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Fitness April 28, 2020
by Nicole Swickle
As I write this article, it’s difficult to put the words “eating disorder” to paper — and even more painful to admit that I had one out loud. But let’s call it what it is.
I was a sophomore in college with a story similar to many girls my age. I wanted to be thin. Specifically, I wanted the thigh gap, gaunt cheekbones, and defined collar bone.
I grew up in a household filled with love, but no family is perfect. Every morning I watched my mom weigh herself. It was always before breakfast and she was always undressed. The scale became a part of my morning routine at a young age. At some point over the years, it became an addiction and a number that would determine my self-worth. 110 lbs was my magic number.
Sitting around the dinner table at night, I remember my mom would make frequent comments on the food on her plate. It was always something to the effect of “I’m going to be good and not eat that” or “I’m going to be bad tonight and have dessert.” While I know she didn’t mean any harm, her words were etched into my thoughts far beyond my childhood years.
It was during my second year of college that I discovered laxatives, or as I called it “juice.” One night, my roommate and I downed an entire bottle of magnesium citrate before hitting the beach the next morning. We wanted our stomachs to be flat.
While that experience might have been one-and-done for her, it was the gateway drug that would become a five-year addiction for me. At the time, I didn’t know I was developing an eating disorder. It was one day, one binge, one release at a time. Soon it would become my new normal.
I was a regular at the self-checkout lane at the grocery store in Tampa, FL. It was my safe space to purchase laxatives without fear of judgement from the cashier. To me, it was like buying a pregnancy test. That embarrassing feeling you get when you step up to the counter and you can’t look them in the eyes. I soon learned that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I used the “juice” as a quick fix. I’ll spare most of the details, but I had it down to a science. If I took laxatives by 7pm, I could make it to my 9am class the next morning without feeling sick. First, it was one bottle a day. Then two.
Compliments started rolling in from family, friends, and guys who had never even noticed me before. For the first time in 22 years, I was thin. I had the thigh gap, the cheekbones, the clavicle lines, and the flat stomach. I believed I looked the way a woman was “supposed” to look.
As time progressed, I hit a plateau drinking magnesium citrate. My body began to become immune to it after a full year and over four hundred bottles consumed. Today, I can’t help but think about the physical toll I was putting on my body as well as my pocketbook. It makes me almost as sick as the laxatives themselves. In an effort to stay thin, I began to pull more levers; throwing up and taking Dulcolax pills. First, it was three pills, then five. By age 27 I was binge eating daily, consuming 1-2 bottles of “juice” and taking thirty-five pills a night. Every. Single. Night.
One night, I remember feeling more sick than usual. I was living alone in LA, bent over in the shower at 2am, unable to breathe. I was heaving, dizzy, and actually thought I was going to die. I sat on that shower floor crying my eyes out. I was fresh out of a 7-year relationship, new to LA, and as uncomfortable as someone could be in their own skin.
I must have done a decent job of hiding it in my professional life because no one ever brought it up. When I visited my family in South Florida, my mom knew something was off but didn’t know how to approach me. God, I wish she did.
I wanted to get help, but I didn’t know where to start. I had been following a health and fitness coach online for some time and I finally sent her a message on Facebook. We met up for coffee in Santa Monica and took a stroll around the block. When she asked me what was going on, my eyes instantly welled up with tears. She could see the internal hurt written all over me. I told her my story — every page of it. She hugged me and I melted in her arms. For the first time, I felt seen and heard, and she would later become the person in my life to help me through this journey.
We went grocery shopping together. She taught me how to cook properly for myself. We worked out in a park together three days a week. We talked on the phone at night and texted throughout the day. She taught me gratitude and the importance of inner work. When I slipped up and fell back into my old patterns, she taught me grace. Just writing this makes me emotional because I didn’t recognize the massive strides I was making at the time and the impact she had in saving my life until I was healthy and removed from the thick of it.
I had no intentions of falling in love with fitness. My goal was to fall back in love with myself. It sounds cliché but bodybuilding found me. It reminded me the value of consistency – which transcends all areas of my life. It taught me the power of showing up for myself and practicing opposite action on the days I don’t want to get out of bed. Some days, my goal is more about stepping foot in a gym then it is lifting heavy. It’s a silent pinky promise I made with myself and have never regretted.
Looking back on the last three years of my life, I’ve learned that people will have an opinion no matter what you look like. When I was heavier, my brother called me thunder thighs. When I was thin, I was told to go eat a burger. When my muscle mass went up, I was criticized by my ex-boyfriend for my broad shoulders and my friends for not drinking/eating “normal.” What’s the definition of normal anyway?
I’m writing this from my apartment in Nashville – a place I’ve dreamed of living for years. It’s 2020 and I’m three years into my self-love journey. Some days I feel like I’ve come out on the other side. Other days I feel the need to delve into therapy, meditation, podcasts, you name it. I’m currently prepping for a bodybuilding show. You know, the ones where you’re half-naked on stage with stripper heels and a Willy Wonka coat. I’m doing it because it’s the definition of uncomfortable for me and forces me to push past my fears.
My growth has constantly derived from looking fear in the eye, running from it, turning back around, and taking micro-steps at conquering the bullshit voice in my head.
I wish 22-year-old Nicole knew what she knows now, but the truth about overcoming is that you know when you’re ready to make a life change. Everything in your heart points you in that direction and you find the courage to move through it.
Making my mess my message and sharing my story with others so they feel less alone has been the greatest gift of my life. Soon, I’ll be taking the stage in a shimmering bikini, attempting not to walk like a baby deer in heels. And while the average spectator might see a self-indulgent fitness girl, I see a relentless fighter who continues to fumble but refuses to fail.
Help us reopen gyms in Nashville!Read more
Fitness March 29, 2020
In the last two weeks, hundreds of gyms and studios around the world have had to close their doors due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. We recently did a survey with various gym owners across the city to uncover more information and best practices during this time.
In the survey, roughly 60% reported 10+ members have placed their membership on hold or cancelled, and a handful of others have reported between five and 10 holds or cancellations.
Some good news: About 25% have said they’ve had zero cancellations or holds so far. A few even said they have picked up some new members who approached them after their gym closed, using this as an opportunity to find a change of pace. Finding a way to rent out your equipment has proven to be a valuable asset to keeping members involved and accountable during these times.
The most common remote services gyms/studios are offering include:
- Daily at-home programming
- Online Zoom group classes
- Team fitness challenges
- Equipment borrow/rental
- Individual programming
Though many gyms have experienced positive outcomes during this time, most have only been closed for seven to 10 days and many are aware of what could happen should this pandemic cause use to be closed for many more weeks, or even months. If you’re a realist, you’d fully expect if we go into month two, people will hold or cancel their memberships.
In Italy for example, some gyms that have been closed since February – with no end in sight – and most members are no longer paying at all. If your membership is designed to be sold for three, six or 12 months up front, there can be pros and cons to this payment plan, but many members will be hesitant to renew as they come up for renewal again.
Watch your numbers: If you are live streaming classes, make sure you are keeping track of your numbers. If they start to drop, you’ll know your audience is getting tired of Zoom classes. Right now, they’re a great way to buy good will, but plan ahead and develop a back-up plan should things start to go south. Brainstorm ideas with your team.
Keep in mind coaches have limited programming options hosting at-home workouts too. Having air squats, burpees, and lunges on repeat will lead to hip problems, boredom and people finding themselves with some aches and pains if done too much.
Think about keeping your Zoom workouts shorter than a normal class and begin offering individual programming in addition to your go-live classes. This will introduce your members to an elevated service option too.
Focus on the relationships: If a gym has decided to cancel all of their services and membership fees, this might put you in a better position to collect some new members. Remember you are in the relationship business and retention comes down to engagement. Get creative with how you’re going to add value to your members during this time of isolation.
Pick up the phone and call each member if you have to. Ask them how they’re doing and how you can help. What do they need and how can the gym be of service to them during this time.
Assign specific coaches to specific clients: If you have more than 300 members, assign clients to your coaches and provide them with personal accountability. Perhaps you will not be reaching out to each client every single day, but it’s important to stay in touch more often than not at all.
Members helping members: If some of your members decide to place their membership on hold, offer your other members an opportunity to pay-it-forward and do whatever they can to help their community. If all of your members agreed to increase their membership fee by $1, would that save a member? What about $2 or $3? The price of a cup of coffee could save a few members while building community.
Johnny Wilkins, owner at QNTM Fit Life, suggests keeping your community engaged and accountable with a creative hashtag tied to your brand. “Our company tagline is ‘Make It Count’, so we’re using #MakeQuarantineCount.
Reduce the price of membership: Others have said they have lowered their monthly fee, or intend to lower it, should the closure carry on into a second month. Think about this possibility. After all, some money is better than no money.
Additional programming options: Some gyms/studios are also offering more specific classes or programming options, such as nutrition consulting, mobility classes or running or endurance programs.
Similarly, offer a “quarantine responsible” community night. Hosting a Friday night Sip n’ Stretch class via Zoom where members can come together for mobility with a glass of wine, or alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink of their choice is a great idea. You might end up with even more people attending this class!
Bottom line: Getting through this pandemic as unscathed as possible will come down to your relationships. Reach out to people and check in daily with your members if you have to. Whatever it takes, do not let them feel isolated or unsupported during this time.
Although this may be a scary time and a lot of us are anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy, we must also recognize the opportunity in front of us to fix that was perhaps broken before. Use this as a strengthening opportunity for you and your members.
“This is the best time in the history of fitness to show your members you aren’t four walls and some gym equipment,” says the Morning Chalk Up. We couldn’t agree more.
Estimated read time: 3 minutes. Contains 632 words
by Ryan Freebing
Nashville has been hit hard over the last couple of weeks. After a tornado swept through parts of East and North Nashville on March 2, trainers and staff were adamantly rallying their members to support not only their own gyms but the community at large, accepting donations and raising money for various relief efforts.
Seven days later, the stock market crash of 2020 began on Monday, March 9, with the largest point plunge for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) up to that date. It was followed by two more record-setting point drops on March 12 and March 16 which included the three worst point drops in U.S. history.
Today most of the country is in some form of lockdown mode. Having received our own “stay-at-home” mandate by Mayor John Cooper, gyms and studios in Nashville have followed suit and closed their doors along with all non-essential businesses. Now, our fitness community, like the rest of the nation, is adapting to the change on the fly.
The Digital Shift
In response, there has been a frenzy of live streaming and on-demand content, a massive surge in social media activity and an inevitable shift toward online fitness. I have spent many years in the fitness industry, but I have never seen more digital fitness content created or consumed over the last few days than I have in the last few years. From local studios and brands to personal trainers and coaches, everyone is rapidly churning out workout videos or going live and hosting their own classes and cooking seminars.
While some are sharing their content for free, others are attempting to market to new clients in the hopes of maintaining their revenue stream. I have spoken to a few groups about this in the past, but the current crisis is quickly speeding up something brick-and-mortar owners have been struggling to face now for many years. “Will on-demand fitness offerings steal some of my members?”
Prior to the mandated COVID-19 shutdown, the problem was lingering but not an immediate threat. “Now, the shift to digital is nearing a tipping point, in what could end up being an exodus – albeit a forced one – from studios to apps and at-home equipment,” says Fitt.co.
There is however, the issue of equipment. Members of indoor cycling studios, for example, can’t take a class without a bike. To satisfy customers, gyms are renting out their equipment to go along with their at-home workout plans for the near future. Jonny Diaz at Fit Factory explains, “Our equipment is not ours. It’s yours,” meaning their members. But is their enough to go around?
So What Next?
Around the nation, the overall consensus seems to be that COVID-19 is an accelerated shift to digital and at-home fitness, but what does that mean for Nashville’s small businesses? “Depending on who you ask (and who you believe), once we hit this tipping point, the pendulum may not swing back to exercising in-person,” reports Fitt.co.
For many others (including myself), social distancing all day will leave people craving their community now more than ever once things are get back to normal. The question of when still remains though. Others who have responded to the pandemic by purchasing a Peloton, outfitting their own home gym, or downloading a fitness app might never look back.
Then there is the gut wrenching reality that some of our favorite small businesses may not survive this shutdown at all. And if that’s the case, there won’t be a gym for some members to come back to.
There is no need to panic though. Right now it seems as though there are more questions than answers, but in this moment, there is no doubt in my mind that fitness may have changed forever.
Be on the lookout for more events from Nashville Fit and ways you can help your community!
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