Featured photo: One Rep Weightlifting in Greensboro aims to be different than run-of-the-mill gyms. (photo by Daniel White/Daniel White Photography)

Barring the restroom, there are no mirrors in the gym. Instead, art takes up space where reflections would be. 

Tucked away in Greensboro’s Pomona Park, disco balls hang from the ceiling of an otherwise unassuming business space. Nearby LED lights alternate their colors while the sound system fills the room with Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” A slight haze of chalk dust blankets the air, emanating from the hands of 13 athletes as they lift the heaviest weight they possibly can during their Team Deadlift Day. Between their feet, abstract line art outlines the floor.

Such an environment stands in contrast to the easy-to-fall-into mentality that the whole point of fitness is to look a certain way. Simply googling the word “fitness” provides an image of predominantly white people with low percentages of body fat and six-pack abs. Further searches on Instagram garner images of influencers flexing in front of gym mirrors. But that isn’t the kind of atmosphere at One Rep Weightlifting. 

“Last set, best set!” A cry comes out from a figure on the sidelines as the athletes attempt their lifts. This figure, poised, attentive and keenly aware of her athletes’ form, is One Rep’s head coach, Tristin Miller.

(photo by Daniel White/Daniel White Photography)

Officially opened in Greensboro in April 2023, One Rep Weightlifting is a fitness center owned and operated by Miller, who is also the founder of the Greensboro Zine Fest. With over 12 years of experience weightlifting, Miller became a certified USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach in July 2021. They also completed a 30-hour course in Trauma-Informed Weightlifting in May 2022. After founding One Rep and coaching out of their home and one other training facility up until 2022, opening their own brick and mortar location is the culmination of a years-long journey. One of the core principles of the center, Miller remarks, is, quite simply, having fun.

“My athletes get to experience just having fun when they’re in the gym,” they explained during a recent interview. “Even if that means having disco balls and turning the lights off.”

One Rep’s focus on fun is bolstered by a “process over finished product” mentality, meaning its athletes focus on being present with their bodies and their experiences. That’s where the name comes from, Miller contends.

“Here, we’re building strength and confidence one rep at a time,” they say. “When things are difficult with movement or life is stressful, let’s be fully present and break it down into one expression of movement.”

When Miller, an artist themselves, started coaching, most of their clients were fellow artists, which helped shape the way the gym itself looks. Disco balls, chili-pepper lights, and a monthly reflection chalkboard wall — where the athletes reflect on their accomplishments and meditate on how their movement practice connects to their outside lives — adorn the space. 

“This is a gym opened by an artist,” Miller says, “so aesthetically this gym does not look like any other gym. I can say for a fact no gym in North Carolina looks like this because of who I am as an artist.”

Officially opened in Greensboro in April 2023, One Rep Weightlifting is a fitness center owned and operated by Miller, who is also the founder of the Greensboro Zine Fest. (photo by Daniel White/Daniel White Photography)

Instead, Miller wanted to create a more inclusive environment that invited artists, people with neurodivergencies, trans, queer, and other marginalized athletes. Amidst an onslaught of anti-trans bills, these inclusive spaces have become more important than ever, especially with some bills prohibiting trans athletes from playing sports. And because of that, Miller considers those athletes who may not feel comfortable in traditional, commercial gyms. Even though the same lifting is happening, the way One Rep is “aesthetically presented as a space” lets athletes know it does not conform to traditional ideas of fitness culture.

But at the heart of One Rep’s focus is community. After the athletes gathered for their Team Deadlift Day, they moved to the front of the building for a community potluck. Some members had never experienced a “max out day,” and for Miller, it was imperative to present the space welcomingly, so she added the disco balls and warm LED lights for a sense of vibrancy.

“I think that is something that’s always going to set my gym apart,” Miller says. “My experience in other gyms means I am going to take these things into account: How do people experience the physical space? How do they experience their bodies?”

Moving forward, Miller is committed to slow growth for the gym and trusts the space to show her what comes next. However, the hope is to add more athletes and help develop other coaches to meet the needs of the individual from a mental health perspective. For now, the work is being done on the mat—one rep at a time.

One Rep Weightlifting is located at 207 S Westgate Drive Unit A. Follow them on Instagram here.

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