To experience the energy, sparkle and drive of Sivan Fagan, all you have to do is strike up a conversation. The 30-year-old who moved to Baltimore from Israel 10 years ago has launched a successful career as a personal trainer and fitness, strength and nutrition coach since graduating from Towson University in 2015 with a degree in exercise science.
What you won’t know, unless you ask, is that the fit and muscled Fagan once suffered from anorexia, the devastating eating disorder that, when she was 17, robbed her of her stamina and much of her hair. By the time the 5-foot-7 teen hovered around 100 pounds, her family urged her to eat more or end up in the hospital.
When she decided she’d “rather be fat than bald” and finally began eating more, her Israeli detective father invited her to work out with him at the gym.
“And I told him OK, and I came,” Fagan said. “[Over] the years it became me. Literally, it became my identity. The gym is legit my other home.”
After moving to Baltimore and getting her degree, she worked at the Park Heights JCC as a personal trainer before making the leap to Sivan Fagan Fitness in 2016. Fagan has gained 50 pounds since her year of anorexia, and her ebullient personality and taut, sculpted physique are a testament to her hard work and dedication to the career she loves.
What was it like, going from anorexic to body builder?
We’re talking about 2005. It wasn’t as popular for women to strength train. I remember being on the gym floor with the boys and lifting weights, and it was like, “Oh you’re going to look big and bulky. Don’t do it.” And you know what? I don’t care. I knew that I wasn’t going to. Even coming to the states in 2007, I was the only woman lifting with the boys.
What attracted you to strength training?
I just loved the idea of building my body, I loved seeing more muscle on my frame. I loved the whole process, because in the meantime I was building my mind. Going from wanting to be less to wanting to be more and building instead of destroying, that was love at first sight for me. At the gym it’s about you against you. You are trying to better yourself. You’re getting stronger physically, but it really makes you mentally tougher.
How does it change your clients?
I can’t stress how many times I’ve had women who dared to speak up more because they felt stronger. Once you start strengthening, you need to push yourself if you want to see results. There’s something really magical about lifting more weights, getting better. Especially for women, being able to do that first pull-up or push-up. That’s something that women are not told they need to do, or can do.
Why personal training?
There are so many small details, that’s why hiring a trainer is getting the most bang for your buck, because you’re learning everything according to your body type, according to your structure. It’s very individual. If you’re coming to me, I’ll build a program based on your needs, your goals, your history, how you move. At the end of the day, it’s that increase in confidence and being able to walk in New York for four hours and the lower back is not sore, or being able to play on the ground with a grandchild.
What’s the future look like?
I have some online clients, and I want to put up products like e-books and exercise videos. I have a YouTube channel, and I’m big on infographics, so Facebook and Instagram, and my website and blog. Everything that I do is what will help you feel better, move better and progress from there. I love what I do. I think I’ll never stop training clients. It has always been my passion, and I am very grateful to be where I am right now in my life. Extremely grateful.