by Pam Chamberlain, submitted 2016
Tony Nguyen has an ambitious goal: to change people’s approach to fitness.
While growing up in Whitehorse, Yukon, Tony was an avid athlete. After high school, he was recruited to play on the Augustana men’s basketball team. As a member of the Vikings, he learned skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and time-management—skills which would serve him well later when he started up his own business.
Tony, a Registered Kinesiologist, has co-founded the Edmonton-based company F.R.E.E. Fitness. “Many people really want to get in shape,” Tony says, “but often they do not have the knowledge, support, or finances to succeed.”
His company’s innovative model allows a client free coaching for two weeks during what Tony calls the “commitment phase.” The trainer helps with a physical training program and a review of eating habits. Tony holds clients accountable for meeting their commitments and helps them eliminate unhealthy habits preventing them from reaching their fitness goals.
After two weeks, Tony explains, “If the client has followed through during the commitment phase, the client earns the privilege to ‘pay how you feel.’ We show we care about our clients’ health without putting a price on our service.” The company also offers free fitness camps outdoors every Friday evening with the goal of giving people a positive experience and the confidence to become more active, whether at home, outdoors, or at a gym.
Tony encourages his clients to eat healthfully, to exercise for fun, to live balanced lifestyles, and to love themselves. This is harder than it sounds, he says, in a society that bombards us with weight-loss advertisements and Photoshopped images of models. “The traditional fitness industry thrives on making people feel dissatisfied with how they look. We can lose sight of what being healthy feels like because we are chasing an unrealistic image of what fitness looks like.”
“I encourage them to ignore the media’s images of ‘perfection,’” he explains. “I want them to be excited, like I am, by the transformative aspect of their journey—their discovery of who they are—not what they look like at the end.”
“I still love sports and the high I get after a sweaty workout,” Tony says. “But most of all, I love meeting new people, helping clients, promoting fitness, and giving back to the community. At Augustana, I learned what it was like to be heard and helped by others. I want to offer that same experience to my clients and to have a positive impact on their lives.”