Photos Rob Smith
At first glance, it looks like any other gym with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, weights, and branded merch for sale, but step inside, and a sense of belonging envelopes you. The one-room training facility is stacked with an array of equipment, all designed to strengthen, condition, and tone women’s bodies. The space is intimate, offering personal training, small group training, and classes to achieve fitness goals. There is no recurring monthly membership.
Crystal Stewart has been a personal trainer for eleven years, working at Rome Athletic Club, Velocity, and Wright Athletic development to help men and women reach their potential. Gym ownership was always the goal, but in 2020 the world came to a halt, and Stewart’s life would change forever. Hers is not an easy story; Stewart’s fitness journey has been difficult and wrought with monument-sized challenges. However, her unfaltering desire to be healthy for herself and her family made the arduous journey worth the effort.
Just out of high school, Stewart fell into the void of substance abuse. What started as occasional party weekends in Atlanta sourly escalated. Stewart left home and didn’t talk to her family for over a year. “Years of bad choices caught up with me. I was overwhelmed and didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I picked up the phone and finally called my mom,” says Stewart.
Stewart’s mom, Marta Turner, was always her bedrock. A single mother of two inspired her daughters to fight for their future. “Mom listened without prejudgment of a situation or person. She really listened and worked hard for us, giving us advice—whether we chose to take it or not,” remembers Stewart.
“When I was younger, we went everywhere mom went. I was about twelve when she decided to go back to school. We were with her in the back of the classroom or cafeteria while she studied. I watched her dedication to doing what she believed in, seeing her tireless efforts to be the absolute best mom for us.” Marta is the inspiration Stewart buried deep inside.
Stewart left Atlanta and came back home, got a job, and enrolled back in school. Her struggle with addiction would continue for another year and a half, “My mom pulled me aside and said, “You have a choice. Go to Mississippi tomorrow for treatment or move out of the house and figure your stuff out,” recalls Stewart. With the support of a recovery community and her family, she found the help she needed. “I was scared and embarrassed to come home and face up to the choices that I had made. I saw everything I lost and just hated—really hated—myself.”
Her crushing lack of self-esteem pushed Stewart to find a positive way to build a new life for herself. Returning to her athletic roots in high school, she once again started to work out, investing in her physical well-being.
She earned an Associate in Marketing Management, married, and focused on family. Yet, for years she grappled with the sensation that there was still a missing piece. She wanted to help others, perhaps as a way to step outside of herself, but it would be in the pursuit of her personal-training certification that she found the healing she sought.
Friends and Mentors
Stewart began a new life, making a name for herself as an approachable and results-producing trainer. She worked with clients in various fitness facilities around Rome, but with her former colleague and long-time friend Ricky Wright of Wright Athletic Development, she truly developed her style.
“Ricky was very knowledgeable about training safely and injury prevention. He took me under his wing. As my mentor, he took my journey as a trainer to a much more conscientious level. Injury prevention is key when approaching your physical goals. Everything I do from agility to strength training, staying safe is number one,” says Stewart.
No Boys Allowed
She was always open to training anyone throughout her career, but women always gravitated toward her. Jill Goode, a long-time client, describes her pull toward Stewart, “Three years ago, I began training with Crystal. I was seeking a healthier lifestyle but had varied success in the past, exercising independently. I needed to train with someone else. It seems to help motivate me and keep me accountable. When I started working with her, I quickly felt like I was working out with a friend.”
Downtown Fit is the only local training facility that caters exclusively to women. Women trained by women who understand women’s bodies. All the instructors are coached in injury prevention instructed. It is where women can work out and feel safe, knowing they will not get hurt.
But why women only? Stewart explains, “Many women struggle in female-dominated environments, feeling there will be much judgment or competition. Downtown Fit is a great place to build sincere relationships with other women. In a relationship based on the common objective of becoming better versions of ourselves, any judgment aspect drops away. Our fitness community is a blessing; we are very comfortable with each other,” says Stewart.
Client Jenna Wright explains why she joined Downtown FIT, “At other gyms, I would find myself gravitating toward the cardio equipment or the group classes. I knew I needed to incorporate weight training, but I was extremely intimidated. Men always dominated the weights, and I felt like I would be in the way, or they would judge me or my body. I don’t have that concern here. Downtown FIT is a safe place where I can focus on my goals without feeling uncomfortable.”
All or Nothing
All her life, strong women in her life ushered Stewart. Memories filled with her mother, grandmother, and aunt reinforce her testimony of how meaningful female relationships are and how devastating the loss of those bonds can be. In 2015, Stewart began losing her grandmother to dementia. The women of the family rallied together to help offer support. A few years later, her mother, Marta, was diagnosed with stage-4 lung Cancer.
Stewart became the primary caretaker for the women who had cared for her all her life. Navigating the dizzying world of doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments, Stewart never lost sight of her goal of gym ownership. With the help of others and a leap of faith, she sought a facility. She acquired all the equipment and renovated a perfect location in the heart of downtown Rome. Stewart was under pressure to accomplish a miracle in just three weeks. “My mom wasn’t doing very well. I felt the need to get everything ready.
I was coming up on my fortieth birthday, the deadline I had set years ago for myself. Knowing how badly my mom wanted to see what I was accomplishing weighed heavily in my mind. With the tireless help of my husband and family, we worked to get the gym ready for my mom. After weeks remodeling, we were ready to unveil the space. Bringing her in her wheelchair, she saw what we built and told me how proud she was of me. It was the last time she ever left the house,” says Stewart fighting her tears.
Making the Difference
Downtown Fit is a mission. The dedicated staff equips and empowers women to be better versions of themselves, going beyond the physicality and mentality of training. “We work on expanding the capacity to understand that we can do things we don’t think we can, whether that is an exercise, raising their kids, or setting new goals. Whatever challenges these women face, we have a community sharing similar goals through fitness,” says Stewart.
Over the years, she has sought excellent results. “It’s deeply inspiring to support people’s physical health transformation into normal ranges. I see clients being able to discontinue medications and experience relief from their chronic depression and anxiety.” Sponsoring involvement in the Spartan races, Stewart recalls the ecstatic moment when someone adopts the attitude; I can do it. Downtown Fit is a place to challenge and overcome your weaknesses, whether they be physical or mental. It is a place to grow beyond your limits, expand your self-confidence, and strengthen your sense of capability. Women supporting women—it’s a place to heal.
6 Dos and Don’ts for a healthier body and mind
Do not go on a diet. Find a lifestyle plan that works for you. Everybody is different and has different needs.
Do not set your health goals on someone else’s body. Genetics do play a role in our health. Your goals are yours, and your way of achieving those goals may look different from others. That is okay.
Do not expect a quick fix when you decide to “get healthy.” Health is a journey; it takes time to develop and adopt new habits. Consistency with habits leads to change and lasting results. Focus on progress, not perfection.
Do drink water. Set a water goal. Half of your weight in water in ounces is a general daily goal. Plan to have enough water.
Do set a sleep goal and adjust your schedule accordingly. Sleep is essential for our bodies to heal, repair, fight infection and inflammation, and many other processes. Sleep is just as important as exercise.
Do find accountability. Hire a trainer, join a class, find a workout partner, and be accountable. YOU are worth the investment.