Connie Sheehan has been in corporate sales and marketing since 1988, moving to Minneapolis from St. Louis in 2000. She had begun taking, then teaching, fitness classes while in St. Louis. “The instructor was pregnant. I volunteered to take over the class and have been teaching ever since,” she said. In Minneapolis, she’s taught at the Midtown YMCA and a small fitness boutique.
“It was just really truly how great I felt after moving my body,” she said. “I come from a very large family — a couple of them have been medicated for depression. I find that when I move my body, I can deal with my depression much better.”
The idea of opening her own fitness center came while Sheehan was teaching at the YMCA. “People would come to my class and say, ‘We love your energy. We feel good about ourselves when we leave.’ I felt like I could do this on my own.”
She and her niece took a business class at the University of St. Thomas. “We both got really scared. We decided it wasn’t the right thing to do. We tabled it, let dust collect on that business plan. Last year I was at a conference on Women and Physical Power. I left and thought, ‘I need to do this. I’m still scared, but I’m going to do this.’”
Sheehan trained for her business opening as if it was an athletic event. “I had no alcohol, caffeine or sugar for a year. I wanted my full mind.” In addition, she said, “I told myself that every single day I would do something toward opening my business.”
After some setbacks, she connected with the owner of Element Boxing in St. Paul, who agreed to sublet space beginning in November, and Sheehan scheduled her first class for Thanksgiving Day. “It’s amazing how it all turned almost on a dime,” she said.
Sheehan has a particular audience in mind. “I’m at the Midway YMCA — this is where my sisters should be coming, and they weren’t. I put my intention out to get more women of color to come to my class. Someone tells someone else — they would say to me, ‘It’s better when I see people like me, someone like me teaching, people like me in the class.’ For me, too, it’s the truth.”
What kinds of classes do you offer at Push?
I’m offering Sunday Gospel Spin. It fits my demographic. It’s on Sunday — any way that I can pull my sisters in. Living Word Church is in the same building. People could come right across the hall and come try it. I’ll also offer High-Intensity Interval Training — you work hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. It’s a good workout in a short amount of time.
Why aren’t there more women of color taking fitness classes?
Cost is a big issue. They see it as an extra. I also think it’s because there isn’t a place where they go and see people who look like them. In my own personal world I haven’t found it.
Are you leaving your corporate job?
I’m just doing classes in the morning and possibly one or two evening classes. I’m staying in corporate — my hope is to go part-time. I don’t have expectations of a lot of money. I believe it will be a slow process. I’m going to figure it out. There is an elegant solution. □