By Keri Luise
Local women’s gym, Sistas Work Together (SWT) Fitness, opened its first storefront studio on Oct. 2 in Dunkirk.
Established by Sandra Vazquez, 52, in May 2020 as a small fitness business she ran in her Chesapeake Beach home, the new gym now welcomes more women from the immediate area to meet their fitness goals together.
Vazquez, a first-generation American and mother of four, joined the military at 18 and served as a Marine for eight years, a federal officer for four years and a police officer for 20 years.
At one point during the pandemic, Vazquez came home from work exhausted. Her 7-year-old son missed her when she worked nights and she thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” Her husband suggested she become a personal trainer and Vazquez jumped on the idea. She officially retired July 1, 2020 and began developing her fitness studio.
“I spent night and day studying, got my certificate in a couple of months and put in my retirement paperwork,” Vazquez says. “And in the meantime I was outfitting my basement into a home studio and before it was all over I had over 30 clients from the neighborhood and it got incredibly popular. We started out with bootcamps in the backyard and I would train the ladies and it escalated into group classes.”
The demand picked up so much that Vazquez brought on two friends to help teach classes. The excitement of SWT Fitness members spread across the area and Vazquez says so many people wanted to join that she reached maximum capacity and had to start turning people away.
“People started hearing about it and better yet, people started seeing the results that these ladies were showing off,” Vazquez says.
On Aug. 1, Vazquez closed the doors to her home studio in order to concentrate on the construction and development of the new studio in Dunkirk.
As an all-women’s gym, Vazquez says the mission with SWT Fitness is to have a community. Vazquez says the first interaction she had with an all-women’s gym was right after she left the Marine Corps.
“I had been a sergeant in the Marines, I had a platoon, so I was used to Marine Corps stuff. I didn’t know anything about group fitness,” she says. “I was in Annapolis and there was a little gym in Parole, a women’s gym and I fell in love immediately.”
When Vazquez moved to Calvert County, she says she struggled to find a gym with the same kind of community and sisterhood, so she established her own.
The Dunkirk building used to be a karate studio and was the best option for SWT Fitness. Vazquez says she had to “think about expenses—you want to crawl before you fly. And you don’t want to overdo it and then you can’t succeed.”
“I would’ve loved to have [a studio] here in Chesapeake Beach but the rent was too high,” Vazquez says. “And then we found the location which was perfect because you can see it right from Route 4. There’s other ladies’ businesses right there which is to me, so inspiring. There’s a wonderful boutique, there’s a hairdresser, and the bank there is operated by a female vice president.”
Carol Tameris, co-owner of Optimal Physical Therapy in Dunkirk, is one of the studio’s neighbors.
“I love to go in and know I am going to get a fabulous workout,” Tameris says. “I love the camaraderie and working out with friends and always [being] with women who support each other and cheer each other on. SWT is such a great place for women to get an amazing workout, make new friends, [have] a huge stress reliever and have fun.”
SWT Fitness hosts their second annual breast cancer awareness fundraiser Do It For the Girls on Sunday, Oct. 24. There will be a circuit run in the parking lot, vendors, raffles and prizes. All money raised will go to the Sheldon E. Goldberg Center for Breast Care at CalvertHealth Medical Center. Last year, the gym raised almost $9,000. Sign up at sistasworktogether.com,
“I vowed that if I was in this platform that I’d try to serve the community, and what better way than a breast cancer fundraiser and keep the funds here in Calvert County,” Vazquez says.