Content creator and entrepreneur Kira West finds strength through community.
During the quarantine that locked most of us away in our homes in 2020, Kira West laced up her running shoes and escaped to the pavement. The streets were still mostly empty–so barren that she could hear her footfall on the concrete through her headphones.
At times, West would get lost in the cadence of her own breath, slipping away into a moving meditation, away from the walls of the apartment she shared in Connecticut with her now-fiancè, away from an endless string of Zoom conferences. These runs became one way to explore the city and combat the stress accompanied by a global pandemic. She started to tag them #SanityMiles.
“Sanity miles” started as an excuse to get out of the house during a global pandemic and to create a safe space to think, but they became bigger than that. West posted the runs on social media for fun to keep herself accountable. She tagged friends who also ran, creating an informal virtual run club. Soon, her makeshift squad decided to raise money, collecting two dollars for every mile completed and donating the money to local charities. #SanityMiles evolved into a community-building platform.
West’s running habit dates back to college when she started logging runs on the treadmill to stay in shape. Not long after graduation, the Brooklyn native signed up for a half marathon and soon decided to run a race in each of New York City’s five boroughs for charity. Dedication is kind of her thing.
“One thing I really love about myself is my commitment and determination,” she said.
When West wasn’t logging miles, she had become a regular at boutique fitness classes around New York City. That’s when she began to notice a lack of diversity in both the trainers and the clientele. The gap in representation inspired West to start sharing resources with her friends and followers to amplify Black fitness professionals, trainers, and brands and focus more of her travel and wellness content on building inclusivity.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “So I focus on being seen in spaces where you don’t typically see Black women because there’s going to be someone out there watching who realizes that they have an opportunity to do the same.”
West’s focus on progress, inclusivity, and diversity started at Cornell University, where she studied social entrepreneurship. It sharpened during the Covid-19 lockdown. Running morphed into a mental health exercise to escape her newsfeed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the racial reckoning that followed.
West, who co-founded an anti-racism wellness company called ACTIV-ism, explained that social justice and diversity work can be exhausting emotionally, and running is part of how she recenters herself. “It’s how I processed these things, it’s how I found peace with what was going on because it was traumatic as a Black woman,” she said.
Whether creating inclusive fitness spaces or working toward self-improvement, West’s approach is grounded in incremental change. She talked the same way about strength training, which she said is foundational to her running, and acknowledged that it could be more welcoming.
“When I first thought about strength training, it felt so male-dominated that I didn’t feel like there was a place for me,” she said. “But I am giving myself grace, starting where I’m at, and realizing that progress and continuing to challenge yourself is really important.”
West lives in Chicago now, where she mounted a Tonal in her home office. The convenience of working out at home helps her maintain consistency, she said. Plus, it’s another opportunity for West to expand her ever-growing community. She’s a regular in the Official Tonal Community, where she said she finds encouragement, tips, ideas, and inspiration by watching other members progress in their own strength journeys.
“Perfection is not attainable,” she said. “It’s really not a helpful use of energy. So I focus my energy on progress, and I think there’s so much beauty in being able to look back and see how far you’ve come.”