While many people around the world chose to see the covid19 pandemic restrictions as a deterrent to the things they had planned to accomplish in 2020, Arielle Edwards used it as an opportunity to nurture something she loves, and it is now bearing unexpected fruit.
A year ago, then 19 and a sixth-form student at the El Dorado East Secondary School, she invested her time and savings into an online fitness training course. Today, she is in the process of registering her business, Shape of Fitness TT, and offers online and face-to-face training to her growing clientele. She is also working on a line of fitness clothing and accessories that is still in the developmental stage.
“I got certified at Shaw Academy online. When covid started a friend sent me the link because she knew I was into fitness. I have a passion for fitness that I didn’t take seriously as a career until covid.” Shaw is an online education institution that provides interactive classes for students worldwide.
“The course was quite costly, but at that time it was being offered at a discounted price, so I took advantage of it,” she told WMN.
Although the structure of the classes was a bit intense, she was able to do the 32 modules while doing her CAPE exams and when she was subsequently accepted into and started virtual classes at the Faculty of Law at UWI Cave Hill campus, Barbados.
“I put aside a lot of things to complete it and it was very time-consuming, but it wasn’t something I couldn’t do, even though I turned in some of my law assignments one minute before they were due,” said Edwards, who went to Bishop Anstey East secondary school before moving to El Dorado East.
She has online Zoom sessions three times a week with four of her mother’s friends.
“Mummy just loves to talk, so she was talking to her friends and the topic of exercise came up. ‘My daughter is doing a fitness training course’ she told them. So here we are now, doing classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” she said with a chuckle.
Her face-to-face clients, she said, began showing interest when they saw her and her three younger sisters religiously working out every evening in the recreational area of her D’Abadie neighbourhood. Others signed up after she hosted a two-hour boot camp for the community, all covid 19 safety protocols observed. She now has ten clients with whom she does face-to-face workouts at varying times – three men and seven women.
“We had a good turnout, and we did a lot of fun fitness activities,” she said of the boot camp, at which her idea for the clothing line began to blossom.
"I’ve always had plans to do a clothing line and I have everything written down. But specifically for the camp I wanted a uniform look. I printed logos on the jerseys so that everyone participating would know who the officials on the team were” – among them, her parents and siblings, who are also enthusiastic about fitness.
“Daddy used to do track and field, mummy used to go to gym. My sisters used to run track and field in school. It’s like a family thing.”
Edwards plans to start by branding quality workout clothes, headbands and waist trimmers.
“Eventually I would get into water bottles, resistance bands, mats and ropes. Realistically, I’m pushing for next year.”
Because some of her clients are more mature than others, she modifies the exercise routines to suit their ages and capabilities.
“I look at what people can and can’t do. Not everyone can do the same exercises. For example, some people can do a full squat, while others may not be able to go too low. I just modify it so that it works the same muscles but is not as intense.
"For me, training older people is easier. Some of them talk a lot during the workout, but talking is part of it. If you talk, you feel less pain, so talk through the pain.”
She and her sisters have also done Haganah self-defence training, which combines two martial-arts systems originally developed in Israel and includes military tactics and other hand-to-hand and armed fighting techniques.
“As a young woman I don’t feel safe with all that has been happening in the country, but at the same time I’m not scared. Even before things got this bad, with all the raping and killing, my parents made us do the training so we could have the different techniques and skills to defend ourselves if we have to.”
She said she always tells her female friends to walk with a weapon, even if it is a pencil, to defend themselves.
“And always be aware of your surroundings.”
For Edwards, proper nutrition goes hand-in-hand with fitness. And because she is genetically petite, she had to make a concerted effort to get rid of her bad eating habits.
“My whole family is naturally small, so it’s hard for us to put on weight. But I’ve realised that what you put on the inside will eventually show up on outside, even if it’s not weight gain. It may be things like bad skin. I just decided to make healthy eating a lifestyle choice and it got easier with time.”
But, she pointed out, healthy eating does not translate into eating salads all day every day. It’s all about not being excessive. “Cutting back on your sugar intake, drinking enough water, for instance.”
She celebrated her 20th birthday last month and cake formed part of her celebrations.
“But in moderation,” she smiled.
Edwards has mixed feelings about the reopening of schools and the borders. For although she is looking forward to new experiences, the first-year law student said once that happens, she will have to temporarily leave her “best friends” behind to go to Cave Hill to continue her studies.
“I am the second of five girls and we are best friends. We are always together, so much so that there are people who get upset when they see us because we are so close.”
She said when her elder sister Abigail left to go abroad to study medicine, it was as if a piece of a jigsaw puzzle was missing. “I don’t know if there are other people as close as us. When Abigail left we literally felt that something in the house was missing.
"Yeah, we fight a lot, but then we make up soon after and it’s all water under the bridge.”
But Edwards understands that in life change is inevitable and believes her future is full of possibilities. She plans to practise business law because she has a special love for business, especially entrepreneurship. And her love affair with fitness most definitely has its place in her long-term plans.
“I can do both, fitness and law. I always like to be occupied, so doing the things I enjoy while having multiple streams of income is a goal for me.”
For more information follow Arielle Edwards on Facebook and ari.elle_edwards on Instagram, or WhatsApp her on 475-0238.