Valerie Garner isn’t like most fitness instructors and that’s just fine with her.

The mom of a 16-month-old and former fitness competitor has for years offered a women’s boot camp, first at RIO churches and then in a rented space in Alcoa. As of this month, she and husband, Brandon, own the lease on a studio on Gill Street in Alcoa. The name of their first business together, Eternal Fitness, is about more than toning and lifting weights.

Spiritual, mental and physical are all one, Valerie said as she gave a look around the studio. “Those can’t be separated,” she said. “It’s about the whole person.”

So, in the boot camp classes that are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Valerie challenges participants with strength and conditioning training using dumbbells and cardio movements like burpees and jumping jacks. But she also provides a life lesson and spiritual compass, too.

One week, the focus was on thankfulness, Valerie said. That was followed by forgiveness.

It was in 2014 that Valerie started teaching fitness classes. She was a personal trainer at a major fitness center before deciding she wanted to do things her way.

This new business owner said she has struggled in her life over issues like depression and drug use; she’s been clean now for eight years. It’s tough, she knows, to open up sometimes about life’s hard knocks.

“This is a safe place,” she explained. “We talk. We pray for each other.”

The boot camp is for five weeks. Those interested can choose a 5:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. class time. At the evening class, there is free child care offered.

There is just something about bringing people of like mind together, this fitness instructor said. She especially loves seeing groups of women gain strength and confidence from one another as they seek healthier habits. “I think it’s powerful to have a community of women coming together for a common goal,” she said.

Using their expertise

Brandon likewise has his version of bootcamp, but for men. He has been around sports his entire life. He played football and competed in mixed martial arts. In addition, he coached football, track and wrestling for 10 years in Georgia.

“This has been an easy fit for us,” Brandon said. “We have both been around fitness.”

Right now, ages of those attracted to this model of personal fitness are as young as 13 and into their 60s, the pair said. All levels of fitness are welcome. Valerie said often the best way to become involved is by grabbing a friend, sister, mom or coworker.

“Sometimes people are nervous about coming by themselves,” she explained. “I notice that people do really well when they come in with a sister or friend and do it together.”

For those who need extra guidance with healthy eating, the Garners will provide a meal plan.

One of the best parts about being your own boss, Valerie and Brandon said, is being able to add new classes and services for clients. Valerie is just getting started on a class called Active Agers for those 50 and over. The exercises are lower impact. The class is held in the afternoons.

The duo is combining to also offer a cardio boxing class that is being held at 8:10 a.m. on Saturdays. This is a class they said is great for husbands and wives, best friends or moms and daughters.

“Now that we have our own space, there is lots of opportunity,” Valerie said. “We are able to come up with creative ideas, putting our gifts together and using them to help people.”

For those wanting to check out Eternal Fitness, more information is available on Facebook. The Garners are working on getting a website. Valerie pointed out there are no contracts with her business. Payment is based on classes taken.

This isn’t a walk-in gym where you pay and then you are on your own, the Garners said. It is personalized fitness where they will remember your name, Valerie said.

Spring arrives this week, a time of renewal. It is a time when some climb out of the hibernation of winter and begin to make changes in their lives. The Garners said they are here to help.

Valerie said she was deliberate in choosing a name for their business. She especially likes the verse in the Bible that says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is even better,” she said. “It’s the whole being.”

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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