Z: Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to start Fit University (Fit U)?
Sarah Gaines (SG): I transferred to Northeastern University my sophomore year. The summer before and the first few months of sophomore year, I lost 30+ pounds. My friends were always asking me for healthy recipes, workout tips, etc., so I started a blog that February to show other college students that it’s not that hard to stay fit in college. Senior year, I started Fit NU, Northeastern’s first fitness club. Northeastern had a running club, club sports, group fitness, etc. but no club about healthy living and having a community to support you, both of which play a huge part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As I got closer to graduation, I realized that schools everywhere could benefit from a club like Fit NU. That’s when I decided to expand. Now all chapters go by the name Fit University.
Z: What keeps you motivated (both in terms of personal fitness and running Fit U)?
SG: Personally, I stay motivated by trying new things and working to be as strong as I can possibly be. To me, fitness is fun, so it’s never something I have to do. It’s always something I want to do. In terms of Fit U, the community motivates me 100000%, such as when students post about why they want to be part of Fit U or how Fit U has benefited them. I keep a folder on my computer titled “Why Do I Fit U?” It’s a bunch of screenshots of things that students have either posted or said to me directly.
Z: What are your three main goals for Fit U?
SG: Grow to 100+ chapters within the next two years (one day, every university). Create a household name for college students looking to live a healthy lifestyle. Change the way college students view fitness. It doesn’t have to be a chore, restrictive, or a “have to do;” but rather, it can be a lifestyle and something to look forward to. It’s important to enjoy things in moderation and have fun.
Z: What got you interested in fitness?
SG: I have always been interested in working out. I have been going to the gym since I was old enough to be let in. My sister was a personal trainer, so in high school and during my freshman year of college, she would give me workout plans. I was never a runner and never did sports, so fitness to me meant going to the gym. I also started yoga at around 10 to 12-years-old, but I didn’t really get serious about working out or doing yoga until college.
Z: How has Fit U changed during its expansion?
SG: It has changed a lot, and it’s only just the beginning! I originally didn’t think we needed student contributors to the website, but now that is the prime source of our articles. The structures of chapter leadership have also changed after seeing what worked and didn’t work this past year. A lot of structural changes have been made within the chapters to make Fit U scalable to other universities. The main way that Fit U has changed is that it started as a personal blog for me to share tips and post about my own fitness journey. I even documented my experience while I trained to compete in a bodybuilding show. Now, I try to take myself out completely and focus on the students within our community. Fit U is now a place for other students to share their passion for health and fitness.
Z: Where do you find new fitness inspiration?
SG: Online: I see what other people are doing on social media and want to try it. The Boston community: Boston is an amazing place for health and fitness and there is always something new and interesting going on. I have met such amazing people doing amazing things in this city. The Fit U community: Our ambassadors and chapter leaders are so diverse and are always doing awesome things! I never would have started running Spartan Races if it wasn’t for the team at Fit U Northeastern. Shout out to Cam R!
Z: If you could work with one person in the fitness industry, who would it be and why?
SG: This is such a hard question! I think Jill Coleman (@jillfit). She is a fierce businesswoman in the fitness industry who preaches strength, moderation and enjoyment of fitness. She “helps women make their healthy lifestyle stress & shame-free” and also helps women grow their businesses, which are two of my favorite topics. She’s super strong, articulate, and overall really badass!
Z: What has been your favorite event this year so far?
SG: Fit University Symposium: It was amazing to have the entire Fit U team under one roof working, sweating, and laughing together!
Z: What’s next for Fit U?
SG: Expansion, expansion, expansion! Growing the chapters, growing the ambassador team, building out the website and developing a team of people to really help me propel Fit University to the next level. Expect bigger (and better) events, partnerships with awesome health/fitness brands (that means giveaways and fun stuff for college students), and even better content.
Z: What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
SG: “Never be comfortable,” from my big bro and biggest business mentor!
Make sure to check Fit University out at gofitu.com!