I’ve always believed in the concept: “when one door closes another one opens”, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when my personal training business came to a sudden halt as a result of Covid-19.

Nearly two years ago, I left my full-time gym job to follow my dream and open a boutique studio. I loved the idea of running my own business and helping women achieve their health and fitness goals. Pink barn doors, towel service, bottled water, bathroom/shower amenities, rainbow-coloured dumbbells and an espresso/shake bar are just a few of the unique features at Laura Jackson Fitness —- it’s the ultimate girls’ gym!

Last winter I was ready and eager to take on new clients —- until Covid took over the world in what seemed like a moment’s notice. With that said, I’m extremely grateful to have a fully-equipped space where I can continue to work out. I’m not sure how I would have coped without a daily exercise routine otherwise. Like many gym-goers, physical fitness plays a significant role in my mental health and stress management.

Although I’ve been a Can Fit Pro Personal Trainer Specialist for over twenty years, my own personal transformation didn’t happen until I decided to prepare for a fitness competition. I will never forget the feeling of achieving what I set out to do. In fact, I haven’t looked back and I continue to compete today.  From the hair and make-up, to the crystal suit, to the photoshoot, I felt totally empowered by the entire experience. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to empower and uplift women on their own health and fitness journeys.

To continue my mission during Covid, I came up with a temporary solution. I would run online challenges that could help women stay healthy during the pandemic, while also supporting local, female entrepreneurs who were struggling to keep their businesses going.

Many of the women around me were feeling unmotivated, uninspired and stuck without access to gyms or their social circles. So, I thought the challenges would offer a vehicle to support them during these unprecedented times.

I immediately linked arms with Christine Baldwin, the owner of The Pink Door and Pink Champagne boutiques located in Etobicoke. I created posters and we started sharing them online. By January 3, there were over 40 women signed up. Christine generously donated over $1,000 in prizes and I donated personal training sessions.

“Laura is one of my customers and I was immediately impressed by her positivity, enthusiasm and passion for fitness and health. As a small business owner, I love partnering with other small businesses to further our collective goals. It’s a win-win because we bring our mutual clients together. It’s incredible when you create a collaborative community,” says Baldwin.

As a small business owner, she says the hardest part about the lockdown has been the inability to interact with her customers. However, since she was willing to pivot and connect virtually, her business has experienced significant growth. “With our increased Instagram presence and collaborations with businesses like Laura Jackson Fitness, we’ve been able to turn this challenging time into an increased client base.”

Although it’s been several months since my initial collaboration with The Pink Door, I continue to run monthly challenges and partner with female entrepreneurs who offer products and services in the fitness, fashion and beauty industries. The concept is simple: when we fill our own cups, we feel good about ourselves and are better able to serve others. At the end of the day, that’s what these challenges are really about.

All participants have access to an exclusive fitness app, which include weekly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts with videos, custom nutrition plans, supplement recommendations and delicious recipes. The private group chat is essential for daily support, helpful tips, motivation and a sense of community. Last month we began integrating the Apple Watch and it has been a total game changer. The women are highly motivated to ‘close their activity rings’ each day. This has been one of the best ways to keep everyone accountable; especially those who enjoy a bit of friendly competition.

The live zoom bootcamp workouts have definitely gotten me out of my comfort zone. As a personal trainer, I have grown accustomed to instructing clients one-on-one, but now I’m sweating it out with them! It’s a whole new experience that not only challenges me in new ways, but also creates face-to-face interaction with the participants.

Stacey Harrison has been an active member of the challenges from the very beginning. Her commitment has been astounding, and as a result, she’s won several prizes. More than that, though, she has surpassed her personal health and fitness goals by releasing nearly 15 lbs and several inches.

“I needed to make a change and I didn’t have the willpower to do it alone. I let the excuse of the pandemic affect my eating habits and my mental health,” says Harrison. “Laura was eager to help me achieve my goals. I have enjoyed the camaraderie, uplifting moments between women, real conversations, support and accountability. Having complete strangers come into your life only to offer love and support is an amazing thing,” she added.

Ana Philip began her health and fitness journey in December of 2020. “When I entered the transformation challenge, I wasn’t sure if I could reach my goal. Like most people, I was skeptical that this would work for me. To my surprise, I was able to release a lot of weight and I was excited to lose more and see how far I could take it. So far, I have amazed myself by losing 64 lbs. This challenge has taught me to believe in myself and has given me all the tools I need to live a healthy life.”

Ana says the supportive group of women is what keeps her coming back to the challenges each month. “I especially love the zoom workouts because we’re all doing the exercises together. I love seeing the changes in all of the ladies involved. All of this is possible because of our trainer Laura Jackson who has brought us together and made us all stronger. I will continue to do these challenges every month,” she added.

Each business that partners with a challenge has the opportunity to run their own live zoom workshops. This gives them an alternative platform to share their expertise, products and services. Some of the topics have included: D.I.Y. skincare from Glow Beauty Bar; wardrobe tips and body type analysis with professional style expert Barbara Aleks, along with quick and easy make-up tips from professional make-up artist, Valeria Nova of Two Chicks and Some Lipstick. Past prizes have included: a massage, a facial, a spray tan, fresh cut flowers, personal training sessions, gift cards, jewelry, clothing, supplements, books and e-courses. This keeps the challenges fun, engaging and exciting. To balance out the intense bootcamp workouts, I often bring on a guest yoga teacher to work on flexibility and mindset.

Furthermore, the challenges also serve as a platform to bring awareness to important causes that impact women’s lives. The January Challenge raised over $1,000 for the Assaulted Women’s Helpline —- an Ontario-based non-profit that supports women who are subjected to domestic violence. To celebrate heart month, we partnered with the Heart & Stroke Foundation and exceeded our fundraising goal of $500. In the last challenge we donated a portion of the proceeds to Dress for Success; a local non-profit devoted to empowering women to achieve economic independence.

I look forward to getting back to training clients in my studio once the restrictions are lifted. But for now, I am enjoying the opportunity to connect with so many women online.  At the end of the day, we need to stay safe, stop the spread of the virus and take care of ourselves and each other as best we can.

Laura Jackson is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, figure competitor and writer
 who can be found at:
www.laurajacksonfitness.com   (website) 
www.dumbbellsandhighheels.com   (blog)
@laurajacksonfit.  (IG)
laurajacksonfitness (FB)