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COLUMN: Not Your Average Gym

Dick Nichols' monthly column Business Beat
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Jill Matthews is a body builder – has been since she was a kid.  

“I just fell in love with it right away,” she said. “I started working out in Drayton Valley when I was 16 years old and entered my first Alberta Body Building competition a year later.”  

Today, Jill owns and operates Built Strong Athletics, one of the most comprehensive athletic training centres in the foothills region.  

Built Strong focuses training people according to their specific needs and goals.  

“From learning how to reduce the pain they are living with, to high-level sports training, we provide people with a pathway to success,” she said. “We’re not your average gym.”  

Prior to opening Built Strong, Jill was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years.  

“I had definite ideas about how athletes should be trained,” she said, so she cashed in all the RRSPs she had accumulated from a previous career as an Edmonton social worker, created a business plan, and with the help of Community Futures took “a giant leap of faith.”  

Built Strong clients have ranged from young children to octogenarians.  

“Fitness is important for seniors. We lose about four percent of our muscle mass each year after age 35,” she said. “If we don’t exercise our muscles deteriorate, and with them goes our metabolism and our balance. That’s why older people tend to fall and hurt themselves.”  

In the six years since she opened Built Strong, Jill has seen her professional focus expand from simply training athletes to compete in sports like hockey, running, dancing, and boxing, to also include generic training to improve one’s health, longevity, and lifestyle.    

The appeal of this two-pronged approach is reflected in their clients.  

“Of course, we have a large athlete base,” she said, “but we’ve also train kids from seven years old and our oldest client at the moment is 75.”  

Next year, Built Strong will collaborate with the Olympus Boxing Club to host the Alberta Golden Gloves boxing championship.  

“The training process is the same whether you’re 18 or 80. Clients are first given a comprehensive assessment to identify weaknesses or imbalances in their bodies,” said Sherrie Smith, who specializes in senior and youth development.  

“Our training techniques focus on muscle sequencing, alignment and strength,” added Jill. “We help people achieve success using massage and muscle activation therapy as well as fascial stretch therapy – a pain-free system of table-based assisted stretching that increases a person’s range of motion.”  

As a mother of four, Jill is well aware that the cost of enrolling a child in a training program can be prohibitive.  

To subsidize programs that teach healthy lifestyles, goal setting, and training techniques to young people who normally couldn’t afford them, she has formed a foundation – Built Strong Together – which will raise money to make these programs available to all.  

Those wishing to support this effort can drop in and contribute at the Built Strong Gym on Southbank Boulevard. 




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