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Illy Stoilova | Why your fitness goals today effect your older self

In this week’s episode of Palm Harbor Local Podcast, I am sitting down with Illy Stoilova, a muscle and fat loss expert from Xforce Body. Illy discusses the importance of fitness, getting enough sleep, and overall health for one’s well-being. She takes a holistic approach to her work, aiming to inform people about the various factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Listen to the podcast episode here!

Welcome to another podcast, another episode of Palm Harbor local today. I’m sitting down with Illy Stoilova of X-Force body. I’m so excited to kind of learn more. Learn more about your journey.

But also kind of learning more about experts body because it’s different than what people typically think of when it comes to fitness or anything like that. Right. So why don’t we start there and like for you like, why is fitness important?


It’s stuck. It started. Well, fitness was always important to me, starting with my grandma, who always told me if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Your health is the most important thing. You carry yourself. Yeah. And she’s the person that walks around with, like vegetables on her face and eating vegetables. And it was my grandma. Yeah, but fitness is a career never occurred to me because my parents always said, Get a real job. Get a degree financier, just a hobby. I’m the only one in my whole family that never finished college. All of them are super intelligent, smart, whatever. So I go fine. I’m not going to study fitness. I’m going to my country. I’m from Bulgaria. Born and raised. Okay. I started studying speech pathology back then. Because the funny part is that physical therapy in my country is not common, and respected nobody goes to a physical therapist, which is really interesting. Yeah.

So I chose speech pathology to be in the business of helping people and kind of close to health it was. Sounded good. Yeah. Anyway, I came to America in 2004 and fell in love at first sight with the country especially Tampa Bay, right? My first job was in New York City, but terrible. I was like, Oh, my God. On the first days. I’m not going back. Of course, my parents freaked out. I was 21. Oh, yeah. They freaked out. They’re like, What do you mean? You’re saying you don’t even know the language. I’m like, Listen, I’ll figure it out. I’m not risking. Yeah, going back and not being able to get a visa to get into America again. Right. But anyway, so you stayed. I stayed. I stayed.

Yeah, that experience like, I can’t even imagine going to a new country. And then just not knowing the culture, that language.

It was an exhilarating experience. Because Bulgaria is Eastern Europe. It was, you know, everything is smaller. Everything is just imagined. I mean, how do I explain it? It’s just different. You learn here, and everything is humongous. Everything is was this. It is just less developed, less developed. So my first experience was getting from the airport, Tampa International, to St. Petersburg, where my uncle used to live with his girlfriend back then. And going over that bridge for miles and miles and miles. And I’m like, Oh, my goodness, this is gorgeous. Yeah. I mean, just, you know, the first fact that you build something so long for it. It’s so perfect and smooth. I mean, over in Eastern Europe, the infrastructure just it’s like holes in you know, it’s, you know, people’s. I mean, it’s like It’s a whole different experience. Okay? But no, just this. So the first feeling I got was like, everything’s possible here. You can do everything you want to do here. And people who are born here (USA), you’re born in the best country ever opportunity, opportunity. And just you can do everything you set your mind to. Right. You can do it. It’s you. Again, the opportunity.

Yeah. And I think I think people forget that a lot. Like you said, like being born here. And like, this is all you know, unless you travel into other countries and see what it’s like or, or me now with, like media and stuff, like you can kind of get a sense of what other countries are like. But I mean, opportunity. I you know, it’s hard to imagine, life without opportunity. But there are a lot of people that don’t have that. 

My country was one of the Soviet Bloc countries, just like Ukraine, and mindset in the mess in the air. I mean, you’re limited. You’re so limited. It’s, it’s amazing. It’s, it’s, that’s a long, long story. But anyway, so to me, come in here and see all this and experience that I’m like, this is where I want to be. Yeah. I’m in love with this place. I’ll make it happen. That was my first thought, of course, right?

My parents freaked out because I could all I had to lose come home and finish college. I had everything. Yeah, like, it’s not like I’m escaping poverty. No, it will. It was, but this year was just like this next level. Yeah. It’s all in the mind. Right. So the next thing was Okay, gotta pick a major here continuous cool. Keep my visa. And I switched it to physical therapy. They accepted a bunch of my credits. I started working right away with a rehab hospital nursing home. After my first job, of course, I was in hospitality I worked in a coffee shop first, which was a Bulgarian coffee shop, where I’m like, I need to get out of here because I’ll never learn English if I keep working with Bulgarians, right? It was funny. But I started working as a rehab tech in this. It’s a nursing home rehab hospital. Okay, both. And meanwhile, I’m taking my prerequisites for the physical therapy program.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching part-time group ballroom dance classes for fun. Again, my heart is with fitness. Yeah, but this is how staying true to what really excites your soul. Right? And I didn’t even care about the cash. I just went two nights a week for fun. We were dancing. It’s like a Zumba class. They just want the proper steps. So dancing is another love of mine. I’ve been doing it most of my life. Okay, that was a little girl. But we’re starting with ballet. And then one night, this lady comes in. And the next thing I know she’s renting a part of the studio. And she brings these Nautilus machines. And she starts training clients. Now. The Nautilus concept is totally different than any other fitness you see. Yeah.

Because of the science, and the safety of the workout, you get stronger without the risk of injuries. Even then I look in my rehab hospital where I worked every day. They have a nautilus leg press and another shoulder press. Why because it was a high-end facility. They could afford it. Right? I mean, a set of dumbbells you can buy for 20 bucks. Yeah, and the Nautilus machine is the cheapest one is probably $7,000 Still to this day, right? But there’s something better about it. But when I started learning about it, I became obsessed with the concept because it’s not only that’s making you stronger, in only 20 minutes, twice a week, it’s all you require. But it’s safe. You never get injuries. You never hang up the phone this morning with a lady. She goes I’m afraid to go to a personal trainer because they made me jump on boxes.

And I have these injuries in my ankles. And I’m like, why? If you’re not an athlete, and you specifically need to be able to jump why is somebody making you jump right? It’s too much impact on your joints and people’s understanding of the difference between exercise and sport. They’re two different things. Okay, you go but what do you do for exercise, so you prevent injuries on the golf course? And I started thinking I go oh my goodness, I’m obsessing over With this, I started doing it myself. And just a few weeks later, I looked in the mirror you know, I’m a girl and a lot of girls say I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to be big and bulky. Yeah, not realizing that big and bulky.

You’ll never be you’re gonna become leaner, your body’s gonna look better. This is strength training. This is not bodybuilding. Yeah. Again, bodybuilding is an extreme sport. We don’t lift to be bodybuilders, live to be held in a shroud right? Yeah. So anyway, I started doing it, and these amazing results started coming, I look in the mirror bathing suit became my favorite uniform. Yeah, you know, as a girl, again, the confidence, you know, everything’s lifting and firming and right. But it wasn’t why I decided to do this stuff with my life. It was one morning with my patients in wheelchairs, between 70 and 80 years years old. And this is when you’re working as a therapist, there was my full-time job seven to three, you know, normal, full-time job every day, I work with patients in wheelchairs with the physical therapist’s team. Some of them are still great friends. I know. I love the famous I loved it. But yeah, one morning, I realize I look at these people in wheelchairs, and I’m getting ready for therapy every day. And I’m real. I go, Oh, my goodness. And this was intuitive. This wasn’t even me knowing the science behind muscle loss with aging and all that. It was intuitive. I go, why do people get old in the first place? It’s not because of age is because, with age, we start losing what muscle? So yeah, when I say old person, what do you picture? weak and frail?

Okay, how do we prevent this with two mindful science-based strength training sessions a week? Is All You Need. All you require to be in the best shape possible? Yeah, and stay strong and stay independent. And the same day I called my mom, which was very upsetting to her. And I said, Listen, I don’t want to be in healthcare. I want to be in prevention because it’s really important to there’s a way to do it safely. Yeah, whether you’re 16 or 76, right, right. Whether you’re an athlete or not an athlete exactly, to do it safely, where there’s no risk of injuries, and you stay strong. And you prevent all these health problems, just by keeping strong. Yeah, because muscle is the tissue of youth. And then later on, I learned about sarcopenia, which starts at the age of 30, we start losing half a pound of lean mass a year which causes all these health problems. And the only way to prevent it is to strength train. Yeah, proper strength training.

What do you think you know, I’ve had conversations with other fitness trainers and whatnot. And, you know, one of the things we talked about is longevity, right? Like being able to, like what you’re talking about, like being able to move and function and, you know, play with your grandkids for a longer time. Right. But it starts at a younger age, you know, it’s not just like, like you said, like, I need to go to physical therapy now because I’ve lost muscle and, you know, I can’t move as I used to. But it starts at a younger age. So what do you think? My question is like…

Illy Stoilova | Why your fitness goals today effect your older self


What do you think is the disconnect thereof of, like, why people don’t stay fit or healthy or think even have the mindset that thinks long term about their health?

Because there’s a myth that you need a lot of it to be able to get results. You need to go to the gym every day for an hour. You need to do all these different things. For example, the broad concept, split the body part, doing leg day, chest day back who has time for that? Right, right, right. And then they start on this fitness journey for two months.

They go five, or six days a week. And then if they don’t get sick, right, which happens because they’re running down your immune system because you’re not getting enough recovery, they get so exhausted, and they stop even getting injuries from overdoing it. And with the way the novel was, and again, I didn’t come up with this stuff. It was the inventor of Nautilus, Arthur Jones, who did all the research over 40 years of studies and studies.

And he says All you need is twice a week, full body, and you rest for 48 hours to fully recover. And then one time again, so to 20 minutes, that’s all you need. Yeah, so how easy it is 20 minutes twice a week to fit into your schedule. But I believe that people don’t start in or fall off because they just start doing too much. And that’s actually bad for your health. I always say when is more is only good when it comes to love and money, not exercise. Right? Yeah. Because the goal with exercise is not to figure out how much you can take, right? I can train you for three hours every day, we’re going to end up sick. Yeah, but what you really require to be in the best shape possible, is to give the stimulus to your body, and you actually change outside of the gym, you don’t change in the gym. Right?

Yeah. And it’s Yeah, I mean, it is amazing. Like we and maybe it’s because of like sports and athletes, like, you know, their training is like, you know, another level but but but that they’re doing that for a particular reason. Right, right. Like if our goal is to just be healthy,  healthy, and do lots of…

Fun facts, which is a sad fact about athletes. Over the last few years, they did studies about their biological age versus age on a cellular level. Guess what, Natalie, on a cellular level is way older than the because of the years of stress. You look at it this way. A workout is a stress to your system. Something your systems like your heart, your cardiovascular, your endocrine system, your heart, your kidneys, to recover you from a lot of those athletes, unfortunately, especially during competition season. Yeah, they don’t have time to recover. Right. And later on, you know, in you know, this is something funny on why they make so much money, the football players, that’s great. They need them to fix their health issues later on. Let them have it. Because I mean, how many people can endure the time the football game? That constant pounding in your systems? Yeah, I mean, it’s brutal

And then on top of it the training to get to that?

Exactly, so do you want to be an athlete? Or do you want to be healthy? Right? Because athletes trust me? The injuries at a young age? I mean, you’re 44 years old, and you’ve hit two knee replacements two hip replacements to know. Yeah, we’re doing this for health. Yeah, right. I admire them. They’re, you know, work ethic and all they do.

But you got to choose Yeah, we don’t have to do the normal, you know, right, working a job. They don’t have you don’t have to do you don’t have to and to be healthy. You got to give yourself enough recovery. Yeah. And the money is in the sleep. Yeah, it’s nice


Let’s talk about that, too. Because I think that’s like, that’s becoming more of a topic. Now, I think is like rest and, you know, science has come out, like, you know, you need sleep before it was like, you know, work and, you know, you can, you know, forego sleep for you know, because you have so much work to do or whatever, especially like owning a business like business owners. You know, there’s so much to do that the lack of sleep, you know, they just like, Oh, it’s just normal, right? But like, that plays a huge role in your health.


Right? I’m one of my favorites. This is where it started. I started learning more about it is I remember years ago at a conference or so my annual fitness business conference. What are the keynote speakers Arianna Huffington, okay? And her thing you know, she’s very successful, the Huffington Post busy woman, productive woman, and it’s one of those people. She’s one of those people who wears the low rest as a badge of honor. So, I work I sleep four hours a night until she wakes up. This is her story. She woke up one morning, she goes, I almost fell on the ground. I was bleeding out of my nose. I was dizzy. I told her I was dying. And she goes, I go to my doctor. And my doctor told me you’re simply exhausted. Right?

He says breaking correctly. And she goes from that point on On no more electronics in my bedroom, I give my body opportunity at least nine hours to rest every night. And she goes, your success is your sleep. If you want to be successful and sleep more, then Matthew Walker, he’s a neuroscientist, the compressed version of a great video. It’s a TED Talk. Sleep is your superpower. Yeah, I recommend everybody watch. Watch that if you read the book. It’s called Why We sleep by Matt Walker. But they did a study. You know, a group of people slept for six hours out of the recommended eight. Yeah. The other group of people. They got them drunk at the legal alcohol limit, whatever that is. Zero point wherever you’re pointing, I think Yeah. Okay. The brain function of the six-hour ones was even of the ones that drink. Really? Yes. Your capacity to take on a normal day is like waking up the brain function. Okay. Right.

This is your six hours. Yeah. The average American the scary part. The average American sleeps about five, or six hours. Yeah. Which all these people driving and he says most car accidents happen because of drowsy driving, not drunk driving. Yeah. Because your brain is as impaired. Think about communicating with people talking to clients. I mean, we got to be sharp. Yeah. You’re not sharp at six hours asleep.

Yeah. Right. And I’ll tell you, like, I’ve noticed that too because it’s something I’ve been aware of just like my mental capacity to like, take on the day is different. Like when I don’t get sleep or when I lose sleep because we have kids and you know, your sleep is interrupted.

So your poor sleep. But you definitely notice a difference throughout the day. Like when you’re able to get like a good, you know, six to eight hours of sleep versus, you know, four to five it is

Yes, it is absolutely critical. Also, heart function. The biggest study was done in the world. You’ve heard about it. It’s called daylight savings. Yeah. In the spring, when we lose an hour, just an hour this weekend coming up? Correct? Yeah. Heart attacks, jump by 24%. This is a study done. 70 countries’ hospital records all of it interesting. In the lack of sleep. Yes. Just one hour. Yeah. Heart attacks, deaths from heart attacks. In the fall when we gain in our heart attacks, drops 24% just for like that short period of time. Yes. Just sleep. Just one hour. losing power affects your heart. Yeah, right. That’s why I am so excited about the business we’re in prevention and teaching people those things. Because just the other day, a client says my doctor put me on such and such medication, as inflammation. And I go do they ask you how much you sleep? And I know she has 300 employees. She’s busy. What’s your average sleep for five hours? No medication would fix it if you don’t start sleeping more make sense? Yeah. And this is the struggle with you know, sleeping. I mean, 99% I, I tell people I love to tell you that you change here in the gym when we train you. The most change happens while you’re sleeping. Yeah. 99% of muscle building happens while you sleep. Yeah. That’s why I’m like obsessing about the tracker. Like, my friends make fun of me that I gotta go to bed. Yeah, what do you mean dinner at eight? I am in bed by night. Seriously?

Yeah. It’s like, yeah, what time do you go to bed, and what time do you wake up?

Nine o’clock. I get up at five, five. Okay, yeah, yeah, I’m asleep by 9:30 am asleep. Yeah. But if I go to bed at night, I give myself an opportunity to stay awake for a few minutes, right? Yeah. But I have to otherwise I’m not a pleasant person to be around.

And it’s and that’s like that’s a discipline to be able to go to you know, to go to bed at nine o’clock to write to because of the TV. Don’t stare at your phone. The phone is away. Everything goes the blue light. Yeah, slows down with melatonin release by an hour or two. It was something dramatic you didn’t see I think I think I don’t know if you listened to Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast at all but I think he’s talked about that before on his about like, like turn you’re like no blue light note phone TV. I think it’s like an hour before bed or something.

It’s because of melatonin release. Okay, that’s they call the dark hormone. When it starts getting dark outside because our eyes. That’s when it starts pushing melatonin to help us go to sleep. There’s a natural right back Back in the day when there was no electricity, people will be sleeping at sunrise. They’re up right? Because of the melatonin starts but when we have TVs bright lights turn out that’s right. Matt Walker recommends the yellow bulbs. They are not LEDs. But the yellow soft light. Yeah. Especially at night. Yeah. To help you. Prepare for a good night’s sleep. Yeah, no keeping it cool at night. Yeah. He recommends 64 degrees. I can only go down to 69. In your bedroom. Yeah, to cool down there. It’s very interesting. It’s amazing. But it’s important. Yeah, it is. Yeah.

So one of the other things I wanted to talk to you about is being a leader, like you, you know, talking about this in like, in your business, and I think being a leader is important as a business owner, is the most important. Yeah. Right. Because you’re, you’re in charge of people. And, you know, we talked about before, like the book traction, right? So I guess, share your thoughts on being a leader. And do you think that anybody can be a leader? Or do you think it’s, you know, you have some abilities, and then like that muscle can be, you know, exercised and you can be, you know, become a better leader? So, basically, your thoughts on leadership, and then is, can everybody does everybody have the ability to be a leader? 

I don’t think everybody can be a leader. I mean, it starts with leading yourself first, right? Because there’s a difference between a boss and a leader. Right? Understanding our whole idea, and my favorite place to learn, starts with my father, right? My father was the captain of the overseas ship. And it starts with the very little things like leading by example. It’s always, leadership is you’re there to help people. You’re not there to be in charge of them. I always say if you have to manage people, you have the wrong people. Right?

But those little things are, you know, there’s a big difference. If you want to be a leader, everything is you do it. You know, like the clients make fun of me. Every time I walk in, I see with the mark, how am I going to expect somebody else to clean if they don’t see me clean the place? Right? Yeah, it’s just the little things and learning what is the leader’s job. Right, so the first question, yeah, you got to inspire people. Right?


You got to set an example. Lead by example. Not, it’s just the difference have that direction, right? Like, where are we going? Like, where are we? You know, where are you leading them to?


Yeah, you start with a mission? Yeah. Because the money is just the result. But it’s not the reason people show up. Yeah, you gotta give them purpose. They gotta have a purpose. And one of my favorite books about this is other than military stuff, because that’s well, where it’s the best learning about team and leadership. From military-like history. I’m a history junkie, but different, but the big five for life, you know, before you bring the people on your team, understanding what their life purpose is, what excites them, what are their big five for life, then going over these things big five for life means

What are the five things I want to do? And at the end of my life, when I look, I consider that journey successful. It can be like one of my staff, she’s the cutest she goes, I want to eat sushi in Japan. Right? It can be anything but knowing each other on a leveling is like one of the guys goes I want to pet all the cats, right? Let’s do whatever it can be the simplest thing but then I want to help people I want to be of service I want to be whatever it is. But getting on a deeper level, because we connect through our beliefs, right? We got to believe in the same thing. Yeah, this is when when you have that the money becomes it comes anyway. Yeah. Because people are there for their rights. The paycheck can be your purpose. The paycheck is just the result. As I always say, getting in shape can be your goal. You have a deeper why. But getting in shape will be the result of the why is what drives you.

To be healthy, right, right. Yeah. But again, leadership is the number one example. Just like with our kids, You can tell them all day long. Yeah. They watch you they mimic you. They’re not good listeners. But they’re great imitators. Yeah. Is the same in business? Yeah. Is the same with everything.

Yeah. And that’s amazing. I have a three-year-old. And you know, she’s starting to that point where, like, you know, she repeats things that we say and I’m like, how do you remember that? Right? That was right. But they pick up on all that everything. Yeah. And same thing with our, you know, if you’re a leader or a business owner, right, like they pick up on all the little things that you’re doing or not doing as well. From appearance.

Yeah. I mean, unify your customer. You talk about everything. You just got to show him. You don’t really have to tell them just show him and that’s a leader, a boss something different. Yeah. I don’t even like it when they say oh, the boss knows. I’m ready to help you out. Yeah, let me know what you need for me. You know, I mean, like that.

So I want to wrap it up with one last question that I can ask everybody. So you moved to this area when chosen for you? 70,000 4004. So I’m curious for you what is if you have like downtime or not working? You just have some time for yourself. Like, where are you going? What are you doing? Whether it’s a restaurant or a coffee shop? Or you know, the beach or something like that? Like what do you what’s your favorite spot to go to in this area?

My favorite spot is Anna Maria Island. Oh, okay. Anna Maria. Is my I can tell the favorite beach in the whole world and why? Yes. Love it. From where I’ve been. I grew up on the coasts, too. And as your favorite beach Anna Maria Island, my favorite place.

What do you love about it?

It feels like you’re 5000 miles away from where you normally are. Yeah, we’re here so far. Yeah. But the vibe. It’s an island. Do you feel just so far away? Yeah. It just helps you disconnect from everything. Yeah, I think it’s so cool. I mean, that’s kind of what I for to like, you know, for that escape. It’s, it’s amazing. Like, we have a lot of little places like that around here, right? Where you can just feel like, you just get out there and you’re like, I can’t believe this is you know, 30 minutes away or whatever it is. Right. Just a short boat right away.

Right. It was a joke about Florida. We’re the only people who would vacation in some other place in Florida. Yeah. So we’re going on vacation or just on the other? State?



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