Each week, we’ll toss out six questions to a local health or fitness expert. Topics will range from new workout trends to healthy eating tips and everything in between. We all have fitness goals: Here’s to helping each other achieve them.

I have to admit, when fitness instructors take other fitness instructor’s classes we tend to have a lot of fun. Sharing a similar passion for health and wellness, it’s vital to challenge your body with new and exciting forms of exercise.

So when Jody Buonomo Merrill — founder and instructor of Btone Fitness — recently came to my TRX class, I knew I had to find out more about her path to becoming an entrepreneur in the fitness industry.

Caroline Earle: Were you involved in sports or fitness-specific classes growing up?

Jody Merrill: If you’ve met me you know that I am a tall drink of water and I was pretty much this height at age 12. Needless to say I did not excel at sports but that did not stop me from participating. Sports and fitness were more social for me, and I suppose it still is. I played soccer through high school and in college I completely fell off the fitness wagon.

When I got my first job I started to find that I needed an outlet and it was my mother that started to drag me to group classes. Shortly after I turned 23 my mother passed away from a little known cancer and that was a major catalyst for me. After that I found myself at a meeting for the Team in Training and signed up for a full marathon. I had never run more than 3 miles, and I hated every second of it.

But that truly was a life changer for me. I got to raise money for LLS and honor my mother while pounding the pavement.

I ran 4 marathons, and then fell into triathlons and have completed 8 endurance events with the TNT and raised over 100K. When my husband and I moved to San Diego I decided that I would do a half ironman, and it was training for that event that brought me to a Lagree Fitness studio and the rest is history.

CE: How did you end up teaching classes?

JM: With triathlon I had to learn about 3 different sports, and in that learned a whole lot about fitness, and more so about coaching. I had the most amazing coaches for these events and they taught me everything I know. At one point I was asked to coach a Marathon team. I thought that it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard.

I am an AWFUL runner.

The coaches that were asking me to do it opened my eyes though. Coaching has little to do with how you are at an event, and has everything to do with attitude, how you motivate others, and educate them. That is what makes you a coach. I did not end up coaching because we ended up moving to California, but that little bit of info was like a lightbulb.

I would put together workouts for friends and coworkers, and mentored other newbie triathletes and I loved inspiring others to push themselves. The first thing I was ever trained to teach was Lagree Fitness. We finished teaching on a Thursday and I taught my first class on Saturday.

Sometimes you just gotta dive right in.

CE: What made you decide you wanted to open your own studio?

JM: It was time to decide if we were going to stay in California, or move back to Boston. I was a Speech Therapist and loved my job, but felt like maybe I was meant to do something different and was up for a serious challenge. There were no studios on the East Coast at the time, and this workout was the only thing that kept me injury free.

The wheels just started turning.

I talked to anyone and everyone that I could while on the West Coast where this workout evolved, and went with my gut. This thought crossed my mind in May and by December we were back on the east coast and the doors to my first studio were opened.

CE: Favorite Boston restaurant for food and drink?

JM: I live in Medford and hands down the best restaurant around is Bistro 5. It happens to be in my hometown and rivals any dish you can get downtown.

The owner and head chef has a seed to plate program with a local school so there are often fresh veggies picked that day by the kids. I have had GI issues pretty much my whole life and have been as close to gluten free/dairy free as possible as those are major triggers for me. B5 accommodates me and is always there for me when I feel like indulging too. I love sweets and their desserts are some of my favorites.

CE: What is one fitness class you would never want to teach?

JM: I could never teach an aerial yoga class. I have gone a few times and I am always amazed at how the instructors cue it up. Sometimes after teaching so many classes you lose track of time, all your senses, and reality.

I can’t imagine having people wrapped up in silks, hanging upside down, and be responsible for them not breaking their necks.

CE: How about a fitness trend you haven’t tried but want to?

JM: I love a well rounded exercise regimen. I’m dying to try an indorow class and luckily going this week to check one out at BurnFitness. I also want to try a SURFSET class. I love paddleboarding and the few times that I went surfing I was pretty sore the next day so I know that would be a fun workout.

I have tried just about every workout in one form or another and encourage people to do the same. Some people stick to one thing, some float around studio to studio. You just have to find what works for you and keep at it.

CE: What’s a mantra or quote you live your life by?

JM: One of my marathon coaches used to say “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

You have to push yourself past your comfort level to get to all the juicy goodness. It’s true in our workouts, and it’s true in life. You just sell yourself short when you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone. I love it when people tell me that they “are scared” before a class. I feel that all the time too, and it’s good. It means you are testing yourself.

It’s always been life’s hardest times, classes, moments that you grow the most from. Just don’t forget to have some fun too.


Be sure to catch Jody teaching at Btone on the following days and times as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

Monday: Btone Fitness Wellesley 8:30, 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday: Btone Fitness Boston 11:00 a.m., 12 p.m.

Wednesday: Btone Fitness Sudbury 9:30, 10:30 a.m.

Thursday: Btone Fitness Sudbury 4:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m.

Sunday: Btone Fitness Lexington 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.


Images via Jody Buonomo Merrill