- The founder of Body Conceptions on why she left her doctoral program to pursue her passion for dance
- How her view on attitude has led her to taking some big chances
- How she shifted her in-person business to working virtually
Marhi Relin is the owner and founder of Body Conceptions by Mahri, expert trainers in women’s fitness. Amanda Marhi talks to 35 Thousand about her new normal, her love of travel, and how she shifted her business to working virtually during the pandemic.
Describe yourself in 3 words…
“Conscientious, empathetic, positive.”
Tell us about your work
“I run a fitness company based on a method I developed called Body Conceptions that uses dance principles (although you don’t have to be a dancer at all to do it!). We work with everyone but particularly focus on training women during times in their lives when they need it the most but tend to have the least support and information – i.e., during pregnancy and postnatal healing as well as fertility preparation and perimenopause. We do mostly private training in-home and also virtual training. I love what I do because the method is so fun, and I am filled every day by helping others feel stronger, more capable, and happier in their bodies.”
Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other?
“I work in the spare room and also in clients’ homes here in Denver (I’m vaccinated!).”
What parts of your work give you energy?
“Almost all of it, to be honest. I get so excited about helping people and seeing them feel better, especially during times when they feel extra stressed or uncertain. I also love working with my team, a group of women who care so deeply about what they do and want to learn as much as possible about fitness and women’s health. We spend hours in our training sessions on education, and I am so proud of everyone’s enthusiasm. Personally, I also love learning about the body and about all the hormonal and structural changes we experience as we go through different phases of life.”
What parts of your work drain you?
“The hardest part of this business for me is when I experience person-to-person conflict. I am really adamant about being there for my trainers, and there are tricky times when a lot of communication is necessary to support the client, help our trainers understand all sides, and resolve issues in a way that makes everyone feel heard. Despite my effort to understand where others are coming from, there are times when people don’t want to consider others’ personal needs or the needs of the business. That can be difficult, but I also realize it’s part of owning a business!”
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
“Realizing I don’t need to have “arrived” to be helpful to other people starting. The most pivotal moment happened in my early 20’s when I decided to leave my doctoral program in the third year. I was studying Clinical Neuropsychology, and I realized that I was taking this path for my parents but not for myself. I decided to take a leave absence to pursue dance in New York City, and I never returned! (I did secure my masters, and I have used a lot of what I learned in graduate school in my fitness work, believe it or not)”
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others…
“In graduate school, a fellow student said, “nothing in life is too hard” and that statement has stuck with me for years. Of course, there are lots of things that I can’t do and may never be able to do. But this attitude has led me to take big chances because I believe that most things are possible with determination, education, and positivity. Starting a business was a big example of this for me. I had never had any business experience, but I learned so much from others and always believed that it was possible. I encourage others to see the possibilities in their lives and go for the things that excite them. You will never know the happiness that comes from achieving your lofty goals unless you give them a try!”
What’s your context outside of work – do you have family, other people counting on you, pets, hobbies, external commitments?
“I have a little Maltese named Molly who has been with me through many moves and changes in my life. I also help a friend with her eBay clothing business, and I take dance class whenever I can. I have officially stopped performing regularly (I danced in musical theater internationally for 12 years), but I still dip my toe in dance and theater whenever opportunities come up. That is, when theater is actually happening…”
Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…
“Before the pandemic, I was traveling back to NYC for a week every month to see clients and my trainers, conduct business meetings, and participate in events. In NYC, I would visit lots of friends and see shows, and I also visited my family on Cape Cod whenever I could. Back in Denver, I took dance classes, spent a lot of time outdoors hiking and biking, and I did as much networking as I could. In my business life, I’m a big fan of running events and panels and meeting other practitioners in the prenatal and postnatal community. I’m also a big traveller. It’s a big part of what helps me recharge and feel happy.”
How has your daily life changed since the pandemic, what’s your new normal?
“With the pandemic in full swing, of course I stopped traveling abroad and out to NYC. I kept a tight friend group, but I didn’t see as many people as usual and stopped networking. I continued seeing a few clients in person who were very careful like me, but otherwise I conducted all of my personal training by Zoom. I am lucky to live in such a beautiful place and went outside as much as I could, but that definitely changed when things got colder. My day-to-day world definitely got smaller.
I am writing this now after receiving my second vaccine, so I’m already seeing my life expand again. I’m going out with friends more freely and also planning a few personal and professional trips out east. I went on a personal retreat, and I even went to a movie theater to see a movie! It feels so strange that these things still feel so foreign to me after doing them all the time just over a year ago!”
Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?
“Yes, in so many big and little ways. When everything shut down, we felt so badly for our clients who were moms. Suddenly, many of them had to home school on top of working from home, and doing a personal training session was not realistic. And of course all of our work was in-person before the pandemic, so we had to shift to virtual training suddenly. We spent hours as a company working on improving our virtual experience because we use music and also need our clients to hear us and know that we are paying close attention to their form. We also applied for a loan right away when we realized that it would take some time for all of our clients to figure out how to structure their lives and transition to virtual sessions. Thank goodness most of them took the leap of faith and continued working with us. Virtual training has actually broadened our reach as a company and could be a great thing in the long run. But it was definitely a painful transition in the beginning.
Personally, the pandemic impacted me a lot. I normally need connection with others, and I have remained very close with my NYC friends since moving to Denver (and usually get to see them when I fly out there for business). Not being able to fly to NYC for a long time affected me a lot, and I also missed seeing my parents in Massachusetts. While staying at home in Denver, I lost some of my big outlets like traveling, dancing, and networking, and it was really hard to live and work in the same house all the time without a change in scenery. I also had some friends and relationships that were deeply impacted by the pandemic, which affected me as a result since I cared about them a lot.”
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
“Honestly, I stopped sleeping well once the pandemic started. I had trouble falling asleep, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. I’m not sure how to describe the specific things that kept me up. Perhaps a general anxiety and feeling of being restless and trapped at home without an escape valve. I was also especially close to a few people who suffered from COVID-related issues and worried about them as well.”
What have been your best coping strategies over the past year? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
“I feel so lucky that I work out every day! Seriously, I had a lot of anxiety last year, and I felt like every session with clients (in which I also worked out with them) felt like a true reset. I would often feel like I had a completely new perspective on things after we finished training, and I was so grateful for that experience.
In addition to my work, I was really lucky to have a wonderful pod of friends I saw all the time, so I didn’t feel lonely. I also took a lot of classes connected to emotional expression – from dance and photography to women’s discussion groups. And I started to meditate a LOT, which made a huge difference. I just attended a personal retreat in Sedona a month ago, which was very intense but an incredible opportunity to understand myself better and see things in a new light heading into spring and more normal life.”
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
“I have relied on everything I mentioned above connected with my coping strategies – connection with others, emotional expression through art and movement, meditation, and deeper personal exploration. I will also add that I live near some beautiful mountains in Colorado, and going outside to be in nature has been amazing (especially after living in NYC for so long!). I also love good food, so cooking with friends and going out to some great restaurants has also kept me happy.”
Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way?
“I do a lot of pretty crazy things with my life. I’m not a 9-to-5 routine follower. However the pandemic It definitely shook me up a lot. I was deeply worried about the political climate, and I realized that many of things I had counted on could disappear suddenly and radically. It made me appreciate connection and family, and it also made me feel a little more wary and unsettled – maybe less confident than I’ve been that things will always turn out well. I hope that feeling goes away, but I also think it will drive me to be more active in trying to make things better in the world and the community. We have always championed women as a company, and I see it as more important than ever. We need to support each other and also help each other find more joy and connection.”
Are you ready to travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
“I am itching to travel again, yes! My first plans are to fly to NYC since we will be training people in-person again in the Hamptons. I want to see my parents as well. Other plans include a potential business trip to Miami, and I am also dying for a trip for myself somewhere out of the country. We’ll see what I decide…”
Finish this sentence “If you look in my handbag at any time you will ALWAYS find….”
“Oh my gosh. First you will comment about how heavy it is! I always carry way too many things because I want to be prepared at all times. In addition to my overstuffed wallet, phone, sunglasses, charger, and Airpods, you will find a little bag that contains all my little emergency beauty items – a nail file, lip balm, lipstick, lip gloss, hand cream, sunscreen, perfume, hair spray, and concealer. All in one bag.”
What are your work from home saviours?
“My fancy espresso machine (espresso is easier on the stomach than drip coffee). My two monitors. My fancy trackpad that allows me to do graphic design work without getting carpal tunnel. My bone induction headphones (when I can find them), since I can hear the Zoom call AND any screams my children are emitting when I wear them. I work out with many of my clients from home, so my regular virtual fitness routine is a huge work-from-home savior. Before my sessions, I like to follow a pretty regular morning routine of a quick meditation, making my bed, getting ready slowly and taking my time to eat my breakfast, and then setting up the extra room for my virtual session (which often includes listening to music and thinking through the session right before). My routine helps me slowly prepare my body and mind for my work while also giving myself enough time to get into the zone. Oh, and I didn’t mention my requisite morning cup of coffee, which fuels this entire process!”
Describe your style?
“My style is a combination of LOTS of fitness clothes and BoHo chic when I want to feel like a regular person.”
Name your 5 essential items of clothing:
“My non-fitness side….
- Bell-bottom jeans
- Long sweater to layer under jackets
- Flowy tank top
- Cowboy boots
- Little jean jacket”
How do you see your business or career in two years from now?
“I imagine that we will expand a lot after two years. Our virtual training has created interest far beyond NYC and Denver where we started, and there are groups of people in Florida, Southern California, and Boston (among other cities) who have expressed interest in training with people in-person. I look forward to training new instructors in several cities and also continuing to expand our virtual training as well. Lots of people have come to realize how convenient it is to train with someone online, and it’s exciting to expand our borders more and more.
I am so passionate about helping and informing women, so I also look forward to doing more events and retreats around the country and the world. The more I can help and support women, the better!”
What’s something you haven’t conquered yet but really want to?
“Despite the fact that I grew up on Cape Cod near the ocean, I have a weird fear of water. I have snorkeled a lot, but I would love to conquer my fear and learn to dive.”
What could you say to your 20 year old self that would help her the most?
“I would tell her to relax and laugh more, allow herself to have more fun, and listen to what her gut tells her. I would encourage her to stop listening to others and trust her heart.”
Do you have a life motto or mantra that really resonates with you?
“‘Be open and be kind‘. I think keeping myself as open to others and new experiences the better, and to do it with an open and loving heart is the way I aim to live my life. I want to approach all new adventures and challenges this way.”
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