unconditional love.
Gita Sjahrir Quotes

Riding through life 

How did your health journey inspired you to create RIDE Jakarta?
Because I have had an autoimmune disease since 2004, I do not see health as represented by having a six-pack or being skinny. I wanted to build a community that challenges this exclusive fitness culture. Hence, I wanted a place where people go because they love themselves and appreciate what their bodies can do, rather than because they hate their bodies and want to shrink them to feel accepted.

What are the challenges you found while fundraising for the first fitness boutique gym in Indonesia?
Everything. Seriously, everything. 

You mentioned that showing up for five minutes a day will have a positive impact in your life. Being kept indoors for the most part this year has been a challenge now for many. How does one overcome that?
The beauty of movement is you do not have to go anywhere to do it. You can stretch in your living room, walk around your housing complex, or do a fun YouTube dance video at home. What matters is the showing up, not the goal. The process is the goal.

What kind of impact did COVID-19 had on your business?
We have wanted to go online since 2016, in fact that is the main reason why we fundraised from venture capital funds. In some way, the pandemic pushes us to finally launch our online classes and it’s becoming a fantastic learning opportunity for everyone. Tough times can either break you, or they can make you grow.

How did your parents inspired you in building RIDE Jakarta?
What my parents believe was I can try to have everything I want, but not from a physical perspective. My parents are one of the least materialistic people I know; they were political activists and my dad was imprisoned for years. They raised me when they were students on full scholarships, with no nannies and my mom brought me to her classroom because she had no help.

They taught me the importance of finding purpose in other things rather than just money because those things are fleeting.

Hence, they always remind me: you can have everything you want, but make sure what you want are the things that really matter. They said I am my own person and they can’t run my life for me. They can only give me education and love. Hence, my dad didn’t give any inheritance, financial support, investment into my companies or anything at all because he believes his best gift to me was: how blessed I am to have access to incredible education, a thirst for learning and, most importantly, his unconditional love. My parents don’t believe in financial or material “safety nets” because they have given me the most important safety net: love.

Gita Sjahrir Quotes

Gita as The Gentlewoman

What does being a gentle woman mean to you?
I have been on a journey to understand and honor my emotions, rather than always trying to rationalize everything. Emotions are data that can be valuable to know and learning to accept myself allows me to grow out of a place of love, not insecurity.

What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic?
Life keeps reminding me how I have no control over anything else but my reactions and maintaining my inner peace.

What is life like for you right now?
I am a huge introvert and I have been blessed with shelter, friends and family, water, food and electricity – hence, I have been feeling very thankful.

What are your 2020 high and lows?
Someone close to me passed away from COVID-19 and several other friends my age passed away due to other reasons in 2020. All of these were a huge blow to me, and reminds me how fleeting every moment is. 

I would say my high comes from the everyday things, the fact that I have been blessed with so much and I keep getting a chance to wake up and start over every day. My friends have called me their Labrador because I have this irrational excitement for the little things in life so often.

Who is your role model? Why?
I look up to my older brother since I was young, not because of his achievements, but because when I did not have any friends and found it hard to socialize, he would never make me feel bad about it. He accepts me just the way I am since day one. Acceptance is a skill set that requires a lot of faith, vulnerability and love and he showed me that.

How would you describe your own personal style?
I have one?? I would say mostly black, comfortable, very little to no accessories, and something that allows me to Irish exit any party quietly.

What is your ideal “me time” session? How do you unwind after a hectic day?
Definitely by reading! I love reading and writing because I get to learn how to put thoughts onto paper and develop my creative side.

If you were to go on a vacation right now, where would you go? Why?
South Africa! Purely to see my new family there.

Pay it forward: Instagram accounts and people who have inspired you.
 teaches people to challenge and abandon our society’s toxic diet culture.

@cathhalim speaks a lot about self-acceptance, overcoming eating disorder and wisdom.

@muara.makarim explains concepts like self-love in an easy-to-understand and practical way.

@catwomanizer touches on controversial topics, such as sexual health, that are not really talked about in this country. 

*This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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