Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Angela Tomassetti of Fit Club

Name: Angela Tomassetti
Hometown: Richton Park, IL
Current Residence: Berwyn, IL

All About Angela: When residents ask if I’m originally from Berwyn, I get a kick out of seeing their reactions when I explain I grew up just a bit further south. How far? Just south of 211th and Harlem—South! After graduating with degrees in dance and finance, I bounced around from San Diego to London, where I worked in the hedge fund industry. It was while living in London that I completed the first of my many certifications in fitness and yoga. After a cancer diagnosis in 2001, I found the regular practice of yoga left me feeling more grounded and vital. Since then, I have made it my mission to encourage others to find the form of exercise they can and will engage in regularly enough to experience its life-changing effects. I returned to Illinois in 2009 and decided to retire from my career in high finance in favor of teaching fitness and yoga full-time. I came to Berwyn by way of Logan Square. My husband and I were charmed by Berwyn’s housing stock and distinctly urban feel. We share a Victorian home with two rescue pups in Berwyn’s Depot District. I am now the proud owner of two Depot businesses—Fit Club and, most recently, Lunges ‘n Lattes.

The Business Side: Shortly after moving to Berwyn in 2013, as a personal trainer and entrepreneur I began training private clients out of my garage. As the number of students I was seeing in my garage began to balloon, my husband insisted I needed to move out of “his” garage. In 2014, I rented my first storefront in Berwyn’s Depot District. My first business, Fit Club, was born out of my desire to connect more meaningfully with students than I was able to in big box gyms. Seeing how much more committed students became when their trainers knew their story and their friends were a part of the journey, I wanted to see what would happen if I flipped the industry on its head. Instead of focusing on filling studios to the rafters, as I had done in bigger chain facilities, I capped classes at small numbers and began inviting colleagues who shared my passion for small group training to join me. The result is a retention rate that is unheard of in the fitness industry and a community of students who are more committed than ever before to making exercise a fun and regular part of their daily lives.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Studious: The three most common words uttered in my home as a kid—”Look it up.” As an inquisitive kiddo, I was encouraged by both parents to spend time researching the answers to my questions. If I don’t have my nose in a book, I have it pointed at a screen. I love learning and spend much of my free time doing research and attending continuing education courses and training.
Passionate: I can recall distinctly the first time someone recognized my passion and skill for teaching movement. During an independent study art class in high school, I was demonstrating a painting technique for a classmate and explaining how the position of the brush and movement of the hand would create the stroke she was after. As I excitedly stepped back to watch my classmate catch on to the movement, my art teacher, standing by watching me geek out, said I would make an excellent teacher. I scoffed at the idea at the time, but his encouragement stuck with me for years. I truly love and have a great passion for instructing movement, alignment, and positioning. Seeing someone light up when they learn something new or feel something I am describing really inspires me, particularly when I know it is something that is going to help them feel and move more confidently in their everyday life.
Generous: Whether with time or resources, I tend to give a lot of what I have to others. Whether that is always a good thing, people closest to me may be willing to debate. I credit my generosity to my mother. As an educator herself, I witnessed the way she would give her time and energy to those most eager to learn. Years on, her students still remark upon this generosity. Seeing how they smile as they recall how the time and attention she devoted made them feel, I aspire to pass that on. It’s tremendous what an impact a little recognition can have on people. Exercise can be such an intimidating experience for most, particularly those who are new or feeling especially self conscious. I believe firmly that the extra time and care I offer can really make a difference in a student’s willingness and ability to persist.

What inspires you?
Seeing people connect the dots. The look on a student’s face, the sparkle in their eyes, the way a student will stand a little more proudly when they finally “get” something, and especially hearing a student explain to others what they have learned. Several students have stepped into the role of teacher since first entering Fit Club. Seeing how exercise has transformed these people’s bodies, minds, and lives so powerfully that they wish to share it with others? That is what inspires me the most!

Tell us something that people might not know about you.
Despite spending so many waking hours in front of students at Fit Club, working with private clients in their homes, and serving patrons at Lunges ‘n Lattes, I actually suffer from social anxiety disorder. I have learned how to manage it over the years, but most people are often shocked to learn that I avoid social gatherings because of crippling anxiety. I don’t shy away from discussing it because I feel there is such a stigma associated with mental illness and don’t want to contribute to the very shame and embarrassment sufferers like me have battled.

Why Berwyn?
When my husband and I bought our home in the Depot District in 2013, we were drawn to its walkability. Only we discovered there was not much to walk to in our little corner of town. Tired of hearing the litany of excuses among residents and former business owners about why the Depot wasn’t a bustling business center, we decided to Field-of-Dreams our way into creating something for the community to enjoy. We built it, the Fit Club members came, and so we persevere. I have since partnered with Riverside resident, Stephanie Lukich Roldan, in what is now a second venture — Lunges ‘n Lattes. I am excited to see more businesses and public art commissions cropping up in our corner of town and am optimistic when
meeting more and more former Chicago residents who have chosen to make Berwyn their home, too.

Do you have a hidden talent?
I am an incredibly fast typist.

What gets you through a rough day?
A small collection of handwritten thank you cards I have held onto. The hours and intensity of the job can be rough — up by 4am daily and physically leading 20 workouts a week — so when I am feeling zapped, the kind words of thanks I have received over the years can do wonders to restore my energy.

What book impacted you the most?
Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich. I have read many academic texts in the area of exercise science and anatomy, but Forencich manages to boil down in super digestible bites a perfect summation of my core beliefs as a trainer. Eat, play, and actively engage in life and with the people, places, and things that fill you with the most energy and joy. As I tell students, “Don’t be the chimp. Be the bonobo!”

What would be your spirit animal?
A panda bear for its love of handstands and voracious appetite!

What’s your cure for hiccups?
Many people may not know this trick, but handstands work for hiccups. A handstand cures mine every time.

 

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