Cassidee Boland walks on a treadmill while reading “She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You” by Chrystal Evans Hurst within the newly renovated Fuel Fitness facility on Brooks Street. Just a year and a half ago, a personal setback caused her to lose her sense of purpose, but you wouldn’t guess that by looking at her now—physically and mentally moving toward a better self.
“I needed to have something in my life that would help me be the person I want to be, the person others can lean on—a good influence in both my personal and work environments,” says the UM alumnus and associate manager of Pruyn Veterinary Hospital.
It’s safe to say that she found that something at the gym. At the time, Fuel Fitness was the closest gym in proximity to where Cassidee lived, but now she commutes across town to remain part of the community she found there.
“I know I will meet people here who will push me,” says Cassidee. “I want to raise the bar every time a goal is accomplished, in a gym setting and in my everyday life.” She closes the book, which Cassidee describes as a roadmap to finding oneself, and steps off the treadmill. It’s a Thursday evening around 7 p.m. and people have populated all sorts of machinery and spaces. “It’s definitely busy this time of night.”
The constant hum of cardio equipment provides a soundtrack for movement as she performs squat lunges with a 50-pound barbell across the expanse of black turf. She stops to stretch her calves and then enters reps on an app she uses for tracking her progress. Nearby, two men take turns doing burpees and a woman does squats with a resistance band. Near the front windows, a man in headphones takes a call while using a dowel to stretch. Along the far wall, another man wipes sweat from his face as he returns an exercise ball to the shelf.
All of this activity is taking place in an open turf area of the gym that is new thanks to the recent renovation in December.
Director of operations Colter Gibson says, “That’s where the fitness industry is going. More of that functional movement.” The space offers easy access to equipment such as kettlebells, jump ropes, and resistance bands, as well as plenty of room to use them. The renovation also entailed moving dumbbells—a popular item, according to Colter—out of a distant corner. They also installed brand new flooring and added rowing machines while downsizing the number of cardio machines to make way for the new turf. “It felt packed before,” says Colter, noting how the gym culture is making a shift in how members want to move.
Even the color scheme got a facelift, with red and yellow giving way to black and gray. “We wanted to neutralize,” says Colter. Past feedback indicated that the previous colors were “aggressive and too much,” so they listened and agreed. With more improvement in mind, beginner-friendly equipment is now grouped separately near the entrance to entice members who might otherwise be intimidated by difficult-to-adjust machinery with unfamiliar features. Every aspect of the renovation has taken what didn’t work and turned it on its head to build a better future for the space and our community.
“We want to bring in young, working professionals—people with families,” says Colter, referencing the gym’s new marketing campaign that is geared toward inclusiveness. “I meet a lot of new people and hear their stories. Everyone has something that brought them to fitness.”
Having grown up playing organized sports, Cassidee was never intimidated by the gym setting but she recognizes that walking up to any gym’s doors can be daunting. She’s quick to admit that Fuel Fitness offers a special culture that’s both supportive and friendly.
“No one shies away from giving or receiving feedback, even if they don’t know you,” says Cassidee. At this point in her workout, she’s moved on to a butterfly stretch and some seated twists. Nearby, a woman lays out a mat and stretches her arms over her head. “If someone recognizes I’m doing something that’s going to injure me, I want to hear that.”
For those who are seeking a surefire way to get feedback at the gym, working with a personal trainer is the best avenue for obtaining realistic goals in a safe yet effective way. The next phase of the Fuel Fitness revamp is to focus on a personal training program and turn what was a group fitness classroom into an area geared toward personal training sessions.
“It’s our next big push,” says Colter. “Personal training is going to be huge.” Cassidee, who has worked with personal trainer Ryan Tripp, says having one-on-one attention has helped her a lot in accomplishing her personal goals and it could offer other members accountability perks to stay on track.
At this point in his own fitness journey, Colter has moved on from the aesthetics of bodybuilding. “I’m more conscious about my long-term health,” he says. “My goal is maintaining a healthy lifestyle and paying attention to other things that will affect me down the line.” Colter cited the example of someone who couldn’t pick up a grandchild, and getting to see that person through the steps of achieving that goal. Being around Fuel Fitness every day, he’s fascinated by what motivates people and what their struggles are. “Seeing people overcome those is huge.”
“I want to raise the bar every time a goal is accomplished, in a gym setting and in my everyday life.” - Cassidee Boland