Cheryl Viernes starts most of her days around 5am at Benicia Fitness where she’s passionate about helping people reach their dreams. The gym’s website describes her well: “Unstoppable. That’s Cheryl. Not only does she kick butt in her Tae Bo and strength classes, she kicked cancer’s butt and is stronger than ever.”
A native of Vallejo with proud Filipino roots, her fighting spirit is contagious. Cheryl says people of all fitness levels are welcome in her classes. The most important part, she says, is to show up for yourself. “Don’t let fear take over. I want you to bring your warrior self. I want you to be courageous enough to try something new. Don’t stay stagnant. Know yourself, believe in yourself. You’re the only person you need to prove yourself to. Not anyone else.”
Here is what she has to say about her vivacious life and work.
BM: What drew you to fitness work?
CV: After giving birth to my daughter Anastasia, I had no motivation, no desire to get back into health and fitness. I fell into anxiety and depression, and I started gaining weight. I was a single mother at 25 and I had no confidence or money. I was lost, and knew it was time to make a change. That’s when I revisited the work of Billy Blanks, creator of Tae Bo®️ Fitness who created the famous VHS exercise program in the 1990s. Billy Blanks taught me to train the body, and the mind will follow. Not only did I feel better emotionally and mentally, I lost 40 pounds with the program. I loved it so much I found a local gym that taught it live and that’s where I eventually got my Tae Bo certification. Today, exercise is my therapy, my church, my happy place, my favorite thing to do. And, helping others with their fitness goals is definitely my passion.
BM: How did you get your job at Benicia Fitness, and what is it like to work for the owner Joy Rund?
CV: I was already teaching in the region and a former kick boxing instructor introduced me to Joy who hired me as a substitute. Since 2018, I’m basically full time at Benicia Fitness. The staff are like family. We all encourage each other, and I love the incredible positive vibe overall. Joy truly does have a joyful smile and a contagious laugh. And she knows every member by name.
BM: We understand you are a cancer survivor. Can you tell us a little bit about that journey?
CV: In 2016, I was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. It had spread to my lymph nodes and the doctor told me I only had a year and a half to live. I was devastated. I could not stop asking myself, why me? I am a personal trainer, I exercise daily and I eat healthy. Why me?
I had no choice but to change my thinking instantly and to fight for my life. It was me against the world! I had to fight the battle and take back what the enemy had stolen. I knew I had to reach the finish line. I was not giving up.
BM: What is your professional training?
CV: People call me Coach Cheryl. I’ve been a personal trainer & group fitness instructor since 2009. I’m trained to teach Boom Boxing and Tae Bo Fitness. Some people call this a hobby, but I call it a way of life.
BM: Everyone is excited about the boxing classes you are teaching. Can you tell us more about the benefits of boxing?
CV: Our newest, hottest workout of the year is called Boom Boxing, which was designed by the same creator of Tae Bo Fitness, Billy Blanks. Billy’s Boom Boxing is an exciting and explosive way to get into the best shape of your life. People who sign up separately for the classes at Benicia Fitness will learn the boxer’s secret code and will be prepared for the fight of a lifetime. All ages and all fitness levels are welcome. In the fall, I’m teaching a class for teens. I’m so excited!
BM: What keeps you inspired each day?
CV: My daughter! Now that I’m cancer free, I am living life without limitations. Life is short. When the doctor told me had only a year and half to live, all I could think about was my daughter, Anastasia. She’s the reason why I’m alive. She reminds me daily to laugh more and live courageously. And yes, I am a fighter. I will stumble and I will fall, but I will always stand back up again. Stronger than before.