NEW ULM - At Anytime Fitness in New Ulm, the staff doesn't try to hide the fact that working out is a challenging lifestyle to commit to.
Before opening the club five years ago, Jill Augustin had never worked out in a gym before. She found them intimidating and overwhelming.
Staff members Drew Aufderheide and Lori Mathiowetz also didn't see themselves fitting into the fitness world.
The New Ulm Anytime Fitness staff. Pictured are (left to right): Lori Mathiowetz (Health and Well-being Coordinator, Certified Yoga Instructor, Meditation Teacher), Drew Aufderheide (H2i, or “Hired to Inspire”), Brynne Retzlaff (B.A. in Exercise Science, pursuing Fitness Specialty Certification with the American College of Sports Medicine), Melissa Siegmann (Nutritional Counselor, Certified Diplomat in Nutrition Education and Health from University of Miami School of Medicine), Jill Augustin (Owner, Registered Yoga Instructor), Justin Filzen (Master Trainer, B.S. in Exercise Physiology and Personal Training certification from the American College of Sports Medicine). Not pictured: Joan Lindholm (Independent Registered Yoga Instructor).
"I find it very funny that the three of us are doing this, because none of us ever came from a fitness background," Aufderheide said. "We never thought there was a place in exercise for us."
After witnessing the transformative power of exercise in their own lives, Augustin and her staff are dedicated to helping anyone who walks through their door make the same life-changing discovery.
As for the people who make excuses for not working out? Augustin understands them, she used to be the same way herself.
The Fitness Rebellion Manifesto
"I reject the notion that beauty, desirability and worthiness are one size fits all. I think happy people are the healthiest people. It's not enough to just look good on the outside. I want to feel good on the inside, too.
I will give my one, precious body the respect it deserves. We've been together a long time, and we've got miles to go. When my body is strong, I am strong. When my body feels good, I feel good. When I take care of my body, it takes care of me.
I celebrate the little victories. From the first pair of running shoes I lace up (pause!) to the morning I didn't feel like waking up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, but did it anyway. These are my personal triumphs, and I think each one deserves a parade.
I believe sweat stains can become a badge of honor. And each of my muscles has a story to tell.
I will stop seeing the gym as time wasted working out and start seeing it as time invested in working on me.
I will turn my inertia into my momentum.
I will do something with my mind, my body and my life.
I want to improve the world, and I believe that begins by improving me - because when I feel my best, I can be my best. And when I am my best, anything is possible.
This is my commitment to me."
"I am the poster child for all sweat-haters and excuse-makers," Augustin said. "So everything we do at Anytime Fitness in New Ulm is designed to support, educate and motivate lifestyle changes for people at all levels of the health and fitness journey.
"We take a holistic approach to health and wellness and strive to meet the needs of people actively seeking to improve their health and well-being. There are a lot of people out there just like me who feel that they don't have a place in the traditional fitness conversation and feel like gyms are just for athletes. We're changing that by creating a space that not only appeals to the super users, like the weight lifters and the marathon runners, but also a space that's welcoming, inspirational, educational and supportive for the newbies, like me."
In order to create a welcoming environment, the club is in a continual process of improvement, both in its physical layout and in the services it offers.
In late November, the club completed its most recent set of renovations, which included repainting all the walls, resurfacing the floors, adding new equipment and redesigning one of its two training studios to optimize the space for larger group classes, workshops and yoga.
Also included in the latest renovations was the addition of the "Fitness On Request" service, which allows members to use a studio that has been equipped with a theater system to access more than 50 video fitness classes from eight different genres, 24 hours a day.
"We will always be committed to reinventing ourselves as the needs of our members evolve, so we continue to maximize the experience that our members have come to expect," Augustin said.
Perhaps the most exciting innovation that the club has recently added is the introduction of the Fitness Rebellion - a program designed specifically to give a voice to non-exercisers and help them foster a passion for a healthy lifestyle.
"The Fitness Rebellion is really designed to change the traditional conversation about fitness - it's not just about treadmills and tight abs and marathons, it's about celebrating the little wins and the little victories, like just making it to the gym three days a week," Augustin said. "We want people to value those baby steps, and to recognize that all of those efforts lead to a healthy lifestyle."
To support the Fitness Rebellion, the club is launching a new series of Rebel Challenges beginning in late January. Augustin describes the challenges as a new approach to the traditional boot camp. The Rebel Challenges are built on the concept of self improvement and positive reinforcement to help participants change their "I can't" to "I can" and make the connection between regular exercise and feeling great - similar to Pavlovian conditioning.
"We're developing an exercise program for people that goes beyond high intensity physical exercise, but also supports them on an emotional and mental level - behavior modification, for example, is a big part of making these changes," Augustin said. "Real transformation starts with movement - you can think about it and intellectualize it as much as you want, but once you start moving you begin to change your brain chemistry and a new connection is made... it's not something you can explain to someone, they just have to experience it."
The Fitness Rebellion is just the latest reminder that Anytime Fitness is "not your typical, traditional gym," as Augustin puts it.
"Exercise is a science, we're always learning new things and we're always improving the way that we do things, or the way that people can do things to get that result," Augustin said. "In the end, our goal is to help people create a healthy and happy lifestyle that is sustainable."
Augustin has made a point of bringing together highly qualified fitness professionals to support that effort.
Master Trainer Justin Filzen holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and Personal Training certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, regarded as the highest credentials in the industry. Exercise Specialist Brynne Retzlaff has a B.A. in Exercise Science and is pursuing Fitness Specialty Certification with the American College of Sports Medicine, which is an advanced personal training certification that will qualify her to prescribe exercise to special populations with chronic health conditions.
Along with being highly qualified, the staff at Anytime Fitness have the advantage of knowing exactly what it's like to feel like an outsider in the exercise world, an invaluable quality that helps make for highly insightful personal guidance.
For Aufderheide, after enduring high school in an environment where people made no secret that working out wasn't for him, he discovered in a fitness class at Minnesota State University, Mankato that popular opinion didn't matter - he began working out, and hasn't stopped since.
"I became a healthier individual for it, and it made me more of a confident person," Aufderheide said. "My positive energy went through the roof, it was just one of those things where the lightbulb just goes on, it's like, 'Oh, this is really nice,' so I just continued through with it."
After graduating with a degree in Recreation Parks and Leisure Management, Aufderheide made his way to Anytime Fitness, where Augustin says he has become "a really positive energy in the gym."
Mathiowetz did her undergrad and graduate studies at St. Catherine's University in St. Paul, and after returning to the area she found that becoming the club's Health and Well-being Coordinator surprisingly fit exactly what she wanted to do.
"When I came back here, I guess I just naturally fit into what we were doing here, though I didn't really ever imagine it would work out that way, because I didn't see myself ever fitting into the fitness world," Mathiowetz said. "I was like, 'What does fitness have to do with helping people, or counseling people?' What I realized is that it has everything to do with it. Anytime Fitness as a franchise is moving more in this direction, getting away from just the New Year's Resolution, and really taking care of people when they're vulnerable."
Mathiowetz was hired to direct the club's health coaching services.
"Our health coaching approach is unique in the fitness industry, and seeks to fully understand our members' needs and health goals," Augustin said. "We create personal fitness plans to address physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues. We help people recognize and understand their behaviors and work to teach them techniques to modify those behaviors so that they are able to create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle."
Additionally, the club offers a program, Exercise Is Medicine, that provides personal assistance to individuals who are deconditioned or struggling with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The program requires a four-week commitment with a dedicated personal fitness coach, who provides individual instruction of professionally designed workout programs that combine cardiorespiratory and strength training, nutrition education and stress-relief management techniques.
Next spring, the club will be implementing a program designed to support cancer patients and survivors to include exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, as well as nutrition education.
Recently, the club added a Nutrition Counselor, Melissa Siegmann, to teach members about a healthy diet.
Siegmann is a Certified Diplomat in Nutrition Education and Health, which she obtained from the University of Miami School of Medicine.
The club currently offers a web-based wellness tool for diet and activity tracking as well as meal planning, www.anytimehealth.com, but having Siegmann on staff will bring the club's capabilities in the nutrition field to a whole new level.
At the end of the day, Augustin knows that state-of-the art equipment and a brochure filled with programs and services isn't what keeps people coming through the door of the gym. That's why she will always be committed to creating the best possible experience at the gym, so that everyone feels welcome.
"What really matters to people is the culture that we have created here. People supporting each other and getting healthy together," Augustin said. "When people make that decision to step up and commit to a healthy lifestyle, I want to be there for them. I want them to know that we 'get it.' We stand with them. We understand what they're going through, and we honor and respect their effort."
Learn more about New Ulm Anytime Fitness at: www.anytimefitness.com/ gyms/1176