STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A year ago, when Ruth Sacks Marlin — a former lawyer who had been working as a personal trainer for the last 15 years — was invited to IDEA World Convention, touted as the world’s largest personal training conference in Anaheim, Calif., she was excited.
“I was in a cohort with 250 of the biggest names in the fitness industry. The chairperson of that conference talked about her large fitness facility and her virtual training business,” said Marlin, a St. George resident.
However, at the time — well before he coronavirus (COVID-19) caused a global shutdown — Marlin, like all others, didn’t foresee the widespread need for virtual fitness training.
“Last year, I was focused on my [more than] 15-year-old personal training one-on-one, fitness classes, traveling to people’s home, training in three private gyms, and on travel fitness,” she said.
It was appealing to learn at the IDEA World Convention “how to show people how they can continue working out even when they are not near a gym, or they are away from their usual fitness routines,” she recalled.
So she listened and learned. And that came in handy a year later.
Once coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic set in, Marlin took what she learned from the training event a year prior and put it into action. In July 2020, she launched “Ruth Fitness Virtual Studio.”
“Virtual fitness is absolutely the present and the future of fitness,” said Marlin. “Many traditional clients are not likely to return to gyms for a number of reasons, including health concerns and the convenience of the home workout. … Virtual fitness serves so many, including people who are working; kids who are only in school for one to three days per week with little, if any, in-person physical fitness; parents who are at home with their kids; people who are retired, [and] young adults who are used to doing everything virtually.”
Her virtual studio includes fitness classes, like boot camp, and one-on-one training, said Marlin.
WHY THE CAREER SHIFT?
When Marlin was a political science major at Tufts University in Middlesex County, Mass., she was a runner. Track was a sport she also enjoyed while attending Curtis High School, St. George.
“I was captain of my teams at Curtis and Tufts. …I loved the idea of coaching, helping people, but the path to law was set. My goal in law was to help people. I practiced real estate law and had a goal to do pro bono work while also living an active, fun life in Florida after graduating from the University of Miami,” recalled Marlin.
“I worked for 14 years for three different nonprofit organizations in the field of fundraising, major gifts and planned giving or charitable estate planning, [which is] helping people to help charities by creating wills, trusts and other types of vehicles that benefit charities,” added Marlin of her law career.
After having moved back to Staten Island with her husband, she wanted to start a family. But juggling a busy law career and children wasn’t going to work. That’s when she opted to switch career paths and pursue personal training.
“I thought about what I wanted to do, remembering back to college and my goals to coach. I started with an idea and a flyer. I showed it to one person, who hired me, and referred me to the next person. And that is how I have been helping people transform their lives,” said Marlin.
She said she teaches people how to “find a way, to find the time, to focus on making small changes, with consistency, to add activity, toning, build strength (body, mind, spirit), to lose weight, to add flexibility, and to de-stress,” in their daily lives.
CHALLENGES TO OPENING DURING A PANDEMIC
Marlin admitted that the biggest challenge to starting this business was herself.
“I had to get out of my comfort zone. I was used to, and loved connecting with people in person — whether at the gym or at their home. I had to learn new ways to connect with people and to deliver the health coaching that we all need,” she said.
However, there is another key challenge: Due to the current health crisis, many people don’t have extra money to spend.
“People have had their priorities on keeping their jobs, businesses going, homeschooling their kids, etc. and haven’t focused as much on themselves and prioritizing their own health, so that they can be there for everyone else,” she said. “People have lost jobs; businesses have been tremendously compromised, so though health is important, it has been difficult for some to prioritize.”
For this reason, she said her virtual business has a price point “far below what you would pay for an annual gym membership.”
As for future goals, Marlin said she hopes to reach as many people as she can with her virtual training sessions.
“I want to motivate everyone to lead an active life, integrating healthy eating and reducing their stress levels, so they can live their best life,” she said.
RUTH FITNESS AT A GLANCE
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New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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