ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — The Olympics are just a week away now, and you’ll see incredibly fit athletes. But it also takes a lot of mental toughness to get to where they are today. That is what inspired one local woman to open the first LGBTQ-friendly gym here in Northeast Ohio.
“I tried to go to public gyms, seek out resources, seek out a trainer, kind of try to put my best foot forward in the beginning of my transition," says Belle Ursa, Amplio Fitness's co-owner. “I kind of just fell off and was discouraged from those types of services anymore because I really felt like I wasn’t safe, that there was nothing for people like me, like no one was gonna get it.”
Amplio Fitness in Rocky River allows those in the LGBTQ-plus community to not only work out, but feel safe doing so. As they strengthen their physical body, their mental health becomes stronger, too.
"I really believe that being able to take control of your physical being and develop that and build that confidence," says Raidon Tome, a gym member. "That is gonna help you grow and build that confidence mentally. You don’t feel as anxious.”
The gym was started by Ursa and John Hall in 2018, after Ursa, a transgender woman, continued feeling discouraged when gym after gym left her feeling like she had to explain what she could and couldn’t do in a workout. She says even when people were kind to her at a gym like a Planet Fitness, her mental health wouldn't be quite right.
She chose the name Amplio, which means to enhance or lift up in Latin, after wanting to choose a name that was inviting and soft, but still sounded strong and forward-thinking.
"Our bodies and our journeys are very intimate concepts. And it’s really anxiety-provoking to even ask questions or talk about our bodies," she says. "And at Amplio, we really try to create an environment where folks can come and ask these questions about different things, in a space that doesn’t judge them or shame them for any of their identities, behaviors or classifications of any of it.”
3News' Hollie Strano says one of the best quotes she has found is this one: "You’re not what people say you are, you define yourself, bottom line." Ursa says that's exactly what their goal at Amplio is.
“A lot of people come in saying, 'Oh, I can’t do this.' Yes, yes you can! No one’s just shown you how and that’s just kind of what we try do to.”
Amplio offers one-on-one coaching right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they hope to change things soon. Although this is an LGBTQ-friendly gym, it’s not exclusively one, so anyone can join. You can learn more on their site.