What local Temecula gym owner Amanda Fritscher-Gilliland started off five years ago as a means to help woman train has seen truly blossom into so much more than that with the success of her West Coast Training Center. Originally from the East Coast, Fritscher-Gilliland and her family were transplanted to the Temecula Valley during her teenage years when her Marine father took an assignment nearby. Both of her parents settled down in Temecula and gave the now, 32-year-old gym owner, some much needed direction.
Her mother works for the city of Temecula, helping with the homeless outreach programs, and her dad became a financial adviser after retiring from the Marines. Fritscher-Gilliland graduated early from Temecula Valley High School and was set to get her law degree in college but decided to look for something different in life.
“I knew I wanted help people, women especially,” Fritscher-Gilliland said. “I wanted to give them a place to go and train and if they needed to bring their kids, then so be it. It needed to be a comfortable environment. If they were breastfeeding, recovering from having babies, or going through any number of different factors, I just wanted to make them feel at home.”
The early days of battling sickness with new business operations
When Fritscher-Gilliland opened up West Coast Training Center, which was called West Coast Fitness originally, she experienced typical first year business woes. Money was tight, she said, and not only did she work many hours for free but so did some of her trainers. She said trainer Shenie Bento was one of her biggest advocates at the time, working for free for up to nine months as things fell into place. At the same time Fritscher-Gilliland was diagnosed with Hashimoto disease, which is a thyroid disorder that caused her immune system to attack her thyroid tissue.
“It makes my body go haywire. I go from a hyper to a hypothyroid all the time. I will have joint pain and achiness and get really anxious when I am in a hyper state, and I’ll sweat and then I’ll just feel overwhelmed and then when I’m hypo, it’s like I can’t move. So I go back and forth and there’s no way to truly regulate it other than health and nutrition and exercise,” Fritscher-Gilliland said.
The tricky part, she said, is that there is so much pain that getting to an exercise routine is hard.
“I tell people going through it you have to push through it. Those first few weeks you are going to hurt, but after that you can get through it and it starts to make you feel better,” Fritscher-Gilliland said.
After opening, 2017 was another year of ups and downs for Gilliland. She bought the building she is currently in and kept the name West Coast out of respect for the previous owner, who owned a granite shop and supported her efforts in the beginning. With the up, came the down. Her dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and a double whammy came when she started experiencing two other types of pain, mainly in her feet. She went to every doctor she could, and most diagnosed it as plantar fasciitis because she was an athlete. A year later she was still in pain, but now it had spread. Her doctors ordered more testing and thought it was rheumatoid arthritis, but later they doctors determined it was actually psoriatic arthritis, which affects people who suffer with psoriasis or eczema symptoms as she did as a child.
“I never thought that this would be something I would have to face later on in life. Typically, when it all came out, I was going through a lot of personal drama, and during that time, things just kept piling up,” Fritscher-Gilliland said. “I also got diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, and a lot of women won’t talk about it due to how personal it is, but I would take my arthritis and any other pain over this one any day of the week. Basically, it’s called the painful bladder syndrome. With autoimmune deficiencies, your body starts to attack other parts of your body. Mine was starting to attack the lining of my bladder so the lining of my bladder causing a number of effects and pain.”
Getting over yourself
While living with these illnesses, she still had to run her business and stay engaged with her growing clientele, including a group training Parkinson’s disease patients.
“When my dad was diagnosed, I was adamant about finding a cure,” Fritscher-Gilliland said. “We obviously discovered there was/is no cure, but we did discover this program called Rock Steady Boxing, which is a worldwide affiliation. It is a program that was created and designed by neurologists, neurosurgeons, movement specialists and professional boxers. One of the first things they discovered is how much it slows downs the progression of the disease. We decided to launch the program and that has really been the sole purpose of my life in fitness and a huge part of the gym.”
The biggest struggle was with her state of mind, she said; she couldn’t accept what was happening. It took her about a year-and-a-half to feel what her Parkinson’s disease athletes felt, she said.
“When someone says there’s no cure, it’s like the worst news ever. That’s what made me create my clothing company, Purposeful Clothing, and that made me have to not focus on myself and with what I’ve been able to cope and deal with,” she said. “My flare-ups are a lot less because I’m just not focused on it. A lot of times when you have chronic pain and chronic illness you focus on it too much. Depression can set in big time.”
That’s when Fritscher-Gilliland found Dr. John Cassone of Cassone Wellness in Temecula. Her life changed forever for the better, she said, and it gave her the signature phrase behind her clothing line.
“I walked in the door – and I’ve been to thousands of doctors about my diagnosis – and the first thing he said to me was to ‘Get over yourself’ and I wasn’t sure how to take that. He then explained how he runs his business, and I was hooked. When you feel emotional symptoms, your body feels that no matter what and so he never promised he could fix it completely, but he could definitely help and with acupuncture and some herbal treatments and really just practicing state of mind and spirit fixing, I was able to master it and live with it.”
Harnessing a purpose
She said that there are days she feels really good and days that are not so good.
“I cry about it but then I’m like whatever, get over yourself, what’s your problem, stop doing this,” Fritscher-Gilliland said. “So, it’s been literally the most powerful tool is just truly mastering my state of mind and that’s what I tried to tell women all the time. Certain things are going to hurt, it sucks, stop talking about it though because the more you talk about it, the more you feel it and the more it comes back.”
Her new clothing line, Purposeful Clothing, is a brand used to nominate people to be helped. Rock Steady Boxing was the biggest inspiration for it, Fritscher-Gilliland said, because she knows how appreciative her clients are for the smallest things in life.
“It could be a shirt or just like a hug or telling them that they’re moving better or that they look good,” she said. “I noticed it’s so simple to make people feel happy. People forget they have to not think about themselves so much. For me, it all came back to something deeper. Helping people with their state of mind in life overtook me and the ‘get over yourself’ quote really defined my whole entire company. Dr. Cassone has become a true mentor and taught me to stop focusing on all the negative things in life. All the bad things, all the bad people. I focus on the good and positive now and I spread the same philosophy. I tell people to focus on something bigger than themselves.”
The clothing line has become a way for her to give back, she said. Every time people see it, the hope is that they will have to force themselves to think deeper and identify things to overcome.
“No matter what’s going on, if you have an autoimmune sickness, a mental health disorder, if you’re frustrated, your kids are sick, whatever it is, let’s just focus on giving back and supporting one another through it,” she said.
One of the things she stressed the most is that she constantly has to remind her clients that the more they talk about their illness, the more it comes back.
Taking care of business
As for the training facility and its marketing strategy, Fritscher-Gilliland and her staff pride themselves on being a referral-based business, and they don’t consider West Coast a gym.
“There are a hundred gyms out there, and it’s very saturated,” she said. “When I talk about West Coast training center, I want to know what people say about us when they are not here.”
The feeling she conveyed is that when she gets to work and sees her clients, it isn’t necessarily about the workout. It’s about the people; it’s about the environment and it’s about how they feel when they leave. She said she wants every person that walks into leave happier, better, stronger and ready to go conquer the world.
“We don’t do the gimmicky stuff; we want to help people and benefit their optimal health,” Fritscher-Gilliland said. “This isn’t a quick fix; this is a lifestyle. Anyone that walks in the door and says they can’t do specific things because of this, that and the other; well, that’s fine, we are comfortable with it. Maybe they have a special needs child, maybe no babysitter at all or maybe they are in a time crunch? We don’t want anybody to have to feel that feeling that they’re not accepted or not wanted, so we say bring it on. That’s what West Coast Training Center truly is, and of course, we do work out and that’s just a portion of it. We are here to whip you into shape, but in order to sustain in this industry and sustain a healthy body and sustain a healthy lifestyle you have to have a straight mind and we want to help with that too.”
Fritscher-Gilliland is joined on staff by her husband Stephan Fritscher since 2016, where he proposed during a session of Rock Steady Boxing. Also, on staff are their friends Christopher Amoroso, Shenie Bento, Alexis Spivacke and Siena Cassone, who is the daughter of her mentor, Dr. John Cassone.
Recently nominated for “Woman of the Year” by the National Association of Woman’s Business Owners, Fritscher-Gilliland welcomed former Mayor Matt Rahn into West Coast Training Center. Rahn came in and met with Rock Steady Boxing after she sent him a Facebook post, she said.
“He is such a big supporter of the business and I am happy to call him friend,” Fritscher-Gilliland said.
Another big advocate for West Coast Training Center and her vision is King Aminpour, a San Diego-based accident attorney and philanthropist. Fritscher-Gilliland met his marketing agent in 2018 and set up a meeting with King. She said he interrupted his meeting at the time and met with her for 45 minutes.
“By the end of the meeting he wrote us a check for six thousand dollars to help rebuild our flooring to make it more comfortable for our seniors,” she said. “He is such a good friend now and another great mentor. He also helped with our Christmas party last year that we held for local foster kids, which raised over five thousand dollars along with Rhonda Reinke and the Rose Again Foundation.”
For more information, follow West Coast Training Center or Purposeful Clothing on Instagram or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.