Melissa Cianfrini is the owner of Feel Better Fitness located in Wellington, Florida, a mobile in-home and online exercise and nutrition coaching program offering safe solutions for seniors, beginners, and people with limited mobility to improve core, posture, balance, mobility, and strength.
“If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” It may be a cliché, but I believe that it describes my current career as a personal trainer and a business owner of Feel Better Fitness. However, a journey to loving what I do and making a living wasn’t a straightforward path.
My first love growing up was horses. My longing to pursue a career that allowed me to do what I loved started here. My parents, who were not wealthy, fostered my hobby of riding horses and led me to attend an agricultural college for large animal care after high school. However, after a year, I transitioned to business secretarial school when the reality set in that working with horses wouldn’t pay the bills.
Although I had a good steady secretarial job at a car dealership for over 10 years, it was a job. My next role as a stay-at-home wife and mother was a joy and privilege. I enjoyed raising my family and was blessed to have a stable family income.
However, after the birth of my second child in 1999, I was tired, out of shape, and overweight. I had a desire to become a healthier wife and mother. It became important to form lifelong healthy eating and exercise. I didn’t know how to do a ”healthy life thing,” so I was motivated to hire a personal trainer at a local gym.
My trainer Nicole was encouraging, loved her job, and was a great example of the strong woman I wanted to be. She taught me the correct exercise forms and prescribed an appropriate strength, core, and cardio program 5 days a week, along with a low glycemic index diet (now a part of the nutritionist-certified Feel Better Ⓡ Healthy Eating Plan).
Being of Italian descent shaped my unhealthy eating habits of primarily starchy high GI carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods. Italian food is the most delicious in the world but can pack pounds. I learned to swap out for better options of low GI veggies, fruits, and grains, along with healthy fats and lean protein.
I followed the program consistently, and even though some days were hard, I pushed through with Nicole’s coaching. She made a great difference in my health journey success.
I also found various group fitness classes I enjoyed and was talented at especially Pilates. Seven months later, I achieved my goal of shedding 25 lbs. I felt accomplished, healthy, strong, and fit and discovered my passion for exercise.
When my youngest son was about to start Pre-K (2004), I started considering returning to the workforce. I began to ponder – What did I enjoy, and what inspired me? What would give me purpose and also provide some income?
I was a leader in my fitness classes, practicing at an advanced level. Seeing my leadership skills in class, my Pilates teacher encouraged me to become a certified group fitness instructor. It all came together as a perfect solution, and this career would allow me to do what I loved, be home with the kids after school, help others, get paid, and work out for FREE. ALL WINS!
After a few months of studying and practicing, I achieved my group and personal trainer certification. My goal of being a fitness professional was realized when the gym I was a member of hiring me.
I enjoyed teaching group classes (Pilates, Silver Sneakers, Kickboxing, Stretch), but I preferred being a personal trainer. In a group setting, it was difficult to correct form (which I’m a stickler for) and build relationships in groups of 20-30 people. As a personal trainer, I formed closer relationships with my clients, which made it much more rewarding when they achieved the results we worked toward.
My shift in focus to senior fitness came a few years later. The gym promoted me to a manager of the Senior Fitness circuit in addition to my other roles. Encouraging and training seniors became my favorite part of my work day.
Overseeing the seniors gave me a unique view of their issues and challenges. It upset me that some seniors with limited mobility struggle and get hurt with inappropriate advanced classes or trainers. This led them to injury, defeat, and ultimately give up on their health aspirations.
I would hear these types of comments” Pilates class is too hard for can’t do it, I felt so self-conscious,” or “I was so sore after that training sets couldn’t walk for a week.” or “My knees hurt too much after the workout” can’t get up and down for I’m afraid of falling or being unable to keep up.” Hearing these things made me sad. A passion was ignited to help encourage them in my class. My focus on teaching proper form and how to exercise safely worked. My classes became very successful and popular.
I thought about my next steps to venture out alone, away from big chain gyms. It became my mission to help solve problems and start my own business.
In 2016, I accomplished my goal of becoming a small business owner of Feel Better Fitness. A mobile in-home and online fitness company located in the Wellington, Florida, area. My company offers safe solutions for seniors, beginners, and people with limited mobility and other health conditions to improve posture, core, balance, mobility, and joint pain. My greatest goal in training is to help people feel better and to build their strength and confidence.
I spent 4 years writing and developing my program. I gained experience, knowledge, and Senior Fitness and Corrective Exercise Specialist certifications along the way.
In 2019, I published the Feel Better Fitness StepsⓇ program. A step-by-step, proven exercise and nutrition coaching program customized for each individual’s level and goal. It is designed to get clients safely from where they are to where they want to be.
The 12-week progressive program includes all components for a healthy body – A nutritionist certified eating plan, cardio recommendations, fitness evaluations, coaching accountability, stretch mobility routine, and weekly exercise programming. It builds in difficulty from basic form to more advanced moves as the body’s alignment and strength improve, one step at a time! This is followed by the Feel Better Next Steps and Steps Maintenance program. The program is available via a self-guided online course, locally, or one-on-one virtual training.
I also created the “Core No-floor method” for clients who have difficulty getting up and down off the floor. It works the whole body and core in seated and standing positions. This method is easy to learn and removes the fear of injury from advanced floor exercises and poor technique.
I started the Feel Better Fitness Steps YouTube channel because of Covid. Core No-floor workouts and tips were for clients who could not train in person, but now it’s gaining subscribers and views worldwide.
It warms my heart to witness my clients feeling better, living a more active life, conquering their fears, and achieving their goals. These testimonial examples are in direct contrast to what I used to hear: Jean (with early-stage Parkinson’s) said, “I have the stamina and balance to walk for 2 hours out shopping with my dau”t” when 12 weeks prior, she struggled to get out of the car to be out for 10 minutes. Ampy, a former Army helicopter pilot who suffers pain from injuries, said, “My back, knees, and shoulders no longer hurt.” ” Karen said, “I feel stronger at age 75 than I did at 25.”
Making a positive difference in the quality of people’s lives is unbelievably rewarding, personally and professionally. The development of long-lasting relationships along the way has been a blessing. That was the main reason I got into this field, as coach Nicole did for me long ago. I love what I do, and it’s not just a job!
Challenges Facing the Business
That being said, there are significant challenges that my business and market are currently facing. The ongoing fears of contracting Covid, isolation, and depression are keen among seniors. Pre-pandemic health and mobility challenges, prior failures, and discouragement in thinking that getting healthier isn’t possible or worth the cost. Getting people to believe that they are worth it and that health is their greatest asset is challenging. Learning how and what to do to take care of oneself should be a priority and will pay off in the long run.
However, the in-person challenges of my business have also bred new opportunities in the fitness sector. More seniors have been learning to use technology to solve their problems in the last year. I have gained 5 virtual clients. As a result of learning Zoom video calls during COVID isolation, I train them year-round. This has made a big impact on business, keeping clients on track and being able to offer my program to people everywhere.
Advice to other Business Start-ups
The advice for someone thinking about starting or growing their own business? Start with the heart and your talents. Ask yourself questions like What makes you tick? What excites you to go to work? How can you make a difference? What types of clients do you want to work with? What problem can you help solve? These got me on the right track with my brand.
When I started my business, I wanted to be everything to everyone. Build a brand in a niche market that draws on your specific talents and clients you can help. Be specific with your message. I help people improve My example: I help seniors safely improve posture, core, mobility, strength, and balance. Build content, testimonials, and your program around it.
The best thing I did when growing my company was to hire a business coach in my field. NPE coaches helped me find my target market, taught me a proven process to run a successful fitness business and provided a welcoming community of other coaches and trainers facing the same problem. I’m a creative, active person that did not have business or networking skills that I had to learn (and continue to learn!). They also taught me to change my mindset. I don’t sell sessions but provide values and solutions. Moreover, they taught me to ask questions to uncover the emotional aspect of a client’s problems. I’m seeing the fruits of my labor with a full training schedule with clients I love working with after following the process and pushing through some failures and hard toil.
I want to expand this amazing program to help people across Florida and the USA. I don’t fear or worry about the future because I’m a Christian woman of strong faith. I don’t approach any situation, problem, or life path alone. Proverbs 16:9 “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.”
It’s been a crazy, fun journey, and I look forward to what’s ahead!
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