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The Movement for Mental Health: The Susan Jackson Story

One of the best things about Susan Jackson’s online gym: Island SWEAT FITNESS is that the classes are for anyone and everyone! There really are no restrictions or requirements. You can be at any fitness level and you don’t have to have your camera on if you don’t feel like it. Bringing the entire family is also highly encouraged. Susan offers a huge range of classes right now, like Tabata HIIT training, step fitness, dance fitness, spin and cycle, pro accessible chair yoga, traditional flow yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, breathwork, full-body stretching and meditation. The reason why Susan is so adamant about having this huge scope of classes is that emotions and feelings come at such a large spectrum, and depending on how you are feeling that week, she wanted to ensure she would be able to hit as many marks as possible. As emotions change, different types of movements are just needed, and she knows one type of exercise cannot do that for many people. These exercises create mindfulness and self-awareness that certain ways of working out can often hinder. Susan and other instructors at Island SWEAT FITNESS promote the idea that it’s not about being perfect, but about having a unique, motivational experience that feels fun and right for you!

Affordable Payment & Accessible Registry

On their official website, you can see each workout class description, the instructors, payment options and it is made easy to navigate by keeping all of this on one main landing page. Susan and the other instructors recognize that her classes and programs are a huge outlet for people’s mental health, which means she wants to keep it as affordable and accessible for as many people to be able to attend and better themselves. With that, she offers a promo of the first class for only $5, regular drop-ins at $10 and unlimited monthly passes at around $50-60. She knows that any other boutique gym like hers would charge way more than that, but because she is solely online, she knows she has less overhead costs and can keep everything very accessible. She will often find herself being charitable by offering random free classes or pay by donation to make it even more accessible. The pandemic has changed so many people’s income situations, and with mental health resource accessibility already being a problem for many, she changes that narrative at Island SWEAT FITNESS.

Instructors, Caribbean Focus & Community 

Despite featuring mainly all-female Caribbean heritage instructors and being adamant about only playing Caribbean cultural music in their classes, Island SWEAT FITNESS is for every gender, age and ethnicity of individuals. Susan’s goal is to properly represent the Caribbean culture through her online gym, and using her heritage music is a unique form of therapy and sense of identity that she believes should be widely shared in a proper way. Music and art forms as a means for bettering mental health is a primary focus for Susan and why she feels it unites her classes and community rather than promoting just one ideal.

By ensuring all of her instructors are adamant on intentional movement for bettering mental health through a mix of culture, music and education of her Caribbean roots, they have built an incredible online community. Throughout the month of February they saw all kinds of ethnicities when it came to clients, which just goes to show how inviting the atmosphere is. Susan’s hope is to just create a space that feels safe and inclusive for all. While only playing Caribbean music may come off as only representing one ethnicity, she actually feels the total opposite on this. The Caribbean is a melting pot of ethnicities, and she herself is mixed from multiple backgrounds, so her intent was to create a universal party that everyone could escape and feel like they belong. By doing so, Susan feels like she is making the right steps in ending mental health stigma, especially the way she grew up with it deeply rooted in her Caribbean culture and heritage.

How Susan Maintains Her Own Wellness Right Now

Susan is incredibly busy, and despite Island SWEAT FITNESS being her passion project, she also has a full-time job where she works from home and has a seventeen-year-old son to look after. With mental health being her main priority in all of this, Susan is adamant about prioritizing herself when it is necessary; setting her boundaries and knowing her capacity. Learning to say no has been her biggest saving grace, and knowing that saying no does not mean she will be losing out on any great and important opportunities has helped. When self-care comes first, she can better maintain her space and manage her deadlines. A lot of people don’t realize how much these factors can impact one’s mental health either. Having the capacity to say ‘no’ and ‘I can’t’ is totally okay, and creates a much better dynamic in her family when she does this. Her son is always helping her set up her classes and in turn, she makes sure he is getting exercise so that both of them are prioritizing their health and needs.

Susan’s Role Model For Motivation & Inspiration 

When it comes down to someone that inspires and motivates Susan, she said she does not have just a single one. What has really helped her most is the surge of plus size and body positive trainers making their mark on social media and in the fitness industry. It’s these individuals that Susan finds she can resonate with most. When it comes to one influencer, she is really inspired by Camilla Greene. She does not let her size prevent her from pushing through and doing the kinds of exercises she loves. Camilla owns her body and her movement, which is Susan’s ultimate goal as well. She resonates with the idea of using movement to feel happy, strong and not for obtaining one ideal body type. Susan feels that more people need to be promoting this kind of well-being for bettering mental health through exercise. Camilla ultimately promotes an essence of happiness that is very relatable to Susan and hopes to embody her mentality when it comes to her online gym and bettering herself.

Final Words of Encouragement 

Susan is adamant about the fact that you do not have to be perfect or have it all together to be happy. No matter where you are mentally, physically and emotionally, you are worthy of having happiness in your life and access to great mental health resources. Everyone has good and bad days, and really that’s a part of life. Ultimately if you do what makes you happy and keep chasing it, you don’t have to apologize to anyone about who you are and the positivity of your self-worth will come through.

At Elpizo Counselling Services we wanted to say a big congratulations to Susan on her efforts with Island SWEAT FITNESS and how grateful we are to her for sharing her inspiring story. We can’t wait to see where her journey with health and wellness for mental health takes her, and we are so proud of all the unique achievements her online gym has done for others as a mental health resource. Susan’s community, focus and drive for changing the stigmas around mental health are so important, and we know she is going to do some great things with her project.

Read more about Susan’s own journey with mental health issues in Elpizo Connect Magazine.