Wellness Coach Aniya Foster Transforms Lives, Opens New South Loop Gym

Aniya Foster’s claim to fame as a wellness coach is that she has helped hundreds of women lose thousands of pounds. Growing up in East Chicago, thriving in Chicago has always been a dream of hers.

With Harbor 82, her second gym under her belt, opening Saturday, Jan. 6 in the South Loop Roosevelt Collections, she is leading more women across the city to “find their strong” and transform their bodies in the new year. 

‘No, I’m Just a Teacher’ 

While Aniya started her career as a classroom teacher, she was her first client. She brings her experiences as a career-driven, working mom and spinning on the yo-yo diet hamster wheel to relate to her clients and help them achieve lasting results. 

“In the past, with some of my clients, I couldn’t necessarily relate when they would tell me, ‘I’m stressed and I can’t lose weight.” I’d always wonder, ‘Well, why not?’ But now I totally get it. I met with a hormone specialist. I went to the doctor. They ran all the tests, and I learned that [my weight gain] had nothing to do with my physical capabilities.” 

In 2014, it was not until Foster helped a former co-worker lose 100 pounds in one year that she gained the confidence to make a career pivot into the fitness industry.

“My first client was a 37-year-old school counselor and caretaker to her parents and nephew. She went to Hawaii just to go scuba diving. But because she was overweight, at nearly 300 pounds, she couldn’t fit into the wetsuit. When she returned to Chicago, she asked me to help her lose weight.” 

Over the next year, the two did everything together to adopt a healthier lifestyle, from eating to working out. Foster never saw herself as a fitness instructor; if anything, she was an accountability partner. 

“During that time, [her co-worker] would encourage me to become a trainer, and I’d always tell her, ‘No, I’m just a teacher.'” Eventually, her encouragement laid the blueprint for Foster’s health and wellness business. Leveraging her skills as a teacher, in addition to training clients and hosting workout classes, she held workshops to educate them on how to adopt healthier lifestyles to maintain their physical transformation.

Sanctuary at Harbor 82

The inspiration for Aniyah Foster's new Harbor 82 gym

With her new gym, Harbor 82, she can bring her childhood Harbor neighborhood to Chicago and lead many to find sanctuary within their own bodies. 

“Harbor means a safe space, a place to get anchored, a place of comfort. Like our bodies, it is a sanctuary, it’s home. And so, that’s what I want my studio to be for my clients and for myself. A safe space. A place to get repaired.”  

Harbor represents the belief that fitness is more than just working out. 

“It really requires a mindset shift,” Foster affirms. 

When she began her fitness journey, she’d started with yo-yo diets but quickly realized that her progress was fleeting. 

Her new comprehensive approach encourages participants to consider their mental and emotional health, which may prevent them from seeing the results they desire. “When I’m not seeing those changes physically, I had to really dig deeper and ask, ‘What’s going on in my life that’s stopping me or blocking me from reaching these physical goals?'”

From there, she consulted therapists, life coaches, and yoga and breathwork instructors to support the shift. Accountability is key, and Foster has found that it is critical to have the right support systems and professionals around you to meet your goals. 

Time for a Rebirth

Juneteenth fitness event held by Aniya Foster

Over the years, Aniya has sponsored several fitness challenges to help hundreds of women meet their fitness goals and lose thousands of pounds. To help women ignite their commitment to their health, Foster will host the Rebirth Challenge, a three-month experience, kicking off on Monday, Jan. 7, through March 31. 

There will be four pillars of focus: faith, fitness, fun and finance. Challengers will have access to unlimited fitness classes, expert-led seminars, personalized meal plans, accountability teams and weekly challenges. 

“We’ll be challenging people to save in a way that makes sense for them, and this looks different between a millionaire and someone who isn’t working at all. As life can get the best of us, we’ll be encouraging participants to have fun, step out of their comfort zone and laugh, which is something we often forget to do. This is a rebirth in many ways. We closed The Well at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and then moved away. Now I’m returning and launching this gym on my own, and I’m doing what I love, which is helping people commit to themselves.”

This challenge is for those who are seeking their own revival. 

“For those coming out of a negative or a dark time, or those that are seeking something new and fresh, which is what I personally want. I want people to feel renewed and emerge like a phoenix rising. Maybe you are stuck in an area of your life and are ready to come out of it. That’s what I want for those who join the Rebirth challenge.”

At Harbor, members receive support from a wellness coach that they won’t find at competing gyms. Aniya builds strong relationships with her members, fostering a true sisterhood among each other. 

For those debating whether this is your time to commit to yourself, Foster offers encouragement: “You are worth it. The time is now. Don’t wait for the sun to come out in the summer, or for our best friends to do it with us, or for the new month, or for the new year or wait for your birthday. Don’t wait for that doctor’s report that says you have to make some changes, or this is going to happen. Do it on your own terms.” 

Harbor 82 will host its soft launch opening on Saturday, Jan. 6, from 2 to 6 p.m. at 1146 South Delano Ct. in Chicago’s South Loop.

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