Photograph By: Art By Roxanne

We spoke with Erin Cantrell, creator of Erin Cantrell Fitness in Ann Arbor. She opened two boutique studios in the last three years that focus on inner and outer strength-training. All while raising her two boys and welcoming her newborn daughter this year.

What advice does Erin have about business and life? Here’s what she shared.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind.

To be honest, I never thought I’d have my own fitness studio, even though I spent my whole life in the gym. I trained as a gymnast and dancer since I was three and then I was a gymnastics head coach for two years. Let me tell you, that will drive anybody to never want to step foot in a gym again!

When I couldn’t stand to be in the gym anymore, I learned how to sell real estate. But after a while I missed the gym, the smell of it, the people; I missed the work. So I got certified in training and started working as a trainer. Shortly after, I started focusing more on the business side of fitness and began managing some of the studios where I trained my clients.

Don’t be afraid of hard work either.

I worked 15 hour days: full-time in real estate, training on the side and building my business. I spent a lot of time setting up my systems, all that grunt work no one wants to do when they start a business; hours on the phone with software companies that manage the back end. It was tough.

If I had advice for women, it’s this: work hard. It’s not the smartest or the brightest that win; it’s the people who put the work in. I tell my boys this all the time; they tell me “Oh, that kid, he’s so smart.” I say to them it’s ok, maybe they are, but that doesn’t mean anything. The people who have a good work ethic always do better. It’s that way in school, in the gym, and in life.

You can only be GREAT at one thing at a time.

All we do is strength training at Erin Cantrell. I learned years ago that you can only be great at one thing at a time. And when I honed in on what that would be for us, it was strength training. Because if you’re strong, you’re a better runner, dancer, cyclist, whatever. Your strength training is the heart of it.

The truth is I work hard because I love it, but I also want to live in the present moment. I want to love my children, partner, and my parents, as much as I can. I don’t want to do twenty things at once. But I’ll be honest, those first two years, being a highly present mom wasn’t even an option. It was just constant work so I could support my family.

Live well. Live like YOU.

We also believe in a healthy lifestyle. We believe everyone needs good sleep, diet, cardio and strength training. Not everyone needs to be a size 6. If you’re happy at 10, we’re happy for you. As long as you’re healthy, happy, strong, and eating well, we don’t care what you look like. If you want to have a glass of wine on a Friday? Have a glass of wine. But on Saturday? I expect you to run. It’s a balance. Personally, I LOVE wine on the weekends, but I’ll also work out.

We tell our clients to expect the process to take at least eight months. We want people to have their goals but have their life too.

Fail like a boy.

Often when clients start, they do two-inch-push ups. I tell them they need to go all the way to the floor. And if their arms give out, who cares? It’s ok! You’re three inches off the floor! We’ll do it again! But you have to break out of your comfort zone. This is what will make you stronger. There’s constant failing when you work out, and it’s ok. Once I’ve seen clients get that it’s ok to be uncomfortable and sometimes even fail, they lose a ton of weight.

I remember seeing a TED talk about research showing girls are actually brighter than boys. But girls are programmed by third grade to stop asking and answering questions unless they’re 100% sure they’ve got the right answer. This changes how they take risks in life. But boys are taught, “If you fall down, don’t worry about it. Get up and go play.”

We have to break through this programming. We have to fail like we were raised as boys. It’s what makes it possible for us to know that working hard will actually pay off.

Entrepreneurs like Erin inspire us to keep working toward our dreams. Her work ethic, humor, and willingness to keep going in spite of challenges exemplifies what The Brick is all about.

By Kristen Domingue