How the Openfit Community Helps Each Other Get Through Tough Times
Shutdowns and stay-at-home orders make it harder to stay connected with loved ones and friends IRL. But just because you can’t see friends in person doesn’t mean you have to go without the kindness, cheerleading, and encouragement they provide. Online communities, like the ones that Openfit offers, can definitely help you feel more connected.
For many Openfit members, our Facebook group communities — as well as chats during live group fitness sessions — have made a profound difference as they navigate major life challenges. We talked to four Openfit members about how the community has provided friendship and support during tough times.
Finding Renewed Purpose Amid Grief
An avid runner since 2010, Jackie Williams Schwan appreciated how running helped clear her head. Most of all, she loved running and racing with her son, Jared, when he was in high school. But then lost her mother to ovarian cancer, and, a few years later, she lost Jared in an accident.
“It felt like the breath left my body,” she recalls. “I stopped running, I stopped eating, it felt like there was no point. Then, I started emotional eating and gained 24 pounds.” About six months later, she joined Openfit but only halfheartedly did a couple of workouts.
It took Schwan another 18 months — until January 2020 — to give Openfit another try. She saw the 5K training program and decided to give it a go. As tough as it was, she did that first mile.
“It won’t bring my son back, but I do know if he were alive, he would be telling me to put my shoes on and get going,” Schwan says.
After sharing her experience on the Openfit Teammates page and getting a deluge of support and encouragement, she decided to set a new goal: doing her own 5K on June 5, her mother’s birthday, and her own half-marathon on Jared’s birthday at the end of August.
“This is giving me a purpose again,” she says. “And now I feel like I’m not alone.”
Learning to Fill Her Own Cup Again
Like so many of us who are getting started with fitness, Donesha DeGraftenreed started and stopped a few times. She would do three workouts in a week and then skip a few — which turned into skipping altogether. Or she would do workouts but feel embarrassed to have to modify them.
“I was so unhealthy and out of shape,” she says. “I had let myself go. I allowed the baby weight to consume me for years. I would pour into everyone else’s cup and leave mine empty often.”
DeGraftenreed said she struggled with her weight, along with plantar fasciitis, knee issues that impacted mobility, and more. Most of all, anxiety presented daily challenges that made her think about giving up on her fitness goals again and again.
But she took a chance and posted an “in progress” photo on the Openfit Teammates page as a way to reach out to the community.
“I posted it because I thought, ‘Someone is seeing this and is going through some issues similar to mine,'” she says. “I wanted them to know if I can do this, so can they. This community has rooted me on, and helped me get to the point where I’m investing in myself for a change. I appreciate and love them all.”
Now DeGraftenreed knows she has to fill her own cup — and has a whole team of cheerleaders behind her on the hardest days.
Finding a New, Fresh Take on “Normal”
Two years ago, Suzie Conard Simmons was tired of feeling sick and exhausted, so she tried a local barre studio on a whim and fell in love with the workouts. Over the next year, she worked hard to make gradual changes to her lifestyle and fitness. Eventually she began working at the studio — and even got her teaching certification, figuring she would cruise into a job easily.
Then COVID-19 hit. Not only did the studio close, but she experienced a flare-up of an autoimmune condition. Like so many people, she was stuck in her house longing for family and friends. She thought Xtend Barre would be a good program for her until life got back to normal. Instead, she discovered a whole new, fresh take on normal.
“I thought I would love Xtend Barre and wow, did I ever,” she says. “I thought I was already in good shape, but I had no idea how much further I could go on my fitness journey. Plus, with the Openfit Teammates community, I found a group of supportive and kind people who are all right next to me, trying to better themselves.”
Although she was once mourning the loss of her dream job, finding this community has given her a different, valuable perspective, Simmons says.
“I’m happy to be a part of the story of what makes Openfit so unique and special,” she says. “It has certainly changed my life.”
Feeling Less Alone Amid Painful Losses
Ashley Regling started consistently doing Xtend Barre in 2019, about 10 weeks after her daughter was born. She embraced the way the sessions made her feel healthier. About a year ago, she also started trying different live challenges through the Openfit app and fell in love with those, too. What started as a workout, though, soon became a way to find balance in other ways, after she and her husband experienced two miscarriages in 2020.
“I cannot express how absolutely devastating these losses were,” says Regling. “As I struggled through daily life as I grieved, Xtend Barre was my saving grace. Just being able to push play and move helped me to reconnect with my body and feel ‘normal’ again.”
She regularly posts in the Xtend Barre Facebook group, which has provided her with an overwhelming amount of support.
‘This community is amazing,” she says. “They helped me to not feel alone, and also to continue prioritizing my fitness.”