Interview: Eric Gremminger, Enlightened Recovery [Tips + Motivation]
Growing personally is just as hard as growing a business, right? Today we’re talking with Eric Gremminger who will share tips that will help you continue to grow and evolve as a person and business owners.
We’ll cover his journey of recovery, how exercise works as an antidepressant and relieves anxiety, and how he’s grown his business with hacks for engaging clients with new information.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Eric Gremminger
Schimri Yoyo: This is Schimri Yoyo, a writer with exercise.com, and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts. And today, we have Eric Gremminger of Enlightened Recovery and Fishtown Fitness in the Philadelphia area.
Hello Eric. Thank you for joining us today and thank you for agreeing to interview with us at exercise.com.
Eric Gremminger: Hey, thanks so much for having me.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright.
Eric Gremminger: Looking forward to this.
Schimri Yoyo: You wear many hats, one of which is that of a certified personal trainer. So how did you first get the desire to work in the fitness industry?
Eric Gremminger: I’ve just always loved it. I’ve always been very passionate about fitness in my own life and it was just a seamless transition to take that step into the industry and hopefully get people as excited as I am about it.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s great. So what sports, if any, did you play growing up and which of those sports, if any of them have been most helpful to your practice today?
Eric Gremminger: So I played several sports, but basketball was my passion. I absolutely love playing ball. I think it helps me a lot in business because you had to train hard. You did tons of laps and I realized that there’s going to be hard work involved in anything if you’re going to be successful, but if you love it, it won’t seem like work.
Basketball kind of taught me that lesson. I didn’t notice all the sprinting drills and laps and everything that went into training for it because I enjoyed it. So that translates to business in my mind.
Schimri Yoyo: They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, right?
Eric Gremminger: Exactly, exactly.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, Eric, you are a recovering addict and you are very passionate about helping others break free from the dark grip of addiction. How do you incorporate fitness and exercise in the work that you do with recovery?
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. Well, it’s a huge part of what I teach because a lot of—when I was dealing with my active addiction, a lot of it was the result of depression, anxiety, and then with really just the actual substance use—it was a symptom of the underlying issues.
So, with exercise, exercise is a natural antidepressant, I tell people. If I could get you out and running, get your heart rate up—that term runner’s high—you could get high on your own supply. You get cheap stuff with the synthetic, you’re [already] hardwired with the best chemicals available. I try to teach people how to activate those in natural ways, and exercise is the number one—and there are several studies pointing this out—it’s a natural antidepressant but also relieves anxiety. It’s a nice healthy way to let that energy out.
Recently, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF, which is a growth factor in the brain has been shown to essentially initiate neurogenesis, where you could start to heal these parts of your brain and actually become a better version of yourself. Exercise has a ton of benefits. I could go on and on. There’s a lot.
Schimri Yoyo: No, thank you. Thank you for that. It’s nice when your passion comes through with that.
Eric Gremminger: I’m passionate about it.
Schimri Yoyo: When you first began your journey of recovery, did you have any mentors that directed you towards fitness and entrepreneurship and did you develop those passions internally?
Eric Gremminger: I think I’ve always naturally had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve always kind of enjoyed the challenge of starting things myself and trying to see them through. As far as mentors, not necessarily for that directed me towards fitness and entrepreneurship. My wife has been a huge factor when starting out because any entrepreneur is going to have ups and downs, and to have a wife like I had in my corner just kind of saying, “Keep pushing. Keep pushing. Don’t stop.”
So, I was really lucky to have that and that was helpful. Plus, I’m a big reader. I’m a proponent of standing on the shoulder of giants. A lot of people have been down the path. YouTube is a tool that could be utilized and technology in general and you could bring some of the greats right into your living room and learn from them. I’ve always been dedicated to that personal growth and studying from other people who’ve succeeded.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s a great answer. Have a good woman and a good book. That’s a great start.
Eric Gremminger: Yeah.
Beliefs: “Always a Work in Progress”
Schimri Yoyo: What does it mean to you to live a better and a balanced lifestyle?
Eric Gremminger: I think just having the humility to take a look at all the areas of your life and be willing to say, “I know I could be better than this in this area.” I think every area: your career, take a look at that, your relationships, your health, all the way around.
Even spirituality. I’m always measuring myself, giving myself a score and trying to bring balance. So on a scale of one to 10, where am I in this area? Then just go around and trying to be … I’m always a work in progress, but to me balanced lifestyle means number one, assessing where you’re at, number two, setting goals to get where you want to be.
Schimri Yoyo: Right. Well, you have a background in psychology and in fitness and exercise sciences. In your opinion, how do the mind, body, and spirit work together in the overall health and wellness of an individual?
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Eric Gremminger: They all work in unison, you can’t really have one without the other. In my opinion, to start, for me, it starts with the body. Physiologically, when I’m energized, when I feel good, it goes—then, my mind’s right and I’m thinking good thoughts and I’m thinking positive thoughts, which makes me want to contribute, which uplifts my spirit. It makes me want to go and do acts of kindness and get out in my community because I have the energy to do that. So it all works together, yeah.
Schimri Yoyo: Yes. Like they overlap on a continuum.
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. I mean, it’s a complete overlap. When you’re off in one, you feel it in the other. So, you have to start somewhere. For me, it’s exercise first thing in the morning. But I also flood my mind with positive materials because a very well documented phenomenon of psychology is [the reality of] psychosomatic illness, which is essentially where your thoughts are making you sick.
But the great news is you could reverse that trend and your thoughts can make you feel good. When you feel good, you do more. When you do more, you think better. When you think better, you feel better. It becomes this amazing cycle of feeling positive. So, I teach that a lot.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, explain to us about your Enlightened Recovery Program. Why did you start it? Explain how it has developed over time.
Eric Gremminger: So, Enlightened Recovery program, it’s a behavior modification program based around the biopsychosocial model where we use six modalities to bring balance in those areas. So it starts with goals and it goes on to bring balance like we [have been] talking about.
The reason that I started it is because—well, it took me three years to create the program, and I did a lot of research into the current treatment models and the paradigm, and I—just as someone in recovery—was dissatisfied. I felt like there could be something better offered, and I wanted to raise the standard and have a program that was personal to each individual client who needed help rather than a cookie cutter approach.
I also wanted to measure outcomes and have the ability to ensure quality control. But most importantly I wanted people—this is affecting so many in our nation right now—and I wanted decision-makers, family members, I wanted them to know that if Enlightened Recovery is offered somewhere, that means that that treatment center subscribes to the highest quality of care, that they know that if this is offered at a center, that they’ve met a [certain] criteria and that they are adhering to a high level and it meets everything that they would hope that their loved one would get.
Schimri Yoyo: Right. Now, where are some of these facilities that offer Enlightened Recovery programs?
Eric Gremminger: Enlightened Solutions, that’s where we offer it as our flagship and that’s in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. It’s a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program), IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), outpatient. They also have a detox center in Atlantic City.
Then, recently it’s gone national. So it’s now a national program. It’s offered in Austin, Texas at a center called New Hope Ranch, which is a residential facility, IOP outpatient.
Then, also [Enlightened Recovery Program is offered] at the Valjean Society in Mesa, Arizona. So, this is an actual organization that helps people straight from prison to get back on their feet and they wanted, they had reached out and said, “We want to be one of those centers where we’re going above and beyond for the people who come under our care and we believe that ERP will ensure that that’s happening.” I’m very proud of that.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. It looks like the movement is spreading in tangible ways across the country. So that’s good that you’ll be able to help people in recovery.
Eric Gremminger: It has a huge momentum and [there is] so much support from the recovery community that I’ve gotten over the years that I certainly can’t take all the credit. It’s been a total team effort, but it’s really good to see it being embraced and I think that says a lot.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, Eric. In what ways do you motivate your clients and in what ways do you motivate yourself?
Eric Gremminger: Well, I focus on—I feel like I just hold up a mirror so that the client could find intrinsic ways to motivate themselves. I don’t think I could motivate you, but I could put you in a position and help to evoke what [already] is inside of you that motivates you. So that’s really, I believe, my job.
As far as myself, what’s my why factor? When I’m doing it for a higher purpose, when I know that there’s a higher cause that I’m serving, like with Enlightened Recovery, it’s about so much more than me and that will allow me to get up at 4:30 and exercise and do what I need to do so that I’m in a position to contribute at the level at which I expect myself to contribute. So, it intrinsically drives me every single day.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that’s great. Now with that intrinsic drive, how is it that you measure progress for yourself and for your clients? Obviously, there’s a feeling, but are there any tangible or measurable, objective measures that you use to measure your progress and success?
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. I’m a huge proponent of smart goals. I set goals. I try to be, of course, I always try to be, no matter who it is, just try to be a little bit better version of [myself] than [Iwas], but you need tangible items so that you could see the progress. Abstract concepts just don’t do it. So when you have some goal: “My goal this week is to bench press five more pounds than I did the day before,” well, that’s a measurable goal. It’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s attainable, it’s relevant, and we could do it within a certain amount of time. That’s usually the system that I use for measurement.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, based on the variety of people that you’ve had the opportunity to work with, are there any common traits or shared values that you observed from them for the ones who are experiencing the sustained success?
Eric Gremminger: Self-discipline. I mean, there are so many shiny objects, especially now with the [technology]. We have these phones in our pockets. So many different—there are so many things that we could choose to do. To commit to a goal no matter what’s going on and to show up and have that level of self-discipline, that’s always a factor that I could tell the person’s going—they’re going to succeed if [they] have that.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, if you could describe your training philosophy and methodology in one word, what would it be?
Eric Gremminger: Consistency. I show up. I’m not always perfect, but I’ll be there. I’ll be there every day.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s right. That seems like consistency and a little bit of accountability. I just gave you a second word.
Eric Gremminger: Yeah, exactly. Isn’t it [just as simple as that]?
Business: “Holy crap. I have to do this.”
Schimri Yoyo: Describe that moment when you decided, “Man, I’m going to go into business for myself.” What was that like? Give us a picture.
Eric Gremminger: It wasn’t like a “Holy crap. I have to do this” moment. I worked another job, I worked a full-time job, got my certification, and decided to start a business. It was actually called Better and Better Fitness.
So my philosophy was, and this is with my personal training business, that when people are physically exhausted, they’re psychologically susceptible to new information.
So as they were doing mountain climbers, I was saying, “You’re amazing, you’re awesome.” So I was just trying to reprogram their mind, but I was doing it at night after work for one or two hours and it just turned into something gradually.
So, I didn’t feel the stress of just of this being: “If this doesn’t work out, then I don’t have any way to pay the bills.” So it was more of a gradual process than actually a moment where I’m starting a business, or I’m quitting my job. That has worked for some people, but I, personally, just slowly built the business and then got to a point where it didn’t even make sense to keep the job anymore.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. How did you decide or how do you decide whether to take on a client personally or to maybe outsource them to another trainer?
Eric Gremminger: Right. So with the growth of ERP going national, I don’t have a ton of time to actually train individually, but one thing that I look for is: “How bad do you want it?” You can usually tell: “Is this a New Year’s resolution thing?” or “Is this an ‘I’ve gotten to a point where I know that I need to do this and if I don’t, my life isn’t going to be what I want it to be’ [situation]?”
Because if you could meet me there, we’ll get it. I’ll help you achieve whatever you want to achieve. I’ll put together a program that will guarantee your success. But no matter what field you’re working in when it comes to the helping disciplines, there’s always going to be a certain amount of accountability that’s required because you could be the best trainer in the world, but if—you can’t do the work for somebody.
So right now I’ll look for somebody who’s like, “I’m all in. You tell me what to do and I’m going to do it.” Then I’ll put together a model that will guarantee success for you if you do it.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. Now, how do you divide your time between working on your businesses versus working in your businesses? Do you have a system in place or protocols that help you to leverage your time and resources?
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. That comes down to self-discipline as well. Just a certain amount of the week is going to go towards doing audits, quality control, making sure that you’re allocating resources properly. I say it’s a self-discipline thing because most likely if you got into this business, it’s because you love helping people. You want to be in front of people. You want to be working with them. You want to see the growth and see them fight through the pain. But realistically, and this is something I learned along the way, you’re a business person.
“I’m not a businessman, I’m a Business, Man!” -Jay Z, Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)
You may have gotten in it to train, but ultimately as you scale, as you grow, to truly help people, you have to make sure that you’re balancing the books. You have to make sure that you’re marketing correctly so that you could help as many people as you want to help.
You have to make sure that there’s quality control, but also [that there is] a dedication to constant improvement because things are changing all the time. So you have to be reading up on the newest trends in the industry. You have to be ahead of the curve there. So it’s the discipline to do [those things] that matters.
Schimri Yoyo: Are you utilizing any technology to help you with that or are you using social media to help promote your business and to help keep you on track in your business?
Eric Gremminger: Yeah, technology is amazing. I use it for everything. I’m a big fan of drive time because I can study trends when I’m driving. I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m always listening to podcasts, audible books, what’s the newest thing, what’s going on. Then I think social media, it’s a really great tool. I just use it for spreading positivity. I’m a positive person. I believe in that. I think there’s too much negativity in the world. So I kind of use my platform to just say good things and remind people of what they’re capable of. If I’m doing something I, of course, I throw it out there. But I want more people to get an impression of who I am through my social media. So I try to use it appropriately.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s good. Then, your positivity is coming through and visible and tangible on those different platforms.
Eric Gremminger: Great. That’s great. I love hearing that.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, final question, Eric. Again, thank you for your time; it’s been great. And thank you for all of the things that you’re doing not only in motivating people and building up their [bodies] physically, but also in helping people in recovery as well.
So, just want to know, for you, what’s next on the horizon as an entrepreneur? Is there anything that you’re honing in on or focusing on or do you have any new ventures in the works?
Eric Gremminger: I’m just going to continue to build the ERP. We have a couple more meetings, a couple more states to get this into. That lets people know that they have everything within them that they need to be their best self. I want to show people that. I just want to hold up the mirror and say, “Now, you have this potential, unlimited potential. Tap into it through exercise, through nutrition, through a positive mental attitude, through all of these things that you don’t have to earn. You could just go do the work and tap into your true nature.”
Schimri Yoyo: Well, thanks again, Eric for your time. Good luck with everything with ERP and with your many businesses that you’re heading up and we look forward to hearing more from you on with exercise.com down the road.
Eric Gremminger: Yeah. Thank you so much for the interview.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.
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