Catherine Setacci-Drapeau has been surrounded by role models throughout her life, inspiring her to stay healthy and active. But even for her, entering a gym was intimidating.
Until she finds the perfect place. A female-run, female-only gym. Not only did this grow his love of fitness, but it made him want to learn more, take personal training classes, and eventually teach part-time.
When she lost her full-time job as an accountant, she saw it as an opportunity to turn her life upside down. But not in a typical way. Setacci-Drapeau wanted to give women the same gym experience it found years ago.
“I could see the fear in women and I’ve seen it in any gym I’ve been to. Women are just afraid to talk,” she said. “Once you’ve made them feel like it’s okay to have anxiety, it’s okay to be afraid to go to the gym, it’s okay to not have a clue what you do, it doesn’t matter.(We are) all here for the same general purpose, we are here for our health.
A year-long lease at Richmond Plaza in Thorold led to Warrior Fitness Training, and although the gym is now in a different location than when it opened in 2011, its intent has remained the same.
Develop individual relationships. Provide a safe space for conversation. Setacci-Drapeau said women shouldn’t be invited into the same fitness box — they need to be strong, capable, independent and “feel really good.” This, she says, makes humans better.
“If they get their fitness house (under control), their food usually isn’t far behind, their finances aren’t far behind, their life and their stress, that’s a big thing that continues to happen. connect,” she said.
Warrior Fitness, now on Merritt Street in St. Catharines, offers individual training and small group classes, as well as yoga and mobility, strength training, CrossFit, breathing, meditation, nutrition and well-being.
Training has moved online during the pandemic, but it’s been difficult to have those same connections through a screen. Setacci-Drapeau said she was lucky to weather the losses and is now finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s “still a tough tunnel”.
“I’m starting to see people coming back and wanting to take care of themselves again. I see a lot of fear, I see a lot of mental illness, more than I’ve ever seen before in 12 years running a business,” she said.
The gym is open to everyone, but the majority of Setacci-Drapeau’s clients are women. And she doesn’t shy away from talking about topics people are less likely to talk about – periods, cramps, menopause, pregnancy, depression. She remembers being the youngest of five children being told what she didn’t need to know, but said it was only by learning and communicating that people can understand, especially when it comes to women’s health, which is “still lagging behind”.
“You can’t be afraid to talk about women’s health with women. We don’t talk about it enough,” Setacci-Drapeau said, adding that women often have to defend themselves, even in the doctor’s office. “If we don’t open up and talk about it, it only makes things worse. We keep sweeping it under the rug and we know sweeping it under the rug doesn’t work.
Part of her training includes prenatal and postnatal training, helping women learn about their bodies and the changes of pregnancy, and adjusting their fitness regimen accordingly. This requires more than a quick medical examination six weeks after delivery.
“What opened my eyes was how many women had prolapse and doctors didn’t catch it and how many women were depressed or had postpartum depression. It was more of a stigma,” said she declared.
Meghan Lizzotti was nervous about starting training at Warrior Fitness. Although she played sports in high school, after two kids her body was “nowhere the same as before”. She felt fearful and stuck. But after working with Setacci-Drapeau, Lizzotti said she felt capable.
“She really cares. She cares about you and your goal and if you’re willing to accept help…she’ll do whatever it takes to help you get there,” Lizzotti said.
But it wasn’t just the physical. Lizzotti knew she suffered from anxiety and postpartum depression, but it wasn’t until Warrior Fitness that she realized just how much.
“We have a lot of honest, tough conversations during our workouts. I felt like I could be authentically myself and had nothing to sugarcoat,” she said. It helped me seek support, in fact I also contacted Maternal Health Niagara for advice and they were amazing and I wouldn’t have (if) it wasn’t for her.
Setacci-Drapeau said it’s important to remind people, especially in the early stages, that small steps have value. For mothers, who are pulled in many directions, taking the time to prioritize makes them better people overall. Sometimes just getting up and taking a 10 minute walk is a win.
Not everything is black and white, she says. It is in the gray where we find self-compassion.
“Love yourself with different standards. Stop trying to be such a perfectionist,” she said. “A perfectionist is just someone who is afraid of doing something wrong. I prefer that you strive for excellence.