In the fifth episode of Reach.Live Creator Series, we spoke with Andrea Levine, who works as a lawyer and consultant and is now setting up her new wellness & fitness business. Her ability to manage different professions & interests along with stepping up to create an independent business in these challenging times was very inspiring, so we wanted to share Andrea’s story with the broader instructor and creator community.

For this interview, Andrea chatted with the Reach.Live team from Plainview, New York from her childhood home. Right before this conversation, Andrea had just wrapped up a work-related call with her colleagues from the legal world.

Q: What was the driving factor to get into fitness?

Movement and being physically active was always a big part of growing up. Since my sister and I were very little, we did all sorts of fitness activities and games: gymnastics, soccer, dancing, tennis. From a traditional fitness perspective, my mom was a big fan of Richard Simmons’s videos and my sister and I followed along treating it like a dance party. That was my first foray into exercise. Beginning in high school I struggled with disordered eating and exercise addiction, I felt my value was tied up in my size. Then 6 years ago that really started to change for me. I started viewing exercise differently as something you do for yourself instead of a requirement to look a particular way. I was able to develop physical strengths and skills and later to become confident in my own body. I also began to enjoy exercise for all it offered me. Since then my relationship with exercise became more about confidence and awareness of how to move better and feel happier.

“People started asking me to show them exercises or to join my workouts, and we would sweat and laugh and it became this really positive experience”

Q: How did you start teaching others?

A few friends and colleagues started asking to work out with me. At first I said no, that I don't train, it was something I just did for fun and to stay healthy. This girl came to me and said “I will show up to the gym at the same time you go and just do what you do,” and she did. Then more people started asking me to show them exercises or to join my workouts, and we would sweat and laugh and it became this really positive experience when we would get together.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

I work on this all the time. My elevator pitch is not 100% yet, but I focus on the fitness and wellness journey instead of a particular movement or workout. Being able to spark a different kind of interest in their wellbeing is what I want to help people with. I will make small tweaks during class to make it more enjoyable and purposeful for clients, adapting movements to individuals so they are moving safely and efficiently but also working towards their next milestone. It's a very holistic approach, my clients don't join here just because they want to look better, but because the class makes them feel better. There’s camaraderie, accountability, of course physicality and encouragement to keep going.

Q: Tell us a bit more about how you manage your schedule while doing different things?

Scheduling and boundaries are key. I try to allocate certain hours each day for certain tasks, so I’m not constantly bouncing back and forth between careers and trains of thought. I know that exercising, both when I’m teaching and working out myself, is time to tap into my body and clear my head. It also reduces anxiety so I can be more productive. I also pre-plan to maintain my health goals while being able to network and socialize. One example is calling restaurants ahead and letting them know my diet restrictions so I can be accommodated and 9 out of 10 times they agree. One has to advocate for themselves. And co-workers and colleagues understand. My company is supportive. Work life balance is not this discreet black and white distinction, especially now while most people are working from home, but if you think ahead you can make it work.

“Ultimately, what I really want to create is a program that holistically helps people tap into themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally together”

Q: What do you think is the future of independent business owners like yourself and where do you see it headed in the next 5-10 years?

There are no rules in my personal business. I do sometimes miss that Equinox group setting, but doing things on my own, I can be more flexible with formats. I remind people in my classes that the benefits of fitness are not just physical but also mental, and tailor programs to maximize both. Now I don't have a manager, so clients directly tell me what they want to work on. If they want a different format or program then, if I agree that’s a good fit, I can make that change. It's great and I did not have that luxury working for someone else.

I am looking forward to getting certified in Yoga within the next year. Yoga has taught me a lot about being mindful during movement, and how to carry my body, and I want to be able to provide that learning to class participants. I also plan to continue my education on positive psychology and happiness so that I can help participants thrive in the many different aspects of their lives. Ultimately, what I really want to create is a program that holistically helps people tap into themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally together. Matching the power of physical fitness with mindfulness.

Q: What benefits have you discovered while doing your business via live video?

Remote work has helped strengthen my relationship with certain people and participants. The studio was my platform, but now it's my job to keep up with people, to invite them into my home to sweat and to motivate them when equipment is scarce, apartments are small and schedules are non-existent. I started hosting out-of-the-gym events for members right before COVID-19, so now I’m just combining that social aspect with the fitness piece. I have also started sending my official bi-weekly newsletter, which has science-based wellness information, tips for changing habits, workout playlists and more. It really gives me the space to start thinking about other aspects of wellness, which you cannot fit in a one-hour fitness class.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to fellow fitness instructors who are trying to set up their own independent businesses?

To stay present. Having this screen in front of us makes it harder because while it keeps us connected with people, it still keeps us physically (and potentially emotionally) distant. Our clients still need the form fixes, the cheering on and the energy. This is a novel time and we need new ways to continue to engage.

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