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Friendship Makes a Business Thrive!

Image of Sara Hodson, BHK, ACSM CCEP, is Founder and CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic
Sara Hodson, BHK, ACSM CCEP, is Founder and CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic

Anyone familiar with the LIVE WELL origin story knows it as folklore. But on the eve of LIVE WELL’s 10-year anniversary, and with today being International Friendship Day, it is worth repeating.

After the birth of my fourth child, I had lost my way with exercise. As a trained clinical exercise physiologist, I loved exercise with great passion – after work, you would always find me at the gym doing a spin class, a great workout session with weights or hitting the trails for a run. But then my kids came along, and my exercise regime…well, it just went away. There was also something else to do – laundry, helping kids with homework, making dinner. I had every excuse not to exercise, and no energy for myself, let alone for a workout.

But I knew the science. I knew that exercise would provide me with more energy if I made time for it. I knew that exercise would help me cope with postpartum moods, and it would help me get my body back. But I couldn’t do it on my own. That is when I reached out to my best friend, Tasha McRae.

Tasha and I had met at work – we were both clinical exercise physiologists in the cardiac rehab wing of a local hospital. We knew the power of exercise, and the power of community. We had seen patients complete 12-week programs in the cardiac rehab program – and we knew that part of their adherence was that they showed up not only for the rehab, but for the friends they made. Tasha was a busy mom who needed to kick-start her own fitness program again: we made a pact to start exercising together in our living rooms while the kids played. It didn’t take long for us to feel better, lose weight and start to feel like us again.

We realized that there was magic in the power of friendship and exercise, and as we fell back in love with exercise, we started to realize that might be more to it. The seed for LIVE WELL was planted: could we design a program of supervised exercise, in a clinical setting, where people with chronic health concerns could come and exercise safely – and foster a sense of belonging and community? We knew this was the key to our success: We might be willing to let ourselves down, but we weren’t willing to let each other down.

Could a business succeed on the same principles?

This has been one of the hallmarks of LIVE WELL, and why we have grown exponentially as a company, from one location in 2011 to 15 locations today, with expansion continuing across Canada in 2021 and the US in 2021. The magic is this: community, accountability and friendship are fundamental to our health.

The pandemic hit us all hard. Not only have we become more inactive in the last year leading to a rise in chronic health conditions and what the medical journal The Lancet has called “a pandemic within the pandemic.” We have a mental health crisis, and I believe that has been caused in part by the loss of community. Social isolation has taken its toll, and led to a dramatic rise in depression and anxiety. But, everything is changing – gyms are opening, the tide is turning, and the need for trained fitness professionals has never been greater.

At LIVE WELL, you show up not only for your health – you show up for your friends. Even at the height of the pandemic, our virtual classes were full because our members wanted to see each other – even if only on the small screen! Our members take pride in celebrating each other’s wins, and the bonds we have seen form on the gym floor and continue out to trail walks, coffee dates and everlasting friendships, are priceless.

Exercise, friendship and community: Three pillars of a healthy life.

Put them together, and you have magic.

Happy National Best Friend's Day!


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