IN COLLABORATION WITH THE IFBB/NPC NASHVILLE FIT SHOW
It’s no secret that there’s a stigma around bodybuilding. The words “self-obsessed” are often used to describe the way bodybuilders look and feel about themselves. While physical appearance is the most noticeable benefit to weight training – it goes far beyond picking up and putting down weights.
There’s a deep-seated story for almost every individual in the fitness space. No matter what a person’s relationship with food, exercise or mental health looks like – every person standing inside any given gym or studio was evoked by an internal feeling or an event in their life that made them want to turn to fitness as an outlet.
We’ve teamed up with IFBB/NPC Nashville Fit Show, one of the only all-women’s bodybuilding competitions in the world to highlight inspiring stories on local female athletes – the ones that remind us to lead with our “why,” which goes well beyond muscles and mirrors.
We asked several competitors to share what they’re STRONGER THAN.
STRONGER THAN _I give myself credit for_.
Words By: Brittany Weddington | Edited By: Nashville Fit Magazine
I was born into unfortunate circumstances. Both of my parents were drug addicts. Throughout my childhood, my mother was in and out of county jail and prisons around Tennessee, and we didn’t always know where my father was.
The positive memories I have with my parents are limited. Most of my time spent with them revolved around visiting my mother in prison or in random places with strange people she would stay with. In my family, bonding time was centered around shoplifting and running from the police.
My grandmother was awarded custody of my siblings and I at a young age. She chose to take us all to keep us together rather than separating us into foster homes. My grandmother was the hardest working person I know. She worked a third shift factory job on the weekends and had to leave us in the care of babysitters – none of which treated us well. My siblings and I experienced physical abuse during this time, though we never wanted our grandmother to know.
I found myself in trouble throughout high school and narrowly graduated in 2005. Soon after, I became pregnant and had my first child at 19-years-old. Around that time, I reconnected with an old flame. Our love story was far from perfect, but it was ours. Slow and steady, the pieces were falling into place. I started and completed beauty school as a working, single mother. This was my first major accomplishment in life. I’ve always been good at starting things, but consistently fell short when it came to crossing the finish line. This time I had done it.
In June 2014, my little family and I packed our bags and left my grandmother’s house for Murfreesboro. I remember her standing there, watching me leave as we waved and cried. I thought to myself, “how could I be so happy and sad at the same time?”
I was finally building the life that I was never afforded. In November 2015, my second daughter was born. Soon after, I received the news that my grandmother, my hero, had passed away. I made a promise that moving forward, I would do everything I could to make her proud.
Despite my intent behind that promise, I fell into a deep depression. I was taking care of a newborn and my other daughter, grieving the loss of my granny and experiencing postpartum depression.
In Sept 2017 I saw a picture of myself at my oldest daughter’s birthday party. I had never seen myself like this before. I was uncomfortable with the woman I was looking at. How could I have let myself go like this? I decided to join a gym and made some progress physically, but mentally I felt amazing. Every time I left the gym, I felt like I was on a high. I was experiencing joy again, and nothing could stop me.
Eventually, I found my strength, left my relationship and moved back home. Around that time, the pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt. Churches and gyms were off limits. I lost one job completely while the other was temporarily closed. I had to find a way to stay close with God when I didn’t know where to start. My show that I had been prepping for (Nashville Fit Show) was up in the air as well. Except this time, no matter what, I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t quitting on my girls. I wasn’t quitting on my faith. I wasn’t quitting on my training.
When time seemingly stood still, I implemented a routine. I kept on track with my training and nutrition. I always had fresh flowers on my table where I read my Bible and prayed. I started reading self-help books and listening to podcasts that helped me find new ways of thinking about myself and the situations surrounding me.
If you ask me, the pandemic was the best thing to happen to me and especially my contest preparations. It gave me a chance to step back and really find my “WHY”.
At first, it was because an attractive man told me I could, and I wanted to prove him right. But when I really got the chance to think about why I wanted to do it, l realized I wanted my girls to see me set a goal and achieve that goal despite all odds. I wanted to show them that no matter what life throws at them, they are strong enough to face it. It was never about winning for me. It was about my girls, my family and my granny being proud.
If you know anything about small towns and family trees, you know that many don’t make it out of the toxic cycles they were born into. I consider myself lucky. Not many make it out and very few are successful in life afterwards. I can count on one hand the people who I grew up with who made it out, and it wouldn’t even fill up that one hand.
I’ve overcome so many things. The difference is how you choose to move on after the trauma.
I’ve learned that I am resilient as hell. My main goal for my life now is to have my girls be proud to have a mom like me. A mom I wasn’t born with, but like the mother God gifted me with.
My story isn’t just about overcoming one bad relationship but overcoming my entire life.
I want to leave a legacy for my girls – one where they don’t have to overcome, but to continue adding to it in a positive way.
For more info on the IFBB/NPC Nashville Fit Show:Read more
“I was tired of feeling worthless, unseen, and not being able to look at my body in the mirror.” – Danielle Dyer.
Meet Dani – a Nashville-based health and wellness coach specializing in body positivity. When you watch Dani interact with her clients, you don’t question her confidence – however, creating her place in the industry didn’t come without criticism.
Despite being a proven athlete, Dani’s strong, able body isn’t a reflection of those often depicted in the media. For many of us, the fear of not “looking the part” is enough to keep us from shopping at certain stores, trying out a new class or exploring a different corner of the gym. For Dani – those barriers to entry became the foundation for which she built her business.
Calling BS on Body Shame
“Your body, your business.” It’s a simple concept that has escaped us over the years. Vocalizing a lack of acceptance for someone else’s choice in food, physique or clothing (among many other things) are now common topics of conversation – ones that can be mentally and physically determinantal to the individual on the receiving end.
Dani’s first fulltime offer in the industry was a Personal Training position at a gym in Franklin, TN. She accepted the role after obtaining the necessary qualifications and successfully navigating the interview process. When the management team saw her in-person, she was reassigned to a desk job. Additionally, she was asked not to wear shorts to work again (something many of the female employees wore on a regular basis).
While Dani’s story is unique to her, the sentiments of her experience are far too relatable for anyone who has been written off purely based on appearance. Dani’s dissatisfaction with the industry standard led her to building a brand that focuses on appreciating the journey and your body in its current state while working toward a longer-term goal.
“I got into fitness because I knew I was capable of more,” said Dani. “Movement is one of the main outlets I have found for myself. Mentally, it makes me my most positive, happy self. Physically, I feel strong, powerful and beautiful after any type of movement.”
We asked Dani to give us her unfiltered answers to the following questions:
NF: What has your experience in the fitness industry been like?
DD: It has not been a good experience. I have faced a lot of passive aggressiveness, unnecessary judgment, and not feeling seen or accepted. I had to make my own community.
NF: What would you say to someone who is guilty of body shaming?
DD: I feel sorry that you’re insecure and incapable of seeing past what society deems as beautiful.
NF: What advice would you give to someone on the receiving end of body shame?
DD: I would tell them to love themselves harder. I would tell them to embrace their body through it.
NF: What advice would you give to someone struggling to love and accept their body?
DD: I would tell them to say one positive thing about your body each day. You may not love it now, but one day you will. I promise it will come. Just stay consistent.
NF: What advice would you give to brands and agencies on connecting with people of all shapes and sizes?
DD: I would encourage brands and corporations to have a quarterly talk with their staff on how to talk to customers. Positive language is key when someone is shopping. It’s important to have an awareness of how the customer feels in that environment and to help them feel comfortable. Having staff of all shapes and sizes matters too. Don’t sell extended sizes by only having smaller employees selling the clothes.
NF: What advice would you give to yourself 10-15 years ago that you didn’t know at the time?
DD: 15 years ago was the worst time of my life. I would tell myself to stay strong and not listen to what anyone says. Love yourself because you are exceptional.
NF: What’s one thing we can do every day to love ourselves a little more?
DD: I believe in journaling, and I believe in positive self-talk. My advice is to take time for yourself every day to say one positive thing about your body. It will be challenging, but you can do it.
NF: Anything else you want to share?
DD: I want people to know that men and women can love themselves. It just takes time. One step at a time.
I’m here to help anyone who wants to be their best not just people who want to lose weight.
I believe together we can set the example and fight for what we want together to be able to be “seen” no matter body size.
Connect with Dani! | @danidfitness1 | www.danidfitness.com
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by Ryan Freebing
Mike Bires is the owner of Nutrition Faktory, Munch Meals, Ambition Threads, and a host of other start-up companies in the Nashville area. He’s seen tremendous growth in a short period of time, opening 11 Nutrition Faktory stores in less than 16 months. But it didn’t always start out that way.
Mike grew up in a small town in northern Ohio with roughly only 13,000 people with a dad who worked his tail off at Ford Motor Company to provide for him and his sister. At a young age, Mike followed in his dad’s footsteps by getting a job at the local plastics factory hoping to save money for college. He started as a temp but a year later they interviewed over 100 temps for just 3 full-time openings, and Mike was one of them. “When I got that job, I thought, I’ve just gotten my dream job and I’m still thankful to have had that experience,” Mike remembers with a laugh.
“I have been fortunate my entire life,” Mike recalls, “and it started there at that factory. The supervisor at the plastics factory took me under his wing, and I tried my best to be a sponge, learning everything I could about the business.”
“Early on, I started breaking records on the factory floor, getting good feedback from my superiors and it looked like I was going to be there for the long haul, but one day I overheard a conversation about how the business was being run and it made me think a little differently. Essentially, even though I was doing great work, busting my ass and putting in long hours, if some of the guys in the ‘front-office’ weren’t, I could lose my job. So I quit and went to school. I didn’t want someone else’s actions controlling my destiny.”
“To earn some extra money while I was in school, I went to work at a local health food store and was blessed to have another great boss and mentor. The owner, Barry, taught me everything he knew about the industry.”
“Funny enough, people respected Barry so much that while I was still learning, when a customer asked about a particular supplement, I would just say, ‘Well this is what Barry recommends and they were good,” Mike laughs.
“I’ll never forget the one day an elderly woman walked into the store and was looking for something to help with her arthritis pain. I could tell she was in pretty bad shape. So I told her, ‘Well this is what Barry recommends.’ And I sold her a few items.”
“About a month later, the same woman came back into the store and asked specifically for me. Barry was shocked because no one had ever done that before. The woman said she was feeling much better, thanked me for the recommendation I had made and said that I had ‘changed her life.’ She had been going through a rough time and said she felt excited to get out of bed again. This was crazy to me that I could change someone’s life for the positive by simply ‘doing my job!’ This was the moment I fell in love with the industry.”
“Shortly after, Barry was so impressed with my willingness to take ownership and learn the business that he asked me if I wanted to help open another store. I was honored, said yes and within a few months this new store was already breaking sales records. A few months later, I bought the store that I had built and a few months after that I bought all of Barry’s stores. I was in my mid 20s and owned three nutrition stores in Ohio.”
“Eventually I decided to test what I had learned and packed up and moved to Southern California. It was a big culture shock, but I settled in soon and opened my own supplement store in SoCal. My goal right out of the gate was to sell national brand products at wholesale prices.”
“After some early success, I became good friends with the CEO of a top chain of nutrition stores in SoCal. He offered me the VP of Operations position over all of his stores in Southern California. I was ecstatic and I learned a ton about the industry while running 30+ locations, and I eventually became interested in the ‘brand’ side of the industry. Luckily I had great relationships in the industry and I became National Sales Director of a top brand.”
“This was another amazing experience as I learned so much about building a company and a brand. I also traveled all over and got to visit the top retailers in all of the top cities. It was great to be able to learn from the best retailers across the country. But again, I wanted more out of my career and I wanted to be a part of building a special culture.”
“At this point, I had to ask myself what I really wanted out of life and a job, so I quit in 2014, not really having a plan in place. All I knew was that I wanted the freedom and stability to work closer to my family in Ohio while controlling my own destiny and building my legacy.”
“So in October of 2014, I sat down with two of my closest friends to discuss working together on a brand, Motiv8 Performance. We started with one product and slowly grew from there. At lot of supplement companies were focused on the NPC and bodybuilding world, which is a great, hard-working group of people. But not many were offering products to people that also needed them, the ‘everyday’ person. We celebrated everyday people that were transforming their lives and were willing to share their stories with us. This resonated throughout social media so much that we had contestants from TV’s The Biggest Loser and American Ninja Warrior join our team. It was a great time.”
“I eventually found Nashville because one of Motiv8’s top retailers was based in this area, Mid 10 Nutrition. We came out to visit them and my girlfriend, Sonia, fell in love with the city and said ‘Let’s move here’ very nonchalantly one night,” Mike recalls. “Two months later, in December of 2016, we packed up and found a place in Murfreesboro.”
“When I got here, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do more to give back to my community. I noticed it was hard to find the top vitamin and supplement brands at low pricing here in Tennessee.”
“Given my experience, I opened a supplement store in Murfreesboro called Nutrition Faktory. I was buying direct from all the brand owners that had become my friends from my days in southern California, so our prices were much lower than the local competition and we even beat internet pricing.”
“Then on Black Friday 2017, I had someone come in and want to open a Nutrition Faktory store of their own. I loved the idea and our first franchise location opened in Smyrna in May 2018. Then our third store in Hendersonville opened in June 2018. Our fourth store was an acquisition of Mid 10 Nutrition in July of 2018 in Nashville. Then came Cool Springs shortly after in December and Cookeville in January 2019. We were really on the move.”
“Since then, I’ve met so many great people that I felt I could help which has led to other successful business ventures such as, Munch Meals, Ambition Threads, Ruck Nutrition, and the Protein Shack Shop. All have seen significant growth in just a short period of time. I owe all of that to the support of my team and the people that originally launched each business.”
“Overall my experience here in Middle Tennessee has been nothing short of unbelievable. Tennesseans are the best people I’ve ever met and they are the reason that we have built something so special in such a short period of time. I can’t wait to see what’s next, but I know this is crazy ride is just beginning.”
Throughout his time in Nashville, Mike has used his experience to better his community and those around him, whether they be in or outside of the supplement industry.
“We just want to be known as one of the better companies in town that surrounds itself with good people. The rest will take care of itself. That’s why we like to offer unique giveaways to our customers like Titans football tickets or we will take all of our ambassadors to a Predators hockey game. We’re a community, just like the rest of the fitness industry in Nashville and that’s what makes us grow. We want to offer the best service and best pricing to the best people we can.”