The Fitness Astronaut
Lifestyle & Wedding Fitness Coach Helps People Reach for the Stars
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne
As a little girl, Laila Rahmatian Alieh’s eyes gazed skyward toward the bright stars with big plans of one day reaching them — literally. Growing up in Houston, Texas, with Johnson’s Space Center practically in her backyard, Laila dreamed of becoming an astronaut ever since she was in third grade. That dream finally came to fruition in 2008 when Alieh began working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as an intern and later a co-op engineer. She joined the team around the time NASA started the Constellation program, which focused on going back to the moon after the Shuttle program.
“I watched Apollo 13 and was fascinated with the heroism and problem solving,” Alieh says. Hungry to learn as much as she could about outer space, she participated in every NASA outreach program in the Houston area throughout her elementary, middle and high school years. As a result, by the time she started her undergraduate studies at Purdue University in 2005, she’d already amassed an impressive resume.
Alieh was excited for the future. When she got the call in February 2010 that the Constellation program was canceled, however, she was devastated.
“I had to come to grips with the fact that a career with NASA was likely not in my future,” Alieh says. As she sorted through next steps, she attended graduate school at Portland State University. While out west, she was surrounded by a huge wellness community that reminded her of how much she once loved exercise. With hiking trails and farmers markets at every turn, Alieh began eating healthy and exercising more.
“Being engulfed in that nourishing lifestyle made me appreciate the work and life balance,” says Alieh, who accepted a corporate job in Houston in 2013. The following year, she tried her hand at fitness coaching, taking on a few clients on the side. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her side gig was more fulfilling than her full-time job.
“I was miserable in corporate America,” says Alieh, who let her own workouts slide because of her stress. Her anxiety was magnified by the fact that she was planning her wedding, and four months prior to walking down the aisle, her dress didn’t fit.
“Though I was horrified, I didn’t panic,” says Alieh, noting that her NASA training had taught her how to attack this challenge like a true engineer. With T-minus four months until her big Persian destination wedding, Laila treated the event like a mission.
“I started training as if I was a rocket ship that had to fit into a certain sized capsule,” says Alieh, who taught herself about healthy meal prep and portion control. She also started coaching her bridesmaids and friends and was reminded, once again, of her passion for this line of work. Her wedding planner strongly encouraged her to become a full-time wedding fitness coach. Her husband Andrew agreed. And with that, the Fitness Astronaut was born. Laila, whose business is 100 percent online, coaches brides all over the globe.
“My brides lead busy lives, so this enables them to work fitness into their schedules,” she says.
Client Leslie F. is impressed by Laila’s commitment to tailor-make individualized plans for each of her clients.
“Laila takes the time to really get to know her clients,” Leslie says. “You don’t find this sort of dedication from a trainer at the gym.”
Bride Mercedez S. found that working with Laila caused her self-confidence to blossom.
“Laila’s program is tailored to give you the tools to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle,” Mercedez says.
Alieh’s favorite part of being a wedding fitness coach is conducting the 30-day review where clients have their photos taken wearing the same outfit they did on day one.
“At NASA, we call it our 30-day check-in,” she says. “These brides feel inspired when they see the results of their hard work. Although their weight may not have changed, their inches are going down and their strength is going up. So is their mood and self confidence in loving themselves again.”
Though Alieh is still fascinated by other planets, she’s thrilled to be able to help people on Earth reach for the stars.
“I love working in an industry where there’s always a happy ending,” she says.
For more information, visit Lailaalieh.com.