You may not know this but before I taught my first ever dance fitness class back in 2012 I was already looking at commercial properties. I was put off because the thoughts of being stuck in one place and then being screwed if it all went belly up terrified me. So I put it to bed, but it was always in the back of my mind. A pipe dream shrouded in fear.
Fast forward to 2015 after a string of certifications, qualifications, busy classes and failed ones, sleepless nights and losing my home I got to a point in the year where I was faced with either giving it all up and getting a “real” job or making one last attempt to try something new.
It’s really true when they say there are two definitions of fear. Fuck everything and run… or Face Everything And Rise.
On the day I signed the lease for the studio, I actually turned down a minimum wage job offer at a commercial gym.
Sure why not when I had nothing left to lose. And desperate to keep doing what I loved, on my own terms.
On the day that I opened #NoFilter 28 women who I had never met before signed up without taking even a taster class.
Sure setting up shop was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken, with a huge amount of overheads and not to mention the extra work. But the advantage of that was I had my own place, no need to move from hall to hall dragging stuff in and out of car, being stuck to set times because halls weren’t available or turning up to a class to find that the hall was double booked. Those advantages aside there is one thing that happened that made it clear that I made the right decision.
I had the time and the place to chat to the members.
I’ve heard so many stories and I’m grateful for every one of them. I’ve heard about suffering with anxiety. I’ve heard about dealing with depression. I’ve heard about cancer scares. I’ve heard how parents have withered in old age and the fear of going the same way. I’ve heard about not so very nice ex partners and now difficult relationships and how hard it is for the kids. I’ve heard about inabilities to climb stairs or play with children. I’ve heard about illness in families and how hard it is to constantly be the pillar of strength. I’ve heard about addictions and I’ve also heard about chronic illnesses, sleep disorders, stressful home life, relationships intolerable work environment, bullying, bereavement, heartache, redundancies.
It may sound a bit bleak, in a world where we depict the perfect life to our hundreds or thousands of social “friends”, but the reality is that we all go through shite at some point and this happens to be a place that helps manage that.
It’s not just a gym. It’s a place where friendships blossom. It’s where yes you can get fit, tone up, lose weight, but you can also escape from the realities that we feel we cannot talk openly about.
Of all the stories above, a few short months down the line I’ve also heard of huge turnarounds. Being able to bend over and tie your shoelace without getting out of breath. Being able to run your first 5k fun run. Improved sex life and relationship security. Improved confidence, self esteem and being able to help others more now because you help yourself. Climbing the stairs in work without breaking a sweat. Learning that the negative opinions of others do not matter. Better patience and temperament. No one has told me that they felt worse than when they started.
I’m not a therapist, but I’ve always said that exercise is more important for the mind than anything else. Once you look after the mind, everything else falls into place. And that’s speaking from personal experience.
And rest assured, while there are plenty of members who have walked through that door may not have shared their stories with me, or may feel generally in an OK place in their life right now, who’s to say that they may never hit a bump in the road where they need somewhere to escape? When is life 100% fabulous from birth to death for anyone?
It’s not a place for the broken to get fixed, even though we might help you find some glue. It’s not a place for the InstaFit to shred and take selfies, though we have produced some fine peachy bums hehe. It’s just a place where everyday women just want to laugh, have the craic, get stronger both mentally and physically and in general improve their quality of life both now and for their future years.
In hindsight, hitting rock bottom was probably the best thing that happened to me. I now get to walk into this wonderful place everyday and buzz off of such amazing, strong, beautiful women who are everything that stand against the “norms” of the fitness industry as it’s widely known now.
If you hate the idea of joining a gym then seriously you need to try this out because it has to be experienced to be believed.