by Alexa M., 16
Twenty-five-year-old Megan Gridley had been looking forward to a day of excitement and celebration as a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding when her joy suddenly plummeted. She was struck with a disheartening reality: none of the bridesmaid dresses came in a size large enough for her. “I remember thinking in that moment, I was so big that I couldn’t even participate in this fun occasion,” she said.
This epiphany had influenced Megan significantly years later when she decided to turn her life around. In high school, she had been completely sedentary and was 135 pounds over her current weight and a size 28 in clothes. Today, she’s on the move. By the time she was forty-three, Megan opened her own business: Megacycle, a gym specializing in TRX, spin, and boxing, teeming with a welcoming and supportive community of customers. You can now find Megan coaching her workout classes with unrelenting energy and inspiration while she also takes part in her own workout.
How was she able to change so drastically? Her fitness journey started with two key lifestyle changes: a healthy diet and exercising.
Megan made changes to her diet by giving up soda and becoming a vegetarian. She also started counting her calories and becoming more conscious of what she ate. Her options for exercise were at first limited because of her weight. She started with walking, then walk-jogging, and eventually had the mobility to be able to run. It was the birth of a new passion. She made running a daily routine, and started training for marathons.
By running many hours each week, Megan was able to lose enough weight to try other workout methods, like using machine equipment at the gym. Still, she faced emotional and physical struggles. “By the time I decided I wanted to be fit, I was already going to struggle based on my age,” she pointed out. “I belonged to two or three different gyms and never went because I was too intimidated. Sometimes I would even get as far as the parking lot, and then turn around and go home.”
In turn, she stuck with running on hard paved roads. But this led to a severe knee injury. She needed a rodding surgery, where a titanium rod would be placed in her left knee. After the surgery, her doctor explained to her what her options for exercise would now be. “Either keep running and end up in a wheelchair, or find something else to do,” he said. “So, I found spinning,” said Megan.
Her love for spinning and desire to create a place where everyone would feel comfortable led her to start her own business. Her own experiences of feeling too intimidated and self-conscious to even step foot in a gym inspired her to create a place where people of all ages, sizes, and training levels could feel confident enough to participate.
Starting a business was at first completely foreign to Megan. “I had no idea how to run a business,” she said. “It’s definitely something I learn every day.” Her plan started with running numbers to figure out how many customers she would need to make a profit. Afterwards, she searched for a location to open her gym. “I wanted to be centrally located. I believe people only stay at a gym if it’s convenient.”
Fortunately, she has supportive and helpful customers who are glad to answer questions she has about business obligations, for which she is grateful. “The best part of being a business owner is the customers. I have the nicest people. I have met so many people who have helped me with so many things in my life. All I have to do is come in and say ‘I don’t know how to do business taxes’ and somebody will come forward and say, ‘Oh! I know somebody who can help you with that.’”
Megan described another instance in which she knew she had loyal and committed customers. She had injured her knee again and had to get a second operation. Her ability to spin then came into question. “I bought all these bikes, I paid all this money, and now maybe I can’t even spin,” she said. “I went to the hospital and the doctor told me the only thing you can do for twelve weeks is swim.” Although Megan would not be able to teach at Megacycle for quite some time, her customers still showed their dedication to her. “I went over to the YMCA, and when I got there, five of my customers were standing there waiting to go swimming with me.”
She reminisced about a happy memory a few years ago, when she had a party for the opening in the new Shrewsbury location. “I remember walking in here and thinking, I cannot believe that I created this. There had to be over 100 people… it was very humbling, to say the least.”
Megan’s instructors are all mothers. Their shared mothership is a coincidence and they were hired based off of their fitness skills. “The best part about having a totally female staff is everybody helps everybody,” she said. “One of the women who works here, her dog had to have surgery yesterday, and another woman texted and said ‘I’ll cover your class, what do you need from me?’ The question they always ask is ‘What do you need from me?’ It’s a really nice place to be, because you always feel supported.”
Megan likes to keep it simple when it comes to her management style, as she incorporates the Golden Rule. “I think to myself every day if I don’t have anything nice to say today, I don’t want to say anything, so I like to work that way with my employees.” She implies that this is not difficult to do since her staff is passionate about their work and always brings their best.
Megan says her children are her greatest inspirations. Before opening Megacycle, she felt guilty about how the business would take up a lot of family time with her children. At the time, her kids were still young, and she was reluctant to miss out on spending time with them in their early years. “I felt so guilty, I felt maybe I shouldn’t do this… maybe this was selfish,” Megan said.
However, her daughter encouraged her to proceed with her passion. “She said to me, ‘Mommy, you have to open the business. It’s what you love, and why shouldn’t you do what you love?’”
Similarly, a few years later, when money complications arose and Megan had to decide whether to move her location to Shrewsbury or close the business altogether, her daughter stepped in and guided her again: “Mommy, I tell everyone at school how proud I am of you. You can’t quit.” When telling me this, Megan paused and added, “I still think about that all the time.”
Megan is also passionate about the gradual achievements she sees in clients. “I love watching when somebody comes to class and they say they can’t do sit-ups, and then a few days later you see them and they’re doing sit-ups. Or they say that they can’t ride the class for the whole time and they’re gonna have to leave earlier, and then the next thing you know they’re there the next day and the next day and the next… I love watching people get through something that they think they can’t do.”
Megacycle is soon to release a series of on-demand workout videos on their website. “This way,” Megan explains, “people will be able to access workout videos on their devices for days they are unable to make it to the Megacycle, whether it might be due to complications with transportation or they would rather work out at home.”
Although the idea is “very new in the works,” Megan is excited to announce that she is also planning to open a new location in the future. “There will be two places to work out, and a place to work out on demand.” Megan is continuing to fulfill two big missions of hers: to encourage people to work out and be healthy and to make fitness resources available to as many people as possible.
With such an inspiring background, I wanted to ask Megan what advice she had for anyone looking to make fitness a part of their lifestyle. “The easiest way to start having a fit routine,” she said, “is to find someone to do it with you. If you find somebody to help you stay accountable, it’s easier.”
Megan, herself, is a buddy-motivator to her clients. She is highly communicative with her clients so that she can encourage them to get their workouts in. “A lot of the people at Megacycle will either text me or call me or email me, and they’ll say I really don’t want to come, I’m tired, I was up all night last night, whatever it is, and then I’ll go back and say I’ll meet you there, I’ll play that song you like, it won’t be that hard, you can do it.”
“If you’re really fit, if you’re not, if you’re trying, if you’re overcoming whatever your personal situation is,” Megan is here to empower you.
For more information on Megan, her gym, and her mission, visit www.themegacycle.com.
Tinton Falls, New Jersey