In a 1,800 square foot space lined with treadmills, squat racks, weight benches, medicine balls, a nutrition bar and a wide space for aerobic and boot camp style workouts, Dacia Mays’ dream of having her own youth fitness studio has finally manifested.
Healthy Habits and Opportunities, or H20, had its grand opening on Saturday and is the first Black-owned youth fitness studio in Pensacola where youth are helped holistically through working out, nutrition advice, and a focus on their overall health, according to Mays.
Even though there is an emphasis on losing weight, Mays says she also wants to teach youth about enjoying the journey and finding balance in life.
“I try to talk to my kids about that all the time. Yes, your goal may be to lose 10 pounds, but it’s okay to enjoy where you are right now as well,” Mays said. “And so we’re working hard on achieving that goal, but it’s okay to take a minute sometimes to say, ‘Hey, I’m proud of myself.’”
Mays is a Pensacola native who ran track and field at the University of Alabama. After graduating in 2014, she became a teacher for seven years in Texas and Pensacola.
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Her love of helping children and physical fitness led her to becoming a personal fitness trainer in 2021.
She started off training children at Pensacola Fitness and the Happy Spot, a protein/energy bar and fitness studio. She then took the leap of faith and was able to secure her own space at 5330 Mobile Highway, Suite A2.
When signing up children, Mays has a consultation period with and without the parent to build a relationship with the family and a better profile of the child.
When talking with a parent and their child Mays will ask about their medical history, what goals they have together, reasons why they feel like they need to be more physically active and any other areas in life that they feel they may need a mentor.
The individual consultation with the child is just getting to know them better. This includes asking questions like what they like or dislike about themselves, what’s going good or not so good in their life, and what they like about school.
Mays then puts them on a 90 day plan and goes through a regimen twice a week based on their goals. After 90 days they come back to discuss where they started, how much progress they made toward their goal and how they feel about the experience.
She aspires to eventually go on field trips, movie nights and spend time outside the gym with her kids.
“While working out is a big part of what I do, the nonprofit H20 is more than just working out,” Mays said.
Whether a child wants to play college sports or they just want to be the best versions of themselves, Mays wants to help them reach their goals.
She wants to help jumpstart a culture where children in Pensacola feel they are supported, they can see their growth, and they can help other children in their neighborhood and community prosper.
For Mays, there is nothing more important than the kids and seeing how program will influence children outside the walls of her youth studio.
“I want this to be child empowering, so I want my high school athletes to be running this place, to be helping their peers become who they want to be in life. And I just want this to be a whole program,” Mays said. “So, yes, right now we’re an 1,800 foot square foot building, we only have so much equipment, but I do aim to get bigger and better.”
For more information go to their Facebook page at Healthy Habits Opportunities-H2O.