With a love of athletics in mind, Leah Epstein Armstrong’s dream career involved one thing for certain.
“I (wanted) to be in sweatpants,” she said, with a laugh.
Fifteen years later, the Bradford West Gwillimbury resident now runs eLifestyle, a global in-home fitness and weight loss management company.
She started the business in her 20s, with a background in aquatics, teaching water skiing and swimming.
Her husband, Robb Armstrong, a bodybuilder who was a fitness trainer and worked in sports nutritional marketing, joined the company in 2009 after the pair married.
The idea behind eLifestyle is to make fitness accessible, affordable, and part of people’s lifestyles by bringing instruction and equipment into people’s homes for personal sessions, or into businesses for employee workout sessions.
But some clients prefer meeting at the couple’s home gym in BWG for sessions, said Epstein Armstrong.
“Bradford (is) a different town. They want to get out of the house,” she said.
The pair recently welcomed me into their home gym to tell me about eLifestyle and show me a few exercises.
Everything in there was easy to move around and made good use of space — from exercise bikes, to weights and medicine balls, to various straps hanging on the wall.
Starting with TRX suspension training, Armstrong demonstrated how to use long yellow and black nylon straps with handles on the end.
I had seen them at a gym before but would never have known how to use them without someone to show me how.
Planting my feet and standing at an angle, with my knees slightly bent, I held on to the handles and let my body fall back. Working with my own body weight, and keeping my stomach tight, I pulled myself forward.
After a few repetitions, and angling my body even more, I could feel how the exercise would get tougher — and I would get stronger.
Then Armstrong showed me how to use battle ropes, which look like thick, heavy skipping ropes anchored on one end.
“Both of these are key because they’re centred around your core,” Armstrong said.
Grabbing two of the ropes, I alternated moving my arms up and down, slamming each rope into the ground.
I had tried these once or twice before, and, let me tell you, they are tiring after a while, so having someone there to coach and cheer you through it makes a difference.
Now, eLifestyle trainers are coaching people all over the world.
The company offers customizable programs online, including video coaching, which clients in other countries such as Australia and England now access.
“In those (early) days it was unheard of as a functional business,” said Epstein Armstrong.
But she successfully applied for a business grant to get started and never looked back.
Epstein Armstrong expanded the business to bring in-home workouts to clients vacationing at cottages in Muskoka, followed by corporate gigs.
They offer a variety of training packages based on an individual’s needs, or they can do gym equipment demonstrations.
Epstein Armstrong now has a team of trainers certified through eLifestyle’s training program who work for the company throughout Ontario, and the company sells the same program to outside trainers looking to up their skills.
“Let’s take our competition and make them our clients,” she explained.
Each program is customizable to meet people’s individual needs and goals.
“We can really connect with people instead of just buying something and getting lost,” Armstrong said.
Plus, working directly with people allows them to dispel fitness myths and gimmicks.
“There’s so much misinformation out there. It’s not about a diet, it’s about a lifestyle,” said Epstein Armstrong. “Most people focus on what they’re giving up than what they’re getting. We like to dispel those myths.”
Along with the business side of things, the couple launched the non-profit eLifestyle Advocates in 2016 to run programs through ParticipACTION.
They also have plans to work with indigenous communities and help them create and run obesity prevention programs.
“We want to take their stories, their culture, their food, and bring it back to them,” Epstein Armstrong said.
Here in BWG, Epstein Armstrong has first-hand knowledge of how eLifestyle’s programs can be successful after losing more than 120 pounds in the last three years.
After having two children, she started on her own weight loss journey.
“There’s a lot of other factors (other than food and fitness) that affect weight loss. I know how hard it is to sleep. I know how painful your body is. I know how you wake up and think, ‘What am I going to wear today?’” she said. “It’s so difficult and hard to stay on track.”
Epstein Armstrong will be sharing her weight loss story at the BWG Public Library Jan. 12.
It is a journey she could not have done without help, and she did it with her husband as a coach.
“(People) think they can do it on their own. You could do your taxes on your own. You could cut your own hair. (But) it would probably take 20 times as long … and it’s not going to be as effective,” she said.
This year, Epstein Armstrong has big plans for eLifestyle, including expanding the company’s online programming to help people reach their own fitness goals.
“There’s lots of people who can afford a trainer three to four times a week, which is amazing, (but) not everyone can afford that. My goal is to help 100,000 people change their life.”
Sharing her weight loss journey:
Epstein Armstrong will be sharing her weight loss story at Jan. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the BWG Public Library. Register for the $5 session at bradford.library.on.ca.