Shannon Bryan - Founder of Fit Maine

What is Fit Maine?

Fit Maine is a website dedicated to cool ways to work out and fun, active things to do in Maine. (There's no shortage of either of those things, which means I'm always hearing about and discovering new stuff to check out, write about, and tell others about. And this makes me happy!). There is also a newsletter and an events calendar, plus Fit Maine Facebook and Instagram, all for the purpose of letting other people know about lively weekend activities, running groups, races, moonlight paddles, circus arts classes, easy hikes, etc. That's the whole point - to tell people about this really fun stuff (and encourage them to go check it out for themselves).

What inspired you to create Fit Maine?

I love doing active things in Maine, whether it's taking a kickboxing class, sweating it out at an outdoor boot camp, or finding a stunning new hike or easy-going paddle. I'd go do these things with a few friends and post about them on Facebook (that's what Facebook is for, right? Posting our wonderous adventures?) and I'd get questions from other people wanting to know more: "Where was this class? How much was it? Was it hard? Is it beginner friendly?" I realized there was no resource for this kind of stuff - a single place where you could find about new workouts or running groups or get tips on places to hike or paddle or trail run. So, two years ago, I decided to create it. Add to that the fact that I get a huge kick out of getting other people to go try new things. It makes my heart swell to hear someone say, "I read about that class/hike/group on Fit Maine and went and tried it and had a great time!" That's why I keep writing. These kinds of experiences are life-enhancing. They get people out of their comfort zones. On top of being a ton of fun, this stuff is good for our bods. Sure, some folks prefer to run on a treadmill at the gym, but for folks who'd rather paddleboard or do aerial trapeze, I've got you covered! (I also have a penchant for the kinds-weird stuff, like kitten yoga and goat hikes!)

What are one challenge and one lesson you’ve learned from your experience as FM founder?

One challenge I face is figuring out how to support the site financially. For the first couple of years, I've funded the site myself (I do make some money by selling "Maine is my gym" tanks and tees). And that worked because I believe so much in what I'm doing that I didn't mind spending money to do it. But it also means that a good chunk of my time is spent doing work elsewhere that does make money (and I've been supremely lucky to have work that I also really love doing). So my ability to focus on Fit Maine is limited, although my dream is to be able to do it full time. And I have little experience with sales and monetizing websites, so it's been a challenge to adopt a new skill set that'll help me talk to businesses about Fit Maine and why it's so fantastic and why supporting it has value for everyone (those who read it and the events/studios/gyms/trainers I write about). But I'm embracing the chance to learn new things! 

One lesson I've learned is to know my audience. Early on, I wrote a piece about beginner yoga classes and workshops (I know a lot of women and men who are curious about yoga but are hesitant to show up to a class), so this story was one I believed would be really useful. But I included a photo of a woman in crow pose, which is a fairly advanced hand balancing pose. And that clouded the message I was trying to convey - that these classes were for beginners. The photo wasn't of a beginner, so it was confusing, and a dumb move on my part. But that's the kind of thing I think about a lot now: Who am I talking to? What am I talking about? Do the words and images align? 

What are your top 2 favorite FM memories?

Just this spring, I went on a hike at Ovens Mouth Preserve in Boothbay and posted a photo on Instagram of a super-cool spot on the trail, where there's a wooden bench overlooking the tidal waters. Someone posted a comment to the photo asking if the trail was kid and dog-friendly, and I said "Yes! Saw kids and dogs on the trail today!" The very next day, that same woman posted a photo on Instagram of the same spot and tagged me in it, saying "thanks for the tip, we had a great time today!" Thinking about that still, makes me grin. I'm overjoyed that I got to help someone find a neat new adventure (it's even better when I get a report back that they liked it!). 

Another favorite memory is from last summer when I attended a Bike & Brews event in Gorham. These events have guided mountain bike rides for all levels and end at a brewery. I'd joined the beginner group for a ride on the Gorham trails, and afterward was talking with fellow riders at Sebago Brewing. One woman, I was chatting with found out I wrote about active things to do in Maine and mentioned a speed skating club she's in. My response? SPEED SKATING?! Tell me more! A couple months later I was on the ice in a pair of loaned skates, learning proper form and having a grand time. I love that Fit Maine is an excuse to go do cool things, but it also allows me to meet new people all the time AND learn about other cool stuff I didn't even know about. It's the circle of Fit Maine life! 

What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote?

"Do epic shit." I saw it on a Facebook meme, with a kid in a superhero cape. And while "epic" might conjure visions of base-jumpers or Everest climbers for some people, I think epic is relative. Taking a surf lesson, trying paddleboard yoga for the first time, mountain biking in the woods all afternoon or hiking in some stunning, new-to-you place can be pretty epic, too. The point is to welcome new adventures, to be open to trying new things and even being kinda bad at them. How expert you are isn't the point. Learning something new is thrilling. Exploring Maine, doing things that make you feel strong, engaging in something that's worth talking about over dinner is what matters. 

In one word, describe yourself:


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