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More than a workout

The Fitness Boutique creates a welcoming space for women to build their strength and nurture supportive friendships.

“She is strong.”

When clients walk in the door of The Fitness Boutique in Speedway, Indiana, they see this Bible verse from Proverbs 31:25 on the wall in large cursive lettering above a rack of dumbbells.

Sarah Gardner features this message in her women-only studio because faith is a part of everything she does as a business owner, daughter, wife and mother.

“My faith has really grown in the last six years through a lot of the struggles with my dad and his stroke,” Gardner said. “We went through infertility with our children. I lost my mom a few years ago. Faith is what’s gotten me through that. I’ve grown through each of those adversities. I’ve wanted people to know that faith is a part of us and what we do.”

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Gardner has played sports her whole life, she said, and she was on Speedway High School’s volleyball, basketball and softball teams. College was the first time needed to find her own ways to stay active, she said, because she didn’t have a coach telling her to run laps or shoot a layup.

She wasn’t connecting with her engineering classes during her first semester at Purdue University, so she switched her major to health and kinesiology. During her studies, she loved learning about the body and helping her clients feel their best and get stronger — a passion that’s stuck with her throughout the nearly 20 years she has been a personal fitness trainer in Raleigh, North Carolina, Chicago and Indianapolis.

“Clients a lot of the time say, ‘You’ve changed my life,’ and I say, ‘You’ve changed my life. You’ve shown me what’s possible,’” Gardner said. “You spend a lot of time with people, especially if it’s personal training. I spend time getting to know someone’s quirks, what they do for work and their relationships. You’re counseling in a sense too because it’s not just about the workout. There’s so much more that goes into weight loss or muscle gain.”

In 2012, Gardner moved back home to Speedway, where she began working at Anytime Fitness. She and her husband welcomed twin daughters in 2015 and then a son in 2016. Gardner stepped away from her career to be a stay-at-home mother, but she soon felt a calling from God to start her own fitness training business, she said.

“I was angry with God at the moment because I said, ‘This is all I wanted. All I wanted was to be a mom. This is my dream,’” Gardner said. “That’s what my mom did. That’s what I knew. I just felt a calling that said, ‘No, you are going to do more.’

“It took me a while to get my head above the water to see what that would even look like. I just had this vision of women working out in my driveway on a Saturday morning and thought, ‘Okay, that’s the next step. Let’s just try it. Let’s start there.’”

Gardner posted a callout on Facebook for anyone who would be interested, and two women came to her first group fitness class in September 2017. As her children grew, Gardner’s “Stronger with Sarah” classes grew too. When her class sizes increased to 15 women, Gardner began hosting two night classes on Mondays in addition to Saturday mornings.

To give time back to her family, Gardner said, she moved her business out of her driveway in 2021 and began her own fitness studio located at the corner of 16th Street and North Lynhurst Drive in Speedway. Gardner and her five other instructors decided to name the intimate studio space The Fitness Boutique. No matter whether they’re 20 or 80 years old, Gardner said, women can come to The Fitness Boutique, let their guards down and not worry about their makeup or the clothes they’re wearing.

“You don’t have to look a certain way or be able to do a certain exercise,” Gardner said. “You’re going to get a hug during your first class because we’re just going to love on you and welcome you wherever you’re at in your fitness journey.”

A rockin’ workout

After hearing her clients’ interest in adding cardio workouts to their strength training classes, Gardner started offering POUND classes at The Fitness Boutique in June 2023. To lead these classes, Gardner reached out to Kalin Moran, a certified POUND instructor who has also been a client at The Fitness Boutique since late 2021.

Moran first learned about POUND in 2016 while she and her mother were visiting her grandparents in Florida. There, Moran and her mother found a fitness studio and attended a Zumba class, where Moran shared with their instructor how she was earning her degree in music therapy.

Their instructor suggested that because Moran enjoyed music, she should stick around for the next workout, a POUND class. Moran fell in love with POUND, she said, because it felt like she wasn’t even working out while she drummed her ripsticks along to pop and rock music.

In 2017, Moran became a certified POUND instructor after a day-long training session learning POUND’s choreography. Now, Moran leads The Fitness Boutique’s POUND classes on Mondays while balancing earning her master’s degree in mental health counseling through Capella University, nannying and teaching voice and piano lessons.

“I’m someone who likes to stay busy and have variety in my routine,” Moran said. “I like to add in workouts that are fun instead of adding stress or dread to my week. It’s perfect that I get to teach and get my own workout in every week. It fills my cup to have my toe dipped in a little bit of everything.”

Members are eager to unleash their inner rockstar and let loose, Moran said, as there’s currently a waitlist for her POUND classes. Even those who come to class and tell Moran they have no rhythm, she said, she sees them smiling while they work up a sweat drumming along to pop and rock music, like Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

Susie Brooks, a lunch lady at James A. Allison Elementary School, takes five classes a week at The Fitness Boutique. Moran’s POUND classes are the most fun workout she has ever had, she said.

Brooks was one of Gardner’s first two “Stronger with Sarah” clients in 2017. Her daughters played sports with Gardner when they were younger. So, when Brooks saw Gardner’s Facebook post offering group fitness classes at her house, Brooks decided to start her fitness journey in her 50s to strengthen her bones, she said.

As a client of Gardner’s growing business over the past six years, Brooks has seen first-hand Gardner’s dedication to motivating and inspiring her clients both in and out of the studio, Brooks said.

“I am so proud of her,” Brooks said. “She started with two people, and it just grew and grew … We’re all women, we’re all different sizes, and we’re all different ages in there. The people you meet there are just wonderful, wonderful ladies. You make good friends — best friends.”

A vivid future

When Gardner arrives at The Fitness Boutique at 6 a.m., she sees Speedway art teacher Jon Mummert’s drawing depicting her vision for her studio’s future. His drawing features Speedway’s Main Street sign where Gardner hopes to move her studio to one day, so she can offer more group fitness and personal training classes in a larger building.

Gardner would also like to create a gathering space at her studio, she said, where her clients could sit and chat after class, purchase supplements or vitamins and grab a smoothie with their friends. Her clients could then experience fitness journeys that aren’t only about their workouts, calories and nutrition, she said, but also the friendships and connections they make along the way.

“Having people that can walk with you through life is so important, especially as women,” Gardner said. “It’s hard to find those relationships. It’s hard to nurture those relationships. We’re all being pulled in a million different ways. To be able to come together and do something positive for your mental health and your physical health and build those relationships at the same time is so rewarding.”

The Fitness Boutique is located at 1612 North Lynhurst Drive in Speedway, Indiana. To learn more about The Fitness Boutique, visit its website, Facebook, or Instagram pages.

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    MarySep 5, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Sarah is an amazing Womyn & inspiring to all ❤️