I had no plan of owning my own fitness studio, so how did I get to where I am today, and loving what I do?

The definition of “Serendipity” is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. A bit of good luck or a happy coincidence.

I wouldn’t say every path that lead me to this moment where I am today was at all happy or good luck, but once I made the decision that this was what I was going to do, EVERYTHING fell into place! That was Serendipitous!” – Audrey

Many people have asked me, how I got started in teaching fitness, or to be more specific, what led me to owning my own Aerial Yoga studio?

So here is my story.

I wasn’t very much into exercise when in my 20’s and 30’s, I had three sons who were active in swimming, and racing motorcycles and we played a lot outside, so just chasing after my boys helped keep me in shape. But one day, one of my friends took me to a Jazzercise fitness class and I absolutely fell in love with it! I loved the music and the energy in the class and especially how I felt after the workout! I had such an uplifting feeling when I left each class and I couldn’t wait to go again. Back then in my late 20’s I thought I would like to teach Jazzercise, but I had very little confidence in myself and was extremely terrified of speaking in front of people. So I thought, “I could NEVER teach that in front of a lot of people”. So I let my fear of public speaking stop me from pursuing it.

I was a shy person that had a very low self-esteem. I was content with remaining quiet and letting life just happen. I got married very young and never went to college. I depended a lot on my husband and was content working part time jobs to stay home with my 3 boys.

Later in my 40’s I was diagnosed with Osteopenia, which is the beginnings of Osteoporosis. My Mom has Osteoporosis and it has caused her to hunch over so much and her bones are very frail. My doctor told me diet and weight bearing exercise can reverse it, so I started working out at the gym lifting weights and taking group fitness classes. I loved the way it sculpted my body but most of all how it made me feel! I started going to the gym or running on my treadmill at home regularly. Although, I dreaded the treadmill, I loved Zumba! I had an instructor at the gym named Angela that had a way to motivate you and get you moving and enjoying it. She really knew how to bring energy into the class and I loved it. I continued to go to Zumba class for several years.

Later, my husband found out that he had a terrifying brain tumor. Fortunately the surgery removed the tumor, but because of his result of the brain tumor, it effected his ability to continue working at the level he had been working and our income dropped drastically. At that point, we were in mid-construction of a huge room addition on our home when my husband lost his job for the first time. This would be one of a few jobs lost since his brain tumor and our income was never stable. Because I could no longer afford the gym membership, sadly, I had to end my membership. I missed taking my Zumba classes with Angela, but I had an idea; “What if I got certified to teach Zumba myself, and taught it in that big empty room where we started the addition on our home?”  What better way to make good use of that room that we never were able to finish it for what it was intended to be used for! Kind of like making lemonade out of lemons! Or perhaps, this was a step in a direction I was intended to go all along?

So that’s what I did. Because I was uncomfortable and shy and a little unsure of myself teaching in front of people, I started teaching to just my friends at first. Then they starting bringing their friends. I gradually started gaining confidence as I grew and then I was asked to teach at Powhatan High School’s after hours for the teachers and faculty. After that, I was asked to teach the high school’s after school adult education program. After I gained more confidence I branched out and started teaching at Premier Dance Studio and then American Family Fitness. I subbed a lot too. I absolutely loved teaching it and loved the workouts too. I’m so happy I had such a wonderful instructor like Angela, she taught me how to make Zumba fun and enjoy the workouts. And when you think about it, here I was doing what I wanted to do back in my 20’s but was too afraid to do it then!

Sometimes we just need a good push or something in life that shifts to force us to step out of our comfort zone a little to do things we thought we never could do before.

I was slowly gaining confidence in myself and I had clients showing up to my home every evening for Zumba classes. I enjoyed my clients and truly enjoyed teaching! I taught Zumba at my house for over 5 years. After a couple years, I branched out into teaching more styles of fitness, such as Cardio Kick Butt, (which is now called Guns, Buns, and 6 Packs), Yoga and Barre.

Then I got a setback. Because I was teaching so many classes, I developed an overuse injury. I badly tore the peroneal tendon in my ankle. I had to have surgery to repair it and it took almost 1 year of physical therapy to get back to normal. Because of the boot, the brace, or cast and crutches from the ankle injury, I developed severe back pain. After many x-rays and MRI’s on my back, it was discovered that I have an extra vertebrae that is partially fused or not completely developed. Which explained my constant back pain.

I bought an inversion table to help alleviate the pain, and it was helpful. At that time, I was thinking I may need to stop teaching Zumba or any other fitness classes because it was too hard on my body. I didn’t want to because I loved it so much, and I loved being a fitness instructor. I thought, “If only I could find something that was kinder to my body, that I could teach instead”.

This is where everything started falling into place.

At that very time, there was a fitness magazine that came to me in the mail that had a picture of Aerial Yoga on the cover. Right then I said, “That’s it! Aerial Yoga!” “I have to try this!!” So I instantly started looking for a place near me that offered it, but there was not a single studio that offered it here in this area. The closest one I found was in Florida, so I drove all the way to Florida to try it for the first time.

The minute I got into the hammock, I was hooked! I knew this was what I wanted to teach. One class is all I took, but I knew this was it and I went to training in New York right away. I wished I had taken more classes than just one, though, before I went to training because I felt like a fish out of water. Most people in training were very comfortable because they had done many classes before, but me, I was a mess! Also remember, I am not at all comfortable with speaking in front of a group so I was a nervous wreck in my training. Once I got home, though I practiced and practiced until I felt knowledgeable of my material.

At first, I was going to teach it at my home studio, but once I found out how much space I needed, I realized I could only have about 3 hammocks, so I decide to start looking for a studio space.

The day my husband and I went looking for a space in Richmond, we drove straight to my studio, and at that time there was an open house. Was that a sign of the Universe lining up or what? It was perfect, just the right size and a beautiful space. The space used to be a flooring company and there were these wooden planks hanging from the ceiling that now perfectly divide the space between each hammock as if it was meant to be there.

We signed the papers and the ball started rolling to get this business up and running. Opening day was on June 2, 2014.

It wasn’t happily ever after though. I’ve found that many times when you lay out a plan, sometimes the Universe will have obstacles in front of you just to test your strength. And I was definitely being tested big time! It wasn’t easy getting the right rigging for my Aerial Hammocks, and I had no guidance from the company I got certified from, since I didn’t buy into their Franchise. Because Aerial Yoga in fitness studios was so new, not very many people knew how to hang them or what the requirements were, so it was quite a struggle to learn what I needed to know and how to get them installed. As it turns out, I spent way too much money in the installation than I ever needed to. But at least I know it’s safe!  I sent out invitations to local neighborhoods to announce my opening day.

On opening day after all the stresses of trying to get the hammocks hung and the steel installed properly the night before, my husband called me with some bad news just as I was welcoming new clients into my studio. He said, “I hate to add to your stress, but I just got laid off again.”  I sat in shock for a minute or two, then started to cry. I thought I could rely on his income for a while until the studio started making money. I didn’t know what to do. I had a family member advise me that maybe I should count my losses now and quit. She said, “The only thing you would lose is the deposit on the lease and the money invested in the install.”

Later someone asked me if I was ready to run with this business and I said, “No! I’m scared to death!” but he said, “Good! Cause the scared fish swims faster!” Those words stuck in my head and I realized I had no choice but to swim fast.

At that time, I had a song come on my playlist that hit me and made me stop and think, “If I don’t do this, someone else will, and I will regret it for not even trying. The song was Keep your head up by Andy Grammer. Right there I decided to go for it, give it all I have and make it work. Again, another heart breaking event happened just two weeks later. My Dad passed away. It was a sudden death and I was crushed. Dealing with the grieving of my dad while trying to teach an upbeat fitness class was extremely hard, but I feel the studio actually helped me to get through it. I got to greet new friends and take the focus off myself and practice what Yoga is all about, living in the present moment and having gratitude. But the troubles didn’t end after that. A month later, my son was hospitalized for a life threatening illness. By this time I was really questioning, “Did I make the right decision keeping the studio or should I have quit before at the beginning?” But I kept pushing forward. I knew this is what I wanted to do so the harder it got, the harder I pushed forward. At times it felt as if I was pushing forward into the strongest windstorm ever, but I was still moving forward. During all of this I got laryngitis that lasted for a month. Can you imagine teaching a fitness class with just a whisper and making only hand gestures? My doctor said it was brought on merely by all the stress I was going through. I was so afraid my clients would never come back!

I know I’m no different than others that have struggles. But through all this I was taught to be tougher, and no matter how hard things get, I know I can get through it. I can say to myself, “This too shall pass!” and know it will. You can’t control what happens to you, the only thing you can control is how you handle it and what you decide to do with it. You can quit, or you can push on. Only you will know what you need to do and what is best for you. Don’t let others tell you what is best for you, because many times, although they mean well, they want you to do what is easy for you because they don’t like to see you suffer. But maybe what is easy for you is not what you need. Sometimes these struggles will make you that much stronger and wiser. It will make you grow in areas where you are weak and also give you compassion and understanding of others.

I am very happy I started my studio, Fighting Gravity Fitness, and I enjoy teaching every single day!  I love what I offer at the studio as far as classes we teach and I absolutely love each one of my clients and my staff. I feel I have the best job ever. I often think, “what workplace can you go to where you laugh all day, get to wear comfy clothes, workout doing fitness classes that you love and have the happiest atmosphere every single day?” I am a happy girl, and I am super happy that I stuck it out and didn’t quit! And yes, I’m pretty proud of this shy girl coming out of her shell!

I finish each Aerial class with this Mantra because it just resonates with me … “May you be free, may you have peace, may you have grace, and may you have courage”

If anyone wants to connect with me, need support or tell me your story, I am here to listen! You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or email me at audrey@fightinggravityfit.com and I would love to meet you and have you try one of our classes!