EpitomeFIT’s wellness philosophy seeing business, clients through pandemic

Healthy living informs owner/trainer Gregory Tshudy’s perspective

It all started with chocolate almond milk.

Gregory Tshudy and his wife, Melissa, were students at HACC and not yet married. He was interested in her low-calorie, no-cholesterol, low-fat beverage of choice.

“It sparked my interest into healthier things,’’ said Tshudy, who had been a McCaskey High School football player. “That was the extent of fitness for me.’’

Tshudy pursued a new passion for optimal health and fitness, which set him on the course to better nutrition, exercise, and lots of research on both. Just over a year ago he opened his own gym, the aptly named EpitomeFIT in Lancaster.

A focus on health and wellness not only guided his business philosophy but also continues to inform his approach through the COVID-19-forced economic shutdown and its aftermath.

For Tshudy, that meant closing the doors to his Liberty Place gym for four months once the pandemic reached Pennsylvania and extended into Lancaster County.

It was a challenge trying to connect with people who were largely confined to their homes, Tshudy said.  “I couldn’t grow my business.’’ He lost a few clients.

But compared to the larger fitness industry, Tshudy said, he has done pretty well.

Both he and his clients quickly adapted to a new normal. Tshudy offered more online support and training. Clients who didn’t have dumbbells for at-home virtual workouts sought alternatives in the closets and corners of their households.

Soon they were toning muscles with cat-litter boxes and tubas.

“We worked with what we had,’’ Tshudy said. “We didn’t lose anything. We gained a whole lot … core strength and endurance.’’

Having the strength to abide by health guidelines was key to pushing through and beyond the shutdown.

“I do not want to be somebody who can cause somebody to catch this virus,’’ said Tshudy, adding that he thought of his grandmother when he considered the health of older individuals and those whose medical conditions might make them more vulnerable to the virus.

He said he was willing to do all that was required of him to keep clients healthy and safe. That includes a high-energy, enthusiastic video reveal of the reopened gym’s safety procedures; check it out at www.epitomefit.com.

Tshudy followed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization. Post-shutdown, those recommendations meant equipment being wiped down between sessions. Space in the gym was sectioned off into blocks to ensure social distancing. Clients and trainer donned gloves, and face masks.

“I don’t want to wear a face mask, but it’s necessary,’’ he said. “What’s more important, you not wanting to wear a face mask or trying to keep everybody safe?”

And, he continued, “It’s my responsibility as a health business owner to keep people healthy.’’

Certified in personal training and CPR, Tshudy says coaching people to improved physical and spiritual well-being requires an individual approach.

“We help people achieve the goals they want to achieve,’’ he said. “That looks different for every person.’’

Some want to lose weight. Others are focused on strength training or seek help in reducing stress. There are those who see physical fitness as the way to a “clearer mind.’’

A personalized plan hinges on regular exercise, healthy eating, and lifestyle changes. However, a tailored coaching approach may mean a nutritional emphasis for one client and the pursuit of more, along with a better quality of, sleep for another.

Exercise is the easiest, Tshudy says, because fitness-seekers “can get moving today.’’

As for the lifestyle piece of the equation, that is forever.

“We really want people to make the change for the rest of their lives so they can reap the benefits of good health,’’ Tshudy said.

Like other business owners, he continues to be tested in an unprecedented way by the pandemic.

What has he learned? What is his advice for others?

“Stay positive. Work with what you have. Do the best you can.

“Keep working hard’’ and if it helps, “shed a few tears,’’ he counseled.

Through the pandemic, he strengthened his online presence and focused on a clothing line of fitness wear.

He refuses to let COVID-19 keep him down. And he’s looking ahead, envisioning a growing business that allows him to expand to a second or maybe even a third location outside of Lancaster within five years.

“I try to stay positive,’’ he says. “Always.’’

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