Photo: There was a large turnout for the FitMama grand opening (above) on Saturday to celebrate its new location in Elburn. The new modern fitness facility is located at 707 Herra St. in Elburn. Photos by Kimberly Anderson
by Joe Spitzzeri
ELBURN—To say that Elburn resident Erin Schaefer has quickly moved up the ranks of health club ownership would be an understatement.
Schaefer’s gym celebrated its grand opening on Saturday morning. Located at 707 Herra St. in Elburn, FitMama is the culmination of an idea Schaefer got from her former personal trainer.
“I lost a lot of weight, but then my trainer told me that he was moving away, so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do,” she said. “He told me that I myself should become a trainer since I already had a lot of knowledge on exercise routines, eating healthy and other ways to keep in shape.”
Schaefer started a little “boot camp” with six of her friends in May 2011. By that point, she had already been a certified trainer for one year. “The six of us started it out in a park, and we hired a babysitter to watch the kids so the other mothers could just have a break and concentrate on themselves while their kids got good exercise, as well,” Schaefer said.
More and more friends joined in with Schaefer. One of them asked about doing evening sessions, so Schaefer started doing a night workout, as well as her daytime routine.
Schaefer thought the workout sessions were just a summertime gig, so she was surprised when her friends wanted to continue the program through the winter.
“I rented out a pretty small place in Wasco, (and taught) about 42 ladies at that point in time. As time went on, (session turnout) started to grow much faster than I anticipated,” Schaefer said. “Ninety percent of the members were joining from word of mouth, and the other 10 percent were joining just from driving by. Now we are in this great new place in Elburn with over 120 members.”
Schaefer opened a FitMama location in LaFox last winter.
Meagan Provencher, an original member of the boot camp, said the difference between Schaefer’s gym and other gyms is that FitMama members are friends with each other.
“We are not just about getting results. It gives you a major social aspect in meeting a ton of great new people … you actually cannot wait to go work out with friends, rather than a gym where its mostly younger people, and you might feel awkward,” she said. “For these women, the friendship aspect has been one of the most important parts of all. Many of us ladies have started doing things we would have never dreamed, like joining 5ks to marathons, and even all the way up to triathlons together, just because of the camaraderie we share.”
As inspiration, Schaefer keeps one of her old pre-weight-loss belts on the wall for everyone to see how much work she has put in. She uses the belt as a reminder that “anyone can lose weight, especially with the help of over 120 friends that are there to support you 100 percent of the way.”
The membership doesn’t stop when people leave the gym, either. When a member’s husband had a major surgery, the women got together and made an array of meals for the family. Little acts of kindness like these show the bond these women have made with each other outside of their workout routines.
Schaefer also hosts two different 5k runs a year through FitMama. One race takes place Mother’s Day weekend, and the other takes place Thanksgiving morning. FitMama members also get together to collect food for the Elburn Food Pantry during the races.
“FitMama has changed my life,” member Diann Saylors said. “I hated everything about exercise, and now I can actually stick with this, because it’s friends and other women you get to meet from the community with the same goal.”
Diann was one of the original members of Schafer’s workout group, when it was just six friends working out in a park.
“Erin has an amazing story; she’s a great inspiration to all of us, helping hundreds of people,” she said. “We love this place and will definitely be a part of this gym for as long as its here. It’s all about friends and getting it done together, almost like being a family.
“With all your friends, it’s really funny how open you become to trying all sorts of new things and exercises you never would have thought you would do before.”