By Deena Douara

On paper, she’s a fitness coach, but in reality, Dryden explains that you have to deal with background noise before you can be truly healthy, energized and motivated. Working through those issues is an organic part of the Aim Fitness process.

“If you’re not addressing the job you hate or the boyfriend you need to get rid of or you say yes to everything, it’s hard to have everything else fall in line. When you address the other things first, the physical falls into place.”

Dryden has always been an athlete, but the holistic approach to health is more recent, prompted by an unexpected introduction to meditation and Buddhism in Nepal.

Growing up on a grain farm outside of Winnipeg, Dryden always played sports – competitive soccer, ringette, and broom ball, to name a few. She ran her first half-marathon in high school and is halfway towards her goal of completing six world marathons.

But all that was supposed to be fun side-gigs. At the time, she says, she was not exposed to fitness entrepreneurs and didn’t think of it as a sustainable, profitable vocation.

Unhappy with her start in teaching, a friend encouraged her to pursue what she truly loved.

And it made perfect sense, really. Dryden had already studied for a year to get certified in the difficult U.S.-based CSCS personal training program; she had worked with elite cyclists, triathletes and marathoners; she trained police and ran bootcamps.

“Yeah, that’s what makes me happy,” she thought. “That’s what I want to do.”

Her relationship brought her to Toronto and it seemed like the right time to pursue fitness as a career. That, and the fact it was nearly impossible to find teaching jobs in Toronto, Dryden admits – a reality she now sees as a blessing.

So, with the help of Enterprise Toronto’s Starter Company program, she got started on Aim Fitness – conducting digital marketing, networking as well as introducing a new online subscription program and completing pilates certification. Most importantly though, she learned she was not alone.

“No one ever talks about how lonely business is,” says Dryden. “That was invaluable; we talked about that.” Since then she says she’s made an effort to connect with other entrepreneurs.

After all, a big component of Dryden’s work with her clients – mostly professional and overworked women looking to shed some weight – is internal, so it made sense that she too look after herself.

The importance of that internal work became apparent on a life-changing trip to Everest. She was not looking for a transformation; Eat, Pray, Love, it was not.

But due to an injury, yoga and meditation were all she could practice so she joined a retreat in Nepal. Then she began to notice the changes. Her mind was clear, she was decisive, efficient.

She continued meditating as she wound her way around the region. “I had never felt like that,” she says. “I was always a worrywart, was always trying to do a million things, was super indecisive. It just cleared by brain and I was able to hone in on what I wanted.”

Dryden knew it was important to integrate some of these practices into her training but admits she was nervous about it at first, unsure of the reaction she’d get from her Type-A clients. In September, she did a trial – challenging her clients to write what they loved about themselves for 21 days straight. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Clients told her it was the best five minutes of their day.

Since then, she’s integrated nutritional, emotional and physical challenges into her program in response to patterns she sees in her clients.

“Weekend detoxes are not addressing the main issues; I really emphasize addressing what needs to be addressed.

“When you embrace a lifestyle of health, everything else falls into place.”