After graduating from Columbia University, she completed stints as an analyst at an investment bank and a public-school teacher before earning a Ph.D. in history at Stanford University. Around the time she was defending her doctoral thesis, she became a Lululemon ambassador. The thesis became the basis of her first book, “Classroom Wars: Language, Sex and the Making of Modern Political Culture,” published by Oxford University Press in 2015.
While working on “Classroom Wars,” she moved back to New York, where her boyfriend (now husband) lived. They joined an Equinox gym, where she encountered Patricia Moreno, a well known instructor in the New York fitness world who had created a program called intenSati, which blends roundhouse kicks and grapevines with shouted affirmations — think Jane Fonda at a self-help tent-revival.
After studying under Ms. Moreno, Dr. Petrzela became a certified intenSati instructor. “She is the only fitness instructor of mine that I can securely say has a Ph.D. from Stanford,” said Tara Abrahams, an executive at The Meteor, a feminist media company, who has been attending Dr. Petrzela’s classes for about 10 years.
As she built her career at the New School, publishing papers and essays in academic journals (History of Education Quarterly, The Peabody Journal of Education, Pacific Historical Review) and mainstream publications (The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate), she continued teaching intenSati. She also began to consider the role of physical fitness in American history and cultural life.
And she dug deeper into podcasting. Along with Dr. Hemmer and Dr. Young, she created a limited podcast series, “Welcome to Your Fantasy,” that told the story of Steve Banerjee, the impresario behind the male dance club Chippendales, and the murder-for-hire charge that preceded his 1994 suicide. Dr. Petrzela was the host.
Billed as a Spotify Original, and co-produced by Gimlet Media and Pineapple Street Studios, “Welcome to Your Fantasy” was a seamy, steamy true-crime drama that took place against a backdrop of the sexual, feminist and fitness revolutions of the 1970s and 1980s. Upon its release in 2021, it was a hit with listeners and earned glowing reviews from The Times, The New Yorker and The Financial Times.