Around this time last year, Tamika Harden had her hands full. She was busy running her bustling gym in Long Island, New York, BodybyTamika, where she offers personal training and body contouring services. Working in the field for more than 15 years, she was something of a life coach to those who came to her needing help to fit fitness and wellness into their busy lifestyle. It was business as usual.
And then abruptly, it wasn’t. In March, the coronavirus began to spread like wildfire in New York, and before Harden knew it, her gym had to completely shut down. “We were hit hard,” she says, noting that she was just one of so many scrambling to keep their business alive in the pandemic. Her studio stayed inaccessible for eight months, and in the time that she couldn’t get face to face with clients, she had to learn how to improvise. She adapted to “our new normal” and offered online training.
“I had the worst sound system you could think of,” the 34-year-old told MadameNoire. “I didn’t have the appropriate lighting, what have you. But I had to figure it out…and I did.”
Despite the dire situation for entrepreneurs like herself, things were starting to look up. Her clients were supportive as she taught Zoom classes and sold popular fitness products (including waist trainers) online. She was able to find a new way to position herself and actually expand her business. Things weren’t all bad.
While she was doing all that though, the virus was making its way around, infecting more and more people and eventually killing thousands. She was cautious to avoid infection for herself and her two adopted children, but never felt she needed to be afraid of COVID-19.
“Initially I wasn’t as fearful,” she said. “But it all came down like a ton of bricks. It happened all so quickly.”
The virus would eventually end up knocking on her door. Within the month of March, she went from knowing it was happening around the world and trying to be careful to avoid it to having her life turned upside down and being infected.
“It was a whole wake-up call for me,” she says. “It taught me that no one is obsolete no matter your health, your age, your race. No one is obsolete from catching the virus. Someone who has led a healthy lifestyle such as my own for over 15 years, I wasn’t obsolete, along with everyone else.”
Because it was so early in the pandemic, she confused her symptoms with a simple cold or flu (they’re initially similar). But then she woke up one day more tired than she’d ever been before. And as an entrepreneur, she knew tired.
“I’m used to tired but this tired was a different level of tired,” she says. “As soon as I woke up, I had to cancel one client after the next.”
Still, she thought it wasn’t the coronavirus. She hydrated and tried to rest, but within a few days, she had a “heavy, violent cough.”
“One day I just woke up and I couldn’t get out of bed even if I tried. Even if someone offered me a million bucks, it wasn’t happening,” she says.
She found out later that someone she’d been in contact with had been hospitalized with the virus, so she went to get tested, and at the time, there weren’t many testing sites to access yet. Because of that, it was very difficult to get tested. She was denied access because the CDC didn’t call her back to help her set up an appointment. It took multiple tries, and five hours waiting for the CDC to pick up the phone at one point, but she was eventually able to convince someone at a testing site in Long Island to allow her nostrils to be swabbed. Eventually, the CDC did finally call her back, but this time to say she tested positive. She had already been ill for 10 days, thinking she had the flu and taking over-the-counter meds.
But she would soon learn the difference between the cold and flu versus COVID-19. She was down for 14 days, with a cough sticking around for 21 days. The cough and shortness of breath lingered, but she would eventually gain enough strength to slowly get up moving, and soon after, get active again teaching classes. Her experience ended without long-term issues, and without turning fatal, which Harden is grateful for. She said getting ill was a “wake-up call” for her to talk about the importance of taking precautions so that events like the pandemic, can’t take you out physically, mentally, or financially.
“One of the main things I can take away from this pandemic is preparation. We have to focus more on preventative preparation and not just when it comes to our health, but also our finances, and as entrepreneurs when it comes to our businesses, too,” she says. “You know how they say keep a stash under the mattress for a rainy day? This is literally what this is all about. And when it comes to health, our preventative healthcare measures are our physical fitness and wellness.”
“The healthier you are, the better you eat in terms of nutrition, these things become your defense,” she continued. “Not only your immune defense but your external defense. And also internal defense.”
Surviving a bout with COVID-19 has changed the way she deals with her clients and the way she looks at life in general, including in terms of investments, building her brand, and dealing with faith over fear.
Her business is back open now, though operating at 70 percent capacity. It’s available for clients who prefer the face-to-face approach. But she’s still working online and finding new clients all over the country. So with that in mind, she’s “embracing the Millennials and Generation Z and everybody else and getting with the program.”
She’s building up her online platform, has an unlimited access plan on the way for $19.99 filled with workouts, offering a nutrition guide, and selling a variety of products that she put online that are going fast. It’s been a major adjustment to teach and thrive online, but if she could survive COVID-19, she can survive anything.
“I’m repositioning my business to online,” she says with optimism in her voice. “Instead of sulking and crying and being mad, I said let me take this energy and put it online. And that’s all I will be doing all 2021.”