Barbells & Bullies

It’s really interesting to look back on things and realize some key things that you couldn’t see when they were happening. This week I took down TW Fitness. Like, I KNOW. I KNOW. I KNOW. I FUCKING KNOW. Ok. In spite of closing it, closing it again, then really closing it to the very last amazing clients that I kept cause I loved them… to taking it down.

The sign was still over my door. The space was still set up, client pictures, workout boards… like I could turn the lights on and run a fitness class anytime.

Taking it all down was a process. I had to plaster, paint, move everything… and I was busy writing books and helping people in different ways, doing all the things…

But I knew it was time to let it go fully so I started the process. It was interesting what happened as I took down each photo and remembered the good, and the bad, that came with the years in the gym. I started TW Fitness north of 60. In all the time and all the people I coached there, I never had a problem, really.

My move to Newfoundland and my business start up wasn’t so smooth. I remember the first comment that didn’t sit well with me… ” I come to you cause you’re not in shape and I won’t feel badly about myself” I felt so defeated. I was 125 lbs and wore a size 4-6. I loved myself at that point. I had worked hard to get there and had such joy in helping people.

The comments continued and mostly I just let them go but some really stuck. “Who do she think she is charging that kind of money for a program, that’s a car payment“- yes, karen, it fucking is. Why do you care more about your car than your health? Also, fuck off (things I wish I had said back then).

But the one that really stung was the woman who asked to pay late then refused to pay then said she didn’t get what she paid for… 1. you didn’t fucking pay and 2. you didn’t fucking show up half the time and 3. we over delivered what we promised and gave even more than we said we would and 4. you didn’t fucking pay. It stung because I trusted her. I gave her time, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and served her in spite of her non payment… and that happened. And it taught me a valuable lesson about people and money. I wish it was the first, or last time, I had to learn that lesson.

And the lawyer who threatened to sue me if I didn’t let her out of the contract she signed. Obvi I did, even though she was in the wrong…

And the 2 women who came into my home studio, talked about me all over town, tried to make up problems every month for a discount and every time I turned my back they created problems in the class and made others uncomfortable in their non stop “gang up against Tonya mentality”. What the fuck even?

It started, my own fault of course, where one person came to my studio and wanted to join the program. I had an open space. Back then I wasn’t good at saying no to satan when it walked in the door. She told me she would give me a try because I was close in proximity but she had heard only bad things about me.

By this point my self esteem had been beaten down a lot. Every time something didn’t work for her, I adjusted, the classes, the times she could come for weigh ins, the cost of her program… it was 100% my own fault. I could have told her at any time fuck off (I so wish I had). But I wasn’t like that. I had a tendency to let people walk all over me. I couldn’t say no. I couldn’t defend myself. I couldn’t show people the door. Not in my personal life as much but definitely in my professional life.

As I was taking down all of the things in the gym it dawned on me that I had been bullied… not by one but by many, for the stories I share here are only a few, I could write a book on the bad behaviour I experienced.

I shouldn’t be shocked, but sometimes I can be a little naive to what really happened. I think I didn’t know what adult bullying looked like or I didn’t see it as anything other than “well, that’s business” and “that’s what you get when you’re in business” acceptable behaviour.


It’s bullying. Straight up bullying. People manipulating, abusive, harmful in their actions and words to cause another emotional, physical, financial, mental harm.

For many reasons, it was time to let go of the gym. But I realized how much I shrank away from it and how much I wanted out because I didn’t want to deal with that anymore.

When we say “did I attract it?” Abso-fucking-lutely I believe in the law of vibration, the law of attraction – we get back what we vibrate, we attract what we need to grow. And I needed those experiences to help me wake up to more, to help face and deal with my past. To understand when you have that many experiences you have to step back and wonder what part you’re playing.

And the part I was playing was accepting it.

As if I didn’t deserve any better, as if it was ok, accepted even. I didn’t see all the good people. I didn’t see all the friendships I made because of it. I didn’t see those who embraced me, who helped me, who supported me, who I truly helped get their lives and their health back.

A few bad apples really can ruin the barrel. But only when we let them spread. By not removing them, I destroyed something I genuinely loved. By not removing them, I never learned to say no to what I didn’t want, I never learned to hang onto what I loved and instead let it be tarnished and tainted by a few fucked up people. By not removing them, I lost myself and then lost the good stuff.

As I took it all down I also saw my own issues – that I would do that – let myself be treated that way. How I often vented about the people but didn’t deal with them. Attracting even more of them.

The gym was always a place I loved deeply. It was the place I first really found myself, my own power, strength, resilience, ability to push my limits, to dominate myself, to feel good about myself, fall in love with serving and helping others.

The gym has become that for me again. About me, for me. I still help my friends from time to time. My personal gym is open for workouts with people I love and enjoy. The picture included in this post represents those people, those days, that incredible joy and all the good that came from it.

The gym gave me almost all the people in my life now, friends, hiking partners, my new business was formed on foundation of the old, my business partner… friendships that have lasted beyond the gym floor.

For me, the gym was an incredible space, still is. It’s a place of sweat, hardship, goals, dreams, wanting more, hunger and passion. I’ll always love the gym for that. I’ll always love the hardship it’s failure brought me and I’ll always be immensely grateful for the incredible new foundations it brought through pain.

Perhaps that’s why it was so long to truly let go… maybe there were parts I didn’t want to face. Parts I wasn’t ready to face. I have talked about my hardships and experiences that led me to burn out in the industry, my eating disorders returning. But I never really saw it all for what it was.

I debated not writing this but I write to process and I share to help serve. I didn’t want it to sound like a broken record wah wah wah poor me. Cause I don’t feel that way. But I wrote it to address 2 things…

  1. If you have a problem with a service there are ways to address it in an emotionally intelligent way. If you don’t like the service or the product, call the company, ask for a manager, ask for a resolution. Or simply don’t go there. Just because you don’t like the times or the availability, maybe find somewhere that works for you instead of bending the people around you to get your own way. You might think it’s great, but the people dealing with you just give you your own way to make it stop. Even if you’re wrong. And you go through life bullying and ploughing your way through people and take pride in it. There’s nothing to proud of in that behaviour… whether it’s your husband, children, coworkers or the latte lady. Do your own inner work and stop bleeding all over people who didn’t cut you.
  2. If you’re dealing with this as a business owner, employee, friend, family member or coworker, trust me when I say it’s not easier to walk away. most of us have learned to walk away, to give in, to not fight back because most of us aren’t great with confrontation. We’ve been conditioned to be afraid, to walk away, to zip it, silence ourselves and that never serves us. So even if you’re scared, do the hard thing, speak up, say no, hold onto that job you love but don’t let that coworker or the customers make it hell for you. When we shut up and put up we start a war inside of us that will eventually take us down.

Those 2 things are why I couldn’t let this go without writing a blog about it. People are fucking assholes. But people are also amazing and when you get rid of the assholes, you really get to see the incredible people who are around you.

Once I started speaking up I realized I had the power to influence the situation in ways I hadn’t realized. Now if someone is off with me I do 2 things – I assess if I want to be involved. If I don’t I move on and don’t take it personally. But often I ask them if everything is ok? More often than not it opens the space instead of closes it.

And because I’m not fuckwithable anymore, I don’t take people’s shit personally. That came from a complete crash and burn to rock bottoms basement. And when you’ve landed down there, there really is no where to go but up. And don’t be fooled by the quotes. Climbing up is the hardest part.

And that’s the point isn’t it? To let our heartbreak break us open, to let our trauma’s guide us to the depths of our soul, to let our hardships be the driving force behind what we create in the world.

Because the alternative, if we don’t heal, is to settle for a life we don’t want because we didn’t fight for a life we do want.

And while I love the barbells alone these days, I don’t see many bullies anymore because it’s a hard fucking stop at the step if they show up. I replaced my doormat with my backbone.

Stay Wild,


PS… you can buy a copy of my book Unchained here -> or at any of your favourite retailers.

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