A few years ago, Adrien Cotton was running a successful gym located near the Old Town Waterfront. From 5 am to 9 pm, dozens of clients streamed through the doors of the space, called Fitness on the Run, to train with her or one of her 11 coaches. She had a loyal base of clients and what she calls a “heavenly existence” at the gym, with its rubber floor, kettlebells, weight racks, pull-up bars, and turf run, a far cry from the earliest iteration that she launched from her home in 2004. In 2010, the Washington Post named her “Best Fitness Instructor” in the DMV. By 2017, she and her coaches had trained more than 1,500 clients.
Meanwhile, between training clients and managing the behind-the-scenes work that kept things going day-to-day, Adrien was working on a brand new program that was still under the radar. The most challenging part? Her gym didn’t have room for an office, so she found herself taking calls in her car or in the gym’s stairwell.
Then she discovered ALX Community, at the time at its original location on S. Lee Street, just a block from Fitness on the Run. So she took a tour. The first thing that stood out to her? “The cool phone booths,” she says. “At this point I was really trying to build the program. And I just loved the community feel that Kelly [Grant, Partner and COO of ALX Community] had beautifully curated. It was a no-brainer once I had my tour. The fact that you could work there confidentially, and then jump into the phone booth for calls—it was friendly, yet private. Because I was working on things that nobody knew about.”
The things nobody knew about stemmed from an observation Adrien had made round 2017. She noticed that her clients were doing everything right as far as diet and exercise were concerned, but they weren’t happy. “Fitness on the Run was intended as a way for them to feel better and look better. And people were not feeling and looking better—although they were toiling away at these early morning sessions with a pool of sweat on their mat.”
She then came to a very simple realization: “To really become happy, content, living this wellness-centric life is a whole lot more than diet and exercise.” And she realized she had fallen out of love with her current brand of fitness, saying, “This is not a lucrative career. So you really have to love what you’re doing.”
In January 2019, after two years of secretly building her new company from the tables and phone booths of ALX Community, Adrien launched Alexandria Wellness. Under its umbrella are what she calls three prongs: concierge wellness, corporate wellness, and fitness programs. But she clarifies that Alexandria Wellness is not a fitness program—it’s a wellness program, one that integrates stress resilience, sleep practices, nutrition, movement, and mindfulness to allow clients to develop a realistic, long-term plan for physical and mental health.
The first prong of Alexandria Wellness, the concierge wellness program, is an intensive, holistic approach that aims to move women beyond quick-fix notions around diet and exercise, and actually talk about mindfulness, stress resilience, getting sleep, loving your body with the right kinds of food, and getting deep into issues around food. There are three tiered packages that provide various numbers of hours per month (4, 6, or 8) to work with Adrien not only on wellness, but also on menopause issues and “calendar fixing,” as well as personal training.
The corporate wellness prong involves visits to corporations, where she works with teams around sleep, stress, work-life balance, mindfulness, and how to manage your calendar for wellness. “I talk a lot about emails,” she says. Every session opens with around 30 seconds of breathing to get employees to a place where they’re “intentionally ready for wellness.”
The third prong, fitness programs, are a welcomed leftover from Adrien’s Fitness on the Run days. It consists of “an incredibly generous and loyal community of women who begged me to keep a fitness program going,” she says. “So I told them there’s only one way I would do that. And that is if we incorporate into every one of their sessions a 10- to 15-minute discussion about wellness issues. May was mindfulness month. This month is about calendar management, because the calendar is at the root of a lot of peoples’ stress—and then you don’t have time for yourself for wellness.”
Currently in a new office space on Powhatan Street—where she moved during the pandemic, since it had a carport that provided shelter over the parking spaces, allowing her to train one client in each space in order to maintain social distancing—Adrien is about to launch another program in the area of corporate wellness called the “New Normal” Corporate Transition. It reflects one of the positive lifestyle changes to emerge from the pandemic: being on camera.
“Zoom has opened individuals up to being seen on screen all day long, and has given us so much capability for wellness, too,” she says, noting one organization she works with that has employees all over the world who are able to join in to sessions. “There are no limitations for wellness now. We can do wellness anywhere. We are limitless.”
To get in touch with Adrien, email her at email@example.com.
Interested in building your dream career at ALX Community? Email Kelly Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of Adrien Cotton.