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It’s Time to Hit the Gym With This Fitness Fanatic

WRITTEN BY: JAKE PALUMBO | PHOTOGRAPHED BY: TASO PAPADAKIS

At Groundwork Fitness, fitness starts from the ground up, literally. Many of the exercises owner and trainer Giovanna Ferraro incorporates into the programs she designs for her clients and group classes require little else besides the ground beneath your feet. As we sit down together, Giovanna explains that her preference for equipment-free exercises in her workout routines was inspired by her training as a firefighter where she had to bulk up quickly to carry all that heavy equipment.

What makes Groundwork Fitness so unique and special comes from Giovanna’s inspiring determination to make sure her business is fully immersed within the community. Not only as an entity that participates in the community, but as one that gives back and creates a positive impact. One of the ways she does this is through her partnership with the non-profit Century Villages at Cabrillo. Groundwork Fitness helps tackle the issue of homelessness in Long Beach by hosting fundraisers and providing fitness classes and health and wellness workshops for the homeless population at the Villages who are in desperate need of a helping hand.

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Q: How did you get your start?

Giovanna Ferraro: I grew up playing sports. Soccer was my thing. As time went on, I had to decide what to do in terms of a career and whatever I did was something along the lines of fitness or in a health or medical field. I’ve been a massage therapist, a firefighter, an EMT and an ER technician. I went back to school at Cal State Long Beach, which brought me here, and became a health teacher. I taught ninth grade in South LA, so all of this keeps me in this field of wellness, health and fitness.

Q: What made you decide to open a gym?

GF: When they did budget cuts in the school district and a bunch of teachers lost their jobs, I was one of them and after that, I decided I wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to be my own boss and open my own gym. I had been a personal trainer on the side. It had always been a side gig, so I just made it my full-time gig.

Q: How long ago was that?

GF: Literally 10 months ago. So I’m a baby in terms of owning a business.

Q: How’s it been?

GF: It’s been nonstop. Everything they say about being a new business owner is true.

Q: It’s a lot to be the trainer and the business owner.

GF: Juggling it all is definitely part of figuring it all out. One thing I figured out early, thank God, is the networking that’s going to help your branding, where people understand who you are, why you’re here and what you’re about. That has helped me a lot. Last Wednesday I found out I’m going to be accepting an Excellence in Business award. Having that pat on the back has made all the hours of work worth it.

Q: That’s quite an achievement.

GF: Well, I genuinely think my effort to be a part of the community is what brought me some of this positive attention. This gym stands out because we are diving into our community. And not just in the traditional health and fitness aspect of keeping people healthy, but giving back.

Q: Can you talk more about that?

GF: So when I started this, I told myself I wasn’t going to start a business that didn’t do something to give back to the community. I feel that, unfortunately, there’s a lot of businesses that just look at profit, and that’s it. I wanted to make sure that I was aware of that. Something that I hold really dear to my heart is the issue of homelessness. My father died a homeless man and so with that, it’s always been important for me to give back. I’ve collaborated with a ton of different people.

Here in Long Beach we have a pretty significant homeless population, especially downtown. There’s a non-profit called the Century Villages at Cabrillo. The Villages used to be operated by the Navy, but they had been vacant for a while so this non-profit took over, and they currently house around 1, 100 homeless people. I made it a point to collaborate with them. We’ve been nonstop.

Q: I think that’s really great. What do you do with them?

GF: We’ve done fundraising; we had a fitness fashion show here in the gym. We have an upstairs that we’re doing construction on, and when that opens up they will be having free classes for their community. This way we can bring them outside the Villages and make them feel like they’re part of this community. It’s going to have group fitness classes, health and wellness workshops and more. Fitness isn’t just for people who can afford a gym membership. Everyone needs it. Yes, that’s part of how I’m going to survive, but I want to do my part to make an impact.

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Q: I can see you’re not a fan of machines.

GF: That’s right. You’ll notice there’s not one machine in here, and that’s my intention. I don’t want a machine. We are human beings with long limbs, and there are crazy movements that we can do on our own. Every joint has a purpose, and we don’t use them nearly enough as we’re supposed to. What we do here is all movement based using multidimensional movements and ranges of motion. Then obviously we incorporate some weight resistance and cardio as well.

Q: How do you motivate someone who is coming in for the first time and starting from the ground up?

GF: The one thing I like to let people know is that a gym environment can be intimidating, so our first class is always free, so you have nothing to lose by trying it. I remind them that this is an all levels gym. We have people who have never set foot in a gym before joining this one, and we have gym rats who have been in the gym for years working side by side. There’s no separating these people. We all work out together; we’re a community, and we’re a team. I also go over the ground rules that are on my wall. Most people read that and walk away and say they want to try a class here. It’s a lot about community and working together. Everyone here is very encouraging. We don’t welcome machismo or an “I’m better than you” attitude.

Q: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions people have when they come in here for the first time?

GF: Because I have a lot of open space and monkey bars, people assume I’m a CrossFit gym. The unfortunate thing about people making that assumption is that there is a very specific picture that comes to mind when people say that word. It’s quite the opposite of what we are. What we are is a community gym. If you look at the demo of this city, and you look into one of our classes, that’s what you see.

Q: Is there any person or anything that inspires you?

GF: I have a good handful of mentors for sure. I take my personal mentors more seriously versus a famous fitness person or something like that. I feel like I’d be leaving people out if I mentioned them, but there are people who allowed me to go into their gyms and see how they run things. They showed me what their successes were and what their challenges were. They were even nice enough to open up their books to me and helped me get prepared when I was making my business plan. It’s been a very humbling experience to meet people like that who are willing to open their personal stuff to you to help you follow your dream.

SPECIALTY CLASSES:

MOMMY & ME CLASS: Every Tuesday at 9am

BREAKDANCING CLASS: Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7pm

WALKING CLUB: Every Monday and Wednesday at 11:30am or 12:00pm

YOGA & CHAIR MASSAGE CLASS: Varies each month (e-mail Gio at gio@ groundworkfitness. com for more details)

GROUNDWORK FITNESS

333 Pine Ave Long Beach, CA 90802 | 562.624.0900 www.groundworkfitness.com