//Owner of VIBE Gym and Wellness Collective Megan Nelson poses for a photo on April 4 during the opening launch week. VIBE’s goal is to be more than a gym: A safe space for women and nonbinary folks in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood. Photos by Karson Hallaway | firstname.lastname@example.org
Meghan Nelson, owner of VIBE, went from marketing entrepreneur to personal trainer and nutrition coach in 2020. While working with a variety of clients, she became aware of a need that wasn’t being met in Denver’s fitness scene. The threat of harassment or assault at gyms may prevent many women and nonbinary folks from starting their workout journey. According to a 2019 study by FitRated, 71% of women who do use a public gym report being harassed on a daily basis.
“I had clients who told me they had been harassed, sexually assaulted, and made to feel unwelcome at several different locations around the city,” Nelson said. “At first I thought, ‘Someone needs to do something about this,’ and quickly after I realized maybe I’m that someone.”
Nelson came across her fair share of hurdles once deciding to open her own fitness studio. With landlords’ post-pandemic wariness and what she believes was a sprinkle of sexism due to VIBE being a woman-led start-up, she struggled to find a location. However, she didn’t let that halt her.
Knowing that nailing down the perfect space would be a challenge, she made sure not to lose focus on things that were within her control. From drafting a business plan to securing the branding, Nelson kept working to have everything in place so when a studio finally became available, she’d be ready.
In fact, it wasn’t until March 21, 2022, that Nelson finally found the spot that would bring VIBE to life. Located in an area with access to public transportation and a building with wheelchair access, Nelson is thankful for every barrier because it led to a spot more perfect than she could have hoped for.
“We want to be accessible to all, so the location of our gym was very important to me,” she said. “The neighborhood is peaceful, the sunshine beams through the windows and it feels safe. I toured several [other] areas around the city and when I realized I wouldn’t have felt safe walking alone to my car at night [elsewhere], I knew I couldn’t expect my clients to either.”
Upon entering the studio, clients are surrounded by a balance of airy and colorful. The walls are lined with the work of local artists, allowing them the chance to showcase their talent while bringing some character to the space. With strategically placed mirrors, red light rooms, equipment and privacy screening on the windows, Nelson was determined to create a comfortable environment.
“Every decision I’ve made is intentional,” Nelson said. “From being scent-free to gender-neutral bathrooms to large fonts on all our materials, we want everyone to feel that this space is meant for them.”
The gym is women and nonbinary-only, creating a devoted space for them to feel supported and safe. This devotion includes folks who are often left out of fitness conversations: mothers, people with disabilities and those who are just getting started on their journey. The sole purpose of VIBE is comfortability and accessibility, not allowing anyone to be left out.
A first of its kind to the Mile High City, VIBE is more than just a place to lift weights. VIBE takes a whole-body approach to help clients live their best life. A membership doesn’t just give access to the gym. It connects members to an ever-growing network of health and wellness professionals in various fields, including financial support, professional networking and mental health.
The location also has free onsite childcare for children 10 weeks and up available to members. With a team of child care experts, clients can focus on their physical and mental health with peace of mind knowing their children are in great hands.
Members have the choice of open gym style versus fitness classes, allowing members to work at their own pace. While the open gym space is still evolving due to delivery delays, the space is set up to include a range of equipment, including free weights, resistance machines, cardio machines, Smart Mirrors and more. Fitness classes include yoga, High-Intensity Interval Training, self-defense, Zumba, bounce, kickboxing, mat pilates, dance jam, lifting, and running club. With a rotating schedule, Nelson hopes to add more classes based on the interests of her clients.
A wall of telephone booths in the back will soon be transformed for red light therapy usage. Red light therapy is shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, speed up muscle repair and recovery, and reduce healing time for wounds and injuries.
“If a client is having a bad day or their workout is stressing them out, they can pop back into our red light rooms,” said Nelson. “We’re removing the barriers that often result in people skipping a workout or leaving a gym early. We want our clients to see this place as an escape.”
Only open a little over a week, Nelson wasn’t expecting memberships to soar yet. Having already added over 300 memberships, she hopes to reach 1000 by the end of the year and plans to continue adding to this oasis. She is working on adding nutrition counseling, physical therapy and mental health support. With warmer weather around the corner, she’ll soon have a dedicated outdoor space to host vendors and events.
As VIBE continues to take off, Nelson is determined to ensure they never lose sight of the goals that brought the business to life. Aware of her privilege as a white, able-bodied woman, she is ready to learn from others and listen to the needs of the community she’s supporting.
“We’re not perfect but we’re willing to listen and evolve to ensure everyone feels welcome,” said Nelson. “We’re not here just to talk the talk. We want to walk the walk.”
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