One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has influenced our ability to maintain physical and mental health outside of our homes. For a lot of individuals, going to the gym is not an option and many are finding it challenging to keep up with exercising and eating healthy throughout the pandemic. As anxiety and uncertainty take their toll on mental health, keeping up with wellness routines becomes more important than ever before.
Brands like The Fitness Empire are stepping in to help consumers get the boost in motivation that they need. Founder Heather Wilson-Phillips—an athlete and expert in the fields of fitness and nutrition—has been creating affordable programs that will help individuals overcome the difficulties they are experiencing, guide them in the process of meal prep, and motivate them to follow through with their health-minded routines.
Trend Hunter spoke to Heather Wilson-Phillips about the importance of striking the right balance between working out and eating right, about the challenges of exercising at home and how she develops her programs with the help of client feedback.
Could you tell us a little bit about your story and how you began your practice?
I am an athlete and I have always been very integrated into the fitness and wellness space, but I never thought that my passion could ever turn into a career. In the beginning, I did fitness and wellness kind of on the side. A friend would ask me to help them curate a meal plan or a workout program for them. I found great joy in doing that and I would give this information to people for free. After some time, I realized that more and more people were asking me and it became something like a hobby of mine.
I continued to offer my services for a while longer and at one point, I decided to finally make the transition—to turn this consultation-type service into a side hustle. At the time, I was working full time for the government. My side hustle entailed coming up with meal plans, putting together programs for people, and also having a boot camp class that I taught two to three times a week. I did this for a few years. It wasn't until the end of 2015 where I decided to switch out the security that the government job offered me for the passion I had for my then side hustle. I resigned and went full force into my company—The Fitness Empire. I haven't looked back since.
What makes your service unique?
One of the things I really focus on is how to make fitness and wellness simpler than it is. Many people would share with me that they didn't like going to the gym because they felt uncomfortable and I wanted to address this issue because it was coming up a lot. The first program I launched in 2016 was a 30-day challenge that I called 'Fierce N’ 30 Challenge.' When I was putting it together, I kept in mind some of the feedback I was getting from people—from them feeling uncomfortable to not having enough time to go to the gym. My idea was to put together a series of impactful workouts that can be done from anywhere, whether you are at home or the gym. I wanted to allow people to be more comfortable in their workouts and to stress that a gym membership is not absolutely necessary in order to achieve a higher level of health and fitness.
Why is balancing meal plans and workouts important?
It is extremely important if you want to see results. When I am putting together my meal plans and programs, I always remind clients about some helpful tips to stay on track. I stress the importance of meal prep. People nowadays have very limited time in the day and often have to grab a bite on-the-go. When we are trying to find something to eat last minute, we often make poor choices. As a result, I really try to encourage my clients to set a time in the week and do meal prep. I also support the concept of mini-meals. That is, I recommend that my clients spread out their meals throughout the day, instead of having bigger ones in one seating. Meal prep really helps here too because whether you are eating every two-three-and-a-half hours, you will have ready-to-go, healthy dishes in the fridge. It might be a little bit of extra work, but it is totally worth it and it really helps you be successful and keep on track with your goals.
As for workouts, it is really important to make time in the day for those—whether it is 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.—just like you make time for meal prep. For me, working out is scheduled as the first thing in the morning. I wake up, I pray, I read my scriptures, say m,y affirmations and get right into my workout. This helps me focus better throughout the day and allows me to feel more energized. If it's not first thing in the morning for someone else—that's okay, you can do it when it best suits you.
One of the programs I put together this year was the 21-Day Fierce Wellness Guide and it's all about a more holistic approach to your journey. In it, I've included not only workouts that you can do at home, but also a grocery shopping list that suggested some great foods that I personally stand by. I really wanted to take all of the guesswork out here—I wanted to let my clients know what exercises they should be doing and how to pivot to healthier meal options at home. The list also encouraged my clients to build the meal plan that works for them, with a few helpful guides.
How has COVID-19 disrupted your business and how have you adapted?
Because my business is home-based, I haven't had any major disruptions due to the outbreak. However, I definitely had to think on my toes to fix services that have actually been impacted and to help my clients stay on top of their health and wellness needs during this time. When I was launching my new offerings, I was really thinking along the lines of how can I help people who are in distress—those who used the gym as a form of relief from their everyday. One of the first things I did was to do an Instagram Live Feed and offer 10-minute exercises on my page. People were tuning in and we're really grateful for this. I received a lot of direct messages from users thanking me and offering me feedback. This eventually spawned my new Fierce 5 N' 10 Workout Program which features a 10-minute workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home and using only your bodyweight—so, if you don't own dumbells or a resistance band, you don't need to worry about it. You just need a mat or a padded area. The workouts are high-impact and focus on different segments like your core, strength-building, cardio, and all within 10 minutes. People have been very open to this and are finding that they are sweating, they are seeing results, they are feeling change, they are feeling energized—all in a very short span of time. Some fo them double or even triple the 10-minutes if they feel like it and they have lifetime access to these videos once they make the purchase. I wanted to make this program a more affordable option, as well, and I think it really worked out.
The Fierce 5 N' 10 Workout Program, along with the 21-Day Fierce Wellness Guide, I aim to show people how they can stay home and stay safe, while still maintaining that fitness and health mentality. In addition, because I can't see clients who I work face-to-face with, I have been pivoting to strengthen my programs to seamlessly deliver instruction in a fool-proof manner.
Why do you think it is important to keep up physical health and wellness during this time?
Keeping up with physical fitness and eating well really play into mental health. We are in a very precarious and anxious time because of this ongoing health pandemic and as a result, it is important to find ways to relieve stress in holistic ways. If we can incorporate self-care—whether it is through deep breathing, meditation, applying gratitude and affirmations, or something else—we come closer to being calmer and centered amid the chaos. I emphasize deep breathing, in particular, because studies have shown that in doing so, signals are sent to your brain that allow it to calm down and to relax. By focusing on your breath, you can help bring about the stillness that you need in a given moment. I recommend this practice heavily, along with exercising. These types of rituals really help in other facets of your life too like helping you calm your mind before you fall asleep, for example.
These activities will help you think more positively and this is so incredibly useful in the climate that we are currently in. They can really help you shift your outlook or motivate you to keep going. In combination with exercising which releases endorphins and makes you healthy, and having a nutritious diet which also allows you to feel more energized, you can protect your body and mental health throughout the pandemic, as well as in its aftermath.
What are the challenges of working out from home?
There are a few challenges of doing your workouts at home. Common ones include not having enough space, not having the proper equipment, not knowing how effective the workout is going to be. I have been able to dispel some of these worries for my clients as I show them in my 10-minute workouts that all you need is an exercise mat. If you can lay it down in your home, then you have enough space at home for this workout.
If the equipment is missing, I don't want it to be a limitation of our body's ability to exercise and our own body weight is a great tool for resistance. There are so many things that we can do with our bodies in a scenario like this. Even if you feel like you need some weight, look around your house and see what you can use—water jugs, heavier laundry detergent or even a sack of potatoes, for example, would be great alternatives. You can also use a knapsack of books and add more or less for heavier or lighter resistance, respectively. Regardless, through my programs, I want people to know how easy and accessible working out from home really is.