“Movement is life.”
Those are the words Laura Gutzwiller lives by. She is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and sports apparel salesmen, and that is just the beginning of her resume.
From a young age, Laura learned the importance of taking care of her body. She watched her family struggle with health issues and was determined to prevent what she could. Staying active and eating right is the best way to do that.
Fitness became her future when she was in 5th grade. Laura gave up a day of playing when she found a dying frog outside her home. She spent six hours sitting with the frog and a bowl of water, nursing him back to health. Her mother was surprised when the frog recovered and bounced away across the yard. She told Laura to be a physical therapist.
As a physical therapist she could help people who were injured like the frog or ill like her family. That was the first Laura had heard of that career, and she held fast to it until she graduated from Ball State in 2009.
“I went through a self-discovery phase after college,” Laura said. She had already begun working in the health and wellness industry, and was no longer certain where she wanted to go.
Laura worked at the Valparaiso Family YMCA for a while as a lifeguard. She met her husband, Chuck, during shift changes at the pool.
She began coaching for the Valparaiso, and later Highland, swim clubs. Swimming has always been Laura’s sport of choice, so she thought it might be a good career to get into. Throughout high school and parts of college, she was on the swim team and played recreational water polo. Coaching others seemed perfect in theory, but in reality it was just not clicking.
“I am someone who needs to be constantly challenged and inspired by the people I’m working with. I loved the kids but it wasn’t giving me personal fulfillment.”
Laura returned to the YMCA as a personal trainer. The Y offered her the high level of activity she needs but it also gave her a social fulfillment that most jobs cannot.
“It’s more than just a gym,” Laura says. “It’s a community of people connecting: learning together, staying healthy together. It’s so welcoming, to all types of people.”
She has since moved on to a company called Integrated Movement as a personal trainer, but stays on at the YMCA a few days a week to teach exercise classes. Laura’s classes cover different levels of experience and ability. Silver Sneakers, her seniors program, has a chair-based course for low mobility and a pool-based class to comfort those with arthritis and other diseases. This summer was the first year the YMCA gave obstacle course training, which Laura taught with Chuck.
“At first I was a bit hesitant,” Laura said. “We tend to butt heads because we are both stubborn. We were able to share ideas and get to a system that worked.”
Staying active together is important for the couple. At home, they find time to do their daily exercise routines with each other at least once a week. They go rock climbing in their free time, whether it is out on boulders or using rented space in a rock wall garage.
“Working out together creates a bond,” Laura explains. “It’s important that I share the things I’ve learned with him. We push each other.”
They live together in Valparaiso, a town that mirrors their own philosophy of staying active.
“We’re ascribing to be better,” Laura says of her hometown. “Valpo’s pushing people to get out and be active. It’s getting people out of their comfort zones. When you look at the national statistics, Indiana is not a very fit state. Valpo is really taking the initiative to change that. I have seen on a firsthand basis the people who have fallen to it and are trying to get better.
“Life is about finding balance. I think that’s something everyone struggles with.”
Laura’s struggle with balance is knowing when to slow down. On top of everything else, she works a couple days a week at Extra Mile Fitness Company, helping people figure out the right equipment for their bodies and activity levels. Sometimes she forgets that sleep, too, is a priority.
“Movement is life,” she reiterates. “It’s so important for our mental health. Being active is the change everyone needs.”