“It’s proof that folks value what we were providing and beyond that, it’s something they need.”
TRILLFIT in Mission Hill was spurred by the clear lack of diversity in Boston’s fitness scene. As Co-Founder Heather White tells it, “I started TRILLFIT in response to being one of few Black or brown people in these classes. I paid for these high-end memberships, but then when I was there I felt like an outsider and I could not see myself or my goals in the faces around me.”
Since starting TRILLFIT, White says, “We have created a community that is so much more than just fitness. It is acceptance, encouragement, and most of all, wellness for everyone. From our very first event where we sold out days before with very minimal marketing or outreach, we knew we had something special. TrillFit is one of the most diverse fitness boutiques in the industry with 92% instructor diversity.”
We asked White about how her team created “a place where people feel they belong and can achieve their fitness goals.”
What is the feedback like from people for whom you are providing programs that are actually focused on things like health equity and community collaboration? And what’s a standout example of that in practice?
We have members who send us messages all the time. For example, after I attended Mayor Wu’s recent press conference about the new mask mandates in Boston, we had several people reach out to us saying how safe they felt in our classes due to our safety protocols.
When the pandemic hit and we had to shut down, we kept our classes free online for six months because we knew that people in our community would feel isolated and alone through the lockdown and we wanted to be there for them. During that time period we did not have anyone cancel their membership. We knew then that people really identified with our values and they supported us by not cancelling. It was proof that folks valued TRILLFIT and what we were providing and beyond that, it was something they needed.
What’s especially unique about your programs, and how do you communicate that in a market with so many competing options for people to get in shape?
The TRILLFIT methodology that we have in all of our classes is scientifically proven and built specifically by our team. What makes us unique is a combination: the first is that our classes are super effective. We have a signature hit sequence that is in every class and our music is mixed by a DJ and is from some of the best and more marginalized acts in the business.
In addition, TRILLFIT is the only place in Boston where you can work out between a woman in a hijab, a gay man, and a woman of color. That is what makes us different than our competitors. TRILLFIT is an environment where anyone can come get a workout in to amazing music and feel a part of a community.
An old friend once said that if you want to live in Mission Hill, it helps to be a mountain goat. But besides the exercise-friendly terrain behind your studio, why did you choose that area, and how has your relationship with the community grown over the past few years?
We were very intentional about choosing Mission Hill because we knew we wanted to put the studio in a place that was historically Black. Mission Hill in addition to Roxbury have not had high-end fitness boutiques. We were offered a space in the Seaport but we turned it down, there are plenty of options there. We wanted to go to a place where people did not have that option. It is important that our location had that neighborhood feel and that is exactly how Mission Hill is.
Our neighborhood represents us and has our back completely. At the start of the pandemic, there was a woman at Mission Hill Main Streets that bought 40 gift cards and handed them out to front line workers in the neighborhood. That is the type of neighborhood we needed to be in and TRILLFIT is proud to be a part of that community.
Tell us a little bit about the people who you work with. Who is the ideal TrillFit candidate? And how much time and effort do you ask them to give you to see results?
One of my best friends and Co-Founder Melisa Valdez, we started TRILLFIT with the simple premise of getting people of color moving and having them live healthier lives. When we think of TRILLFIT, we think of that and people who want to experience joy together, be supportive, and help others reach their goals.
For new clients, we say to come and take a class two to three times a week to start seeing a benefit. For a first timer, you should come to cardio dance class because it is the most fun sweat you will ever have. You will fall in love with TRILLFIT.
It’s the time of year where everybody pledges to get in shape. What’s your secret to helping them get past the first couple of months or even weeks?
The biggest secret we have is giving people a pathway to love themselves more. It is about building practices that fit with your life. When you try to follow routines and practices that don’t fit your life but that society has perpetuated, you don’t stick to them. When people workout because they are happy it makes them feel good and it makes them change their mindset in the process.
How has your scholarship program for instructors of color been working so far? Is that something you have seen modeled in other cities and kind of catered for Boston? It can’t help that the rents are so damn high here.
The wellness industry is a trillion-dollar industry and within that only 6% are people of color. When TRILLFIT created the scholarship program we wanted to create opportunity, economic opportunity, and show people of color that they do belong in the fitness community. Leaders across Boston have been supportive of the TRILLFIT Instructor of Color Scholarship program and have bought tickets to our fundraisers to show that support. In 2021, we awarded 20 scholarships and that is a goal we look to continue and grow in the years to come.
Before we can become instructors, we have to first get in shape. What’s a good starting point with TrillFit?
To become a TRILLFIT instructor you have to get right with your mind and make sure this is something that you want to do. We recommend taking a meditation class to anyone who wants to become an instructor, we do them every morning. So we recommend that meditation class to anyone who wants to be an instructor to get a better sense of themselves and their motivations but also their desire to gain confidence through the process.
Ed. note: A print version of this interview misidentified one of the founders of TRILLFIT. We regret the error.