By Lajeune Hollis
Debra Fountain has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years. Previously a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and fitness coach, she now owns LIFER Fitness Studio in West Hartford, Connecticut, where she offers cardio, strength training and yoga classes.
But, she wasn’t always so laser-focused on fitness. In fact, she once held a corporate job in New Jersey before leaving to become a stay-at-home mom 26 years ago. It was during those early days of parenthood when she felt that she needed to get back to her “old self” and improve her fitness.
After one day popping in a workout VHS tape that guaranteed results in 10 days or less, she started on her journey to her new identity, with fitness at the forefront. She started working in her home basement as a full-time personal trainer for what eventually led to helping a group of 60 middle-aged female clients reach their fitness goals. She loved her new career path, because she could stay in shape, raise her four children, and help her clients. She even managed to enter and place in two body-building competitions!
Fountain was inspired to create a lifestyle that empowered women. “If you feel strong on the outside, you'll start to feel strong on the inside,” she shared.
Her business name, LIFER, was inspired from the group of her 60 clients in Washington, D.C., who coveted her 6:00am personal training appointment. “Clients would come for their goals and they did not want to give up that spot,” she shared. “They called themselves ‘Lifers’.”
Today, LIFER Fitness Studio employs six fitness instructors who “love what they do and care about their clients,” according to Fountain. She selected each one of them because, as she says, she “worked long and hard enough in the corporate world to know how important it is to nurture and care for the people who work with you and for you.”
Fountain credits God for being the impetus behind opening her business seven years ago. She was content at the time, working in the fitness industry and not having small children to look after. She shared that it was a good life, and she was comfortable. But, “God would not have it,” she shared, and she felt compelled to do things a little differently and start her own business, even if it was tough. “Growing may be painful and there may be suffering,” she said.
She faithfully obeyed and opened her own studio during a milestone birthday year.
“Fitness will give you the best quality of life you can have.”
Fountain prays before each class. “It sets an intention for what I want my class to get,” she explained. Some people have likened her classes to church, from what they describe as intense feelings while working out.
Life – or should we say LIFER – was good, business was humming along and then the pandemic of 2020 hit.
Attendance slowed for her in-person classes, so Fountain started offering Facebook Live classes from March to June 2020. Then she took the classes outside where she could safely offer kickboxing, barre and cycling. After Thanksgiving, LIFER was forced to go completely virtual, so Fountain took the time to invest in virtual equipment to make her clients’ experience better. In April of 2021, LIFER resumed in-person classes, keeping safety measures in mind, like masking and air flow in the studio.
For Fountain, the silver lining of the pandemic was that it allowed her plenty of time to slow down and think about her “why” behind the business.
“I needed to check back into myself,” she explained.
She’s remaining focused on helping people live their best lives and to make fitness a lifestyle.
“Keep trying to find something – running, cycling, walking, swimming. You may not love it the first time but keep trying to live the best possible life on this planet,” she urged. “Fitness will give you the best quality of life you can have.”
LIFER Fitness Studio is located at 20 Jefferson Ave, Suite 6 in West Hartford, Connecticut. The studio offers Unlimited Monthly Memberships for a flat fee of $175/month, which includes unlimited classes from any of their five fitness areas, LIFER Class Packs, consisting of 10-class passes for $165 or 5-class passes for $85, drop-in classes for $17.50, and LIFER Virtual Workout Library, which offers virtual classes for a nominal fee.
Learn more about LIFER Fitness Studio on their website, on Facebook or Instagram.
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By Sarah Thompson
Once Richard Mercer took a Bikram yoga class, he was hooked.
“I was a former Division 1A football player, I frequently experienced tight and sore muscles, and I wasn’t flexible. I knew right away that this yoga would heal me and keep me healthy into old age,” he shared. “After leaving corporate, I went out to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training to learn from Bikram himself and knew that I needed to bring this healing practice to my community.”
And, for 11 years, he’s been offering yoga classes to help provide mental clarity, peace, strength, balance and fitness for hundreds of people.
“We are an inclusive, supportive community welcoming to all, regardless of ability, age or background,” he shared. “We inspire curiosity and innovation while helping people on their path to better, more sustainable physical, mental and spiritual wellness. Your quality of life will be improved with our holistic approach to wellness.”
Tucked away on a side road in the Weatogue section of Simsbury sits Mercer’s yoga studio, which he runs with his wife, Laurie.
“We have a partnership and each work to our strengths to support the common goal,” shared Mercer. “Having a partner you can implicitly trust is priceless, and we work together to make sure the studio is always offering our community the best possible experience.”
The duo offer several different yoga classes, including Bikram, Hot High Intensity, Low Impact Interval Training (HIIT), Flow Yoga and Yin Yoga—each offering their own benefits and styles.
“Our daily lives can lead to a lot of body stress and disconnection. A Bikram Yoga class offsets the external negative influences we regularly encounter. You leave feeling free and grounded,” he explained. “This set sequence class of scientifically designed yoga poses is excellent for beginners and experienced yogis alike. You can easily moderate the intensity level to suit your needs and the exactness of the instruction always offers new learning experiences and opportunities for meditation. The hot room provides a detoxifying effect and allows the muscles and joints to relax for a deeper benefit.”
"I am happy that I get to have a job that brings healing to our community every day and allows me to spend my days doing something that I know will sincerely help people.”
HIIT, on the other hand, is set to music in a fun, fast-paced class. Participants build strength in all muscle groups, including upper and lower core, and partake in in cardio fitness.
“It is for all levels of fitness and ability and you will see results very quickly,” explained Mercer.
Flow Yoga is fast-paced and is a series of yoga postures set to music that helps participants lose weight, gain strength and see results quickly.
“It is generally an athletic class done to music that gives you everything you need in a workout: strength, flexibility, and peace,” he said.
Yin Yoga is a beginner’s class held in a warm room, not as hot as Bikram heat, for all levels. It’s a slow-paced style of yoga, incorporating principles of traditional Chinese medicine, with postures that are held for longer periods of time than other styles.
“Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body—the tendons, fasciae, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility,” shared Mercer. “Yin is a very restorative, healing, and peaceful style of yoga.”
When COVID forced Mercer to close his business on March 17, 2020, he quickly pivoted to provide live streamed classes and offered members access to his extensive library of taped Bikram, HIIT and Yin classes.
But, from day one, Mercer planned to have top-notch cleanliness and health in his studio, including NeoFloor carpet, which is antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial; radiant heating in the floor; an AtmosAir system that kills bacteria and removes odor; concrete floors in the lobby and bathrooms that prevent bacteria from being absorbed; and a large practice space, now marked with spots at least six feet apart.
“We’ve also added treatment of all surfaces with SD 90, an industrial-grade natural cleaner,” shared Mercer. “And we’re continuously running our diffusers with our Immunity Blend and our Cold, Flu, Allergy, Virus Blend.”
In addition to offering a variety of yoga classes, Simsbury Bikram Yoga offers treats like incense, healthy snacks, organic essential oils and yoga mats.
“Because of our holistic, natural approach, we work to locate effective products that don’t do any harm—no toxic ingredients, no sugars, no harmful chemicals,” shared Mercer. “We always try things on ourselves first, long before we put them on the shelf for sale. Why come in here to get yourself healthy physically, and then go out and put unhealthy things on and in you? We want to expose our community to excellent, healthy, safe alternatives to all the junk that is out there.”
Mercer also hopes that people of all walks of life try yoga.
“The majority of yoga communities are white women. The truth is that being Black and male, I believe we have exposed more men and people of color to yoga than most studios,” he shared. “The opportunity is to make sure that more men and communities of color know that this is a welcoming, diverse place for them to be and feel safe.
Bikram Yoga Simsbury is open 7 days a week for limited hours. Their full schedule can be found at www.bikramyogasimsbury.com where they have their full class schedule listed. New members are offered a special deal of $49 for 21 days of unlimited Yoga/HIIT. Simsbury Bikram Yoga can also be reached at (860) 217-1663 and their studio address is 7 Deer Park Rd, Weatogue, CT, 06089.
“I am very grateful to have found this yoga. We’ve been open 11 years now and plan to be here for the long haul, pandemic or not. I am happy that I get to have a job that brings healing to our community every day and allows me to spend my days doing something that I know will sincerely help people.”
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