Erika Strimer Ditched Her Corporate Job To Help Others Get In Shape And Connect With Themselves
Erika Strimer isn’t meant to be between four walls—not for her job, and especially not for her workout. At the end of a Thursday evening boot camp class that ventured to Flagler Bridge in West Palm Beach, her platinum long bob is twisted into a ponytail and her uniform tank is knotted at her hips. The top incorporates a logo: “TM” for Total Movement, which is the completely outdoor workout program that Strimer founded in 2011.
Twenty participants are performing squats on a staircase when Strimer tells them, “Take that one negative thing that’s holding you back in your life, and I want you to sprint to the top of the bridge and let it go.”
She’s standing on a banister, cupping her mouth as she counts to three. When she gets there, the class takes off like they’ve been shot from a cannon.
But before the 31-year-old could begin directing others on how to let things go, she had some of her own internal battles to win.
Once the class wraps and the last “camper” heads to his car, Strimer—with a smile that triggers dimples—tugs her black boom box like luggage across the cracks in the sidewalk at Trinity Park. It’s the same location where she held her first session.
“If people asked me where I saw myself in five years, this was not it. Sweaty, in a park, lugging around a boom box; my car is a mess, my house is a mess, everything is a mess—except for when I’m here. It’s just the one thing that makes sense every day,” she says.
The West Virginia native was on a successful career track in sales that granted her a six-figure salary, large bonuses, a company car and an expense account when she decided corporate work wasn’t for her.
She ditched the lifestyle to start a boot camp using a national platform called Camp Gladiator in 2011.
“I would show up, and I would put on this workout sometimes to one person, sometimes to 20 people, sometimes nobody would be here and I’d just sit in my car and cry,” she says.Strimer was teaching three classes a day, five days a week at the park. During this time, she attended a Lululemon networking event, where a man approached her to suggest she let him train her as a fitness model. Not one to back down from a challenge, Strimer agreed.
In addition to a new workout regimen, Strimer’s trainer put her on a diet that required she eat the same thing six times a day for three months leading up to the competition.
“I started to see my body change, and I started to see my traps got smaller and my waist got smaller and I didn’t have this muscular body anymore,” she says. “I was starting to have curves—like a fitness model, and the girls you see in a magazine.”Strimer quickly became obsessed with the lifestyle. She was winning shows, getting sponsorships from supplement companies, and appearing in advertisements and publications like Oxygen Magazine and STRONG Fitness Magazine. But while she was succeeding as a fitness model, an important part of her life was suffering—her health.
At her first competition, Strimer remembers only weighing 106 pounds. (On our cover, you will see a healthy Strimer weighing in at 127 pounds.) She was suffering from body dysmorphia, and using harmful weight-loss methods, like binging on diet pills after meals.
“The day that I woke up I was like, ‘How are you going to do this for the rest of your life if you want to have a family, if you want to have kids some day, if you want a boyfriend?’ I was like, undatable,” she says. “To go out to dinner and be like, ‘I’m going to have that, but I need this, this and this taken out, and I’m not going to have any alcohol because I have a shoot next week.’ Nobody wants to date that. I lost myself in fitness modeling.”
“I would show up and I would put on this workout sometimes to one person, sometimes to 20 people, sometimes nobody would be here and I’d just sit in my car and cry.” - Erika Strimer
Luckily, it didn’t take much for Strimer to rediscover herself—back at the park. She quit fitness modeling this June and began to pour all of her efforts into the company, which she named Total Movement after parting ways with Camp Gladiator. In August, she was able to hire her first employee, Chelsea Gruber, 24, of Jupiter to lead up to five classes a week. Gruber describes Strimer as a “breath of fresh air.”
“Moving forward we hope to be able to reach out to more individuals looking to feel better connected to themselves and have a strong foundation that they can lean on,” Gruber says.
This goal has already been achieved for Joshua Daniel, director of development for Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County, who says he’s lost 40 pounds since joining Total Movement. The 34-year-old West Palm Beach resident says being outdoors makes Total Movement different than other fitness programs he’s tried.
“If your 9 to 5 is anything like mine, you spend a lot of time indoors,” he says. “I don’t know about you, but when I leave work, I need some fresh air. The last place I want to be is in some crowded gym using equipment 40 other people already sweat on that day.”
Strimer says she’s on a mission to prove to the world that you don’t need a gym to get a good workout. With plans to release a Total Transformation playbook highlighting exercise and nutrition, and to organize destination workouts in places like Central Park, she’s on her way to doing so.
“You go into a gym and it’s like everybody’s energy is bouncing off the walls and it’s all negative, negative, negative. ‘I’m on the treadmill again.’ ‘This isn’t working.’ ‘My body isn’t changing.’ You can feel all of that, and it’s contagious,” Strimer says. “I feel like when you’re outside, you’re just experiencing nature and the oxygen and space—so much space to let so much go.”
Can’t get enough fresh air? Check out these local, outdoor fitness programs and clubs:
Blueline Surf & Paddle Co.
Put your core to the test with a YOW class—yoga on the water, offered at Blueline Surf & Paddle Co. in Jupiter. A certified instructor will lead you to finding balance on the water; bluelinesurf.com.
Palm Beach Roadrunners
With daily runs for early risers at 5 a.m. or evening exercisers at 6:30 p.m., there’s no excuse for not joining the Palm Beach Roadrunners on a workout in meeting places like Clematis Street in West Palm Beach or Central Boulevard in Jupiter; palmbeachroadrunners.com.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Yoga
Roll out a mat and configure yourself in warrior and downward dog poses while enjoying a sight of the historic Jupiter Lighthouse reflecting across rippled water as the sun sets. Twilight Yoga at the Light meets every Monday; jupiterlighthouse.org.