4 min read

Sensible Fitness - GRITfit

I run a small fitness gym that focuses on sensible fitness for REAL people. My customers are typically people who are looking for a different experience of fitness that doesn't center so much around how their bodies LOOK and more around how their bodies FEEL.
Sensible Fitness - GRITfit

Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Helen Thoenes, Owner of GRITfit, Inc., located in Oro Valley, AZ, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I run a small fitness gym that focuses on sensible fitness for real people. My customers are typically people who are looking for a different experience of fitness that doesn't center so much around how their bodies LOOK and more around how their bodies feel.

Many of our clients have had negative or unrewarding experiences with the fitness industry in the past. They are looking for a gym that is safe, accepting, judgment-free, and willing to create a program that customizes movement for each client based on their individual needs and limitations.

Tell us about yourself

I had been in the fitness industry for close to a decade and had become disenchanted with the typical approach to exercise/movement, which was all about trying to control “misbehaving” bodies. From my perspective, the industry was (and very much still is) focused entirely on controlling what the clients' bodies looked like with little regard for how the clients' bodies functioned and felt. I was a part of a program that used coercion, bullying, strong-arming, and cult-like loyalty to get athletes to conform to the program. The "positive" results (bodies that became smaller and looked more like the cultural "thin ideal') belied the actual harm I believed was being done, and I resolved to find a better way to help people achieve real, sustainable, and long-term health benefits.

My approach includes mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well as physical health. My approach is anti-diet culture and HAES (Health at Every Size) aligned.
The GRITfit approach is intended to help clients become more present in and connected to their body and their life. Bodies and lives change frequently. It can be really challenging for people to determine what they want and, more importantly, what they need at any given time! Add to that the social pressure to look good at any cost, stay young forever and perform flawlessly, and it becomes nearly impossible to choose a movement that feels good and is appropriate for a client’s current circumstances.

By providing quality coaching, personalized movement customizations, and cultivating a community that values self-exploration, clients begin to discover an entirely different experience of exercise. Through this process, they begin to realize the many benefits of movement that go so much deeper than how their body looks or performs. Fitness freedom and autonomy, what we call “sensible fitness for real people,” better prepare our clients to advocate for themselves whether they are in the gym or out in the world living their lives. And who doesn’t want more freedom to choose what is best for themselves?

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

One of my biggest accomplishments is having survived the pandemic and kept the doors of my business open (even when the doors weren't open!). We did a quick pivot and took our entire business online while we continued to honor our lease responsibilities. I am very proud of the community of support and acceptance that exists inside of GRITfit and the many ways that my coaches and I are able to help people come into a better relationship with exercise/movement, with their bodies, and with their own experiences of living.

We help people begin to discern and pay more attention to what is truly important through the medium of movement/fitness/exercise.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I am so confident when it comes to the "content" areas of my business. I understand body mechanics and am great at programming. I have a good sense of how to care for and relate to people and their struggles. But knowing how to coach clients is the very smallest part of running this business.

It was difficult to discover that I didn't even know what I didn't know :-)! I am learning more every day about what it takes to be a good businesswoman (marketing strategies, business plans, staffing issues, resource management, etc.), but that is, without question, the most difficult part of owning a business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Make sure you have more money than you think you will need to get started! There are so many unexpected expenses that you could never imagine.
  2. Know who your client is and what you are trying to do for them.
  3. Have a solid business plan.

Where can people find you and your business?

Website: https://gritfittucson.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gritfittucson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gritfittucson/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gritfittucson
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/helen-thoenes-88170a67/

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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