30 years ago today, I was born - it was Friday the 13th.

The most popular question I get about Thirteen Fit Apparel is: Why "Thirteen?"

If you don't already know my story, I want to give you background on where I come from because it is why I started the company, why our mission is what it is, and why we are THIRTEEN.

Photo by Rebecca Brookstein Photography

For my entire life I've battled with anxiety and depression. As a kid, I had no idea that either of those feelings had names, I thought the way I felt was normal and everyone probably felt the same way. I didn't realize that not everyone struggles - and I didn't even know I was struggling.

I was never an athlete. Sure, I was active but not sporty (even so, Sporty Spice was my favorite Spice Girl). As kids, we rode bikes, walked around the neighborhood, and spent a lot of time outside but sports were not my forte. I tried to play basketball in 5th grade but was benched for the entire season except for one game. They put me in and I had so much anxiety that when I got the ball, I threw it straight up in the air which was not only like, the most spastic thing I could have done but it also gave the ball to the other team. I cried. In 5th-7th grades, I played softball and hated it. I didn't like to bat, I didn't like running bases, I didn't like being in the outfield. The pressure gave me intense anxiety. I spent most games in left field. My point is that being athletic always seemed out of the cards for me. The art room was my safe space.

That's me throwing a basketball. Told you I wasn't athletic. Also, please take note of my incredible fashion choices.

It was in my teenage years where depression started to kick in on top of my ever-present anxiety. I didn't really know why, I was just sad. A lot. I would come home from school and often just sleep until dinner. I cried a lot. I felt hopeless. There was no real "reason,"; I had an excellent childhood and have an amazing family. It was something deeper.

Battling depression doesn't necessarily mean every waking moment is miserable. There are different levels of it. I'm happy to say that I still enjoyed life in a lot of ways. Some days, weeks, months, were better than others.

Somewhere in the middle of high school I started to feel lost in a way I never felt before and didn't know how to cope. I was also silently crying for help. I started drinking, smoking, and cutting. I remembered hearing about people cutting and at first, I didn't understand it but I was in a low place and felt desperate. I figured it was worth a try. And then it became a habit. I didn't tell anyone and I would cut my thigh so no one would be able to see it. It gave me a release that I didn't expect. I mean, I really had no idea what to expect but it felt like all the emotional pain inside my body was escaping and somehow, I'd feel a little bit better. Eventually, my parents found out and I started anti-depressants and therapy. But being the young, naive teenager I was, I didn't take advantage of therapy and I continued cutting myself through college.

Emo kid. You can bet I was wearing a white studded belt, too.

Fast forward to the end of college: I went for a run. Groundbreaking, right? For me it was. Like I said and like you saw above (re: the basketball photo) I was NOT athletic. It was awful. My cousin and I went to a park with a 2 mile trail - she wanted to run the whole thing and I was down to give it a try. I remember the trail had mile markers and it marked every 1/8th of a mile. I couldn't run 1/8th without stopping to walk. Somehow I managed to walk/run the entire 2 miles but felt completely defeated. We were on vacation and I made a goal; by the end of the week, I would run the 2 miles without stopping. And I did. Very, very slowly.

When I got back home, I didn't want to lose my momentum so I began running 1-2 miles every night. I loved seeing my time get better - it was addicting. I remember one night in particular; I was in a horrible mood after a long day at my fashion internship. I came home and I ran my heart out. Sure, it was only a mile or two but I pushed myself hard and it hurt (so good). When I was done, I noticed how my mood had lifted. I wasn't upset anymore, in fact, I felt amazing. I will never forget that epiphany; it was a new and improved, healthy way to release emotional pain. I officially stopped cutting.

Running snowballed into a complete fitness, health, and wellness OBSESSION. I started running 3, 4, 5, 6 miles a day, joined a globo gym, eventually joined CrossFit and started teaching indoor cycling. I tried every diet out there, read up on all things health and wellness, and watched every documentary I could get my hands on.

Fitness was a game changer. It transformed me into an athlete. It helped me cope with my depression and anxiety. It gave me confidence I've never had. Before fitness, I was lost but because of fitness, I found my purpose.

So let's circle this back to "Thirteen." In my journey to be physically stronger (and look good naked) I found that "mind/body connection" everyone talks about. The stronger my body became, the stronger my mind could be. The stronger my mind was, the harder I could push myself physically. I'll say that again: The stronger my mind was, the harder I could push myself physically.

As much as I love the physical aspect of fitness, I f*ing love the mental game.

Thirteen is bad luck... if you believe it. Thirteen is good luck... if you believe it. I choose the latter.

Tell yourself you are strong enough. Tell yourself you are good enough. Whether you tell yourself that can do it or can't do it, you're right. That's what Thirteen Fit Apparel is about - mental toughness, physical strength, and the mental/physical mind/body connection.


Paige Festa

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