Studio Versō brings new and accessible fitness equipment to St. John’s

The co-owners of Studio Versō, Emily Hickey and Maria Snow, opened their business in October with the goal of promoting inclusion and accessibility in fitness.

Sarah Antle
Kicker

Studio VERSŌ co-owners Emily Hickey (left) and Maria Snow (right) in the lobby of the new VERSŌ lobby.
Studio Versō co-owners Emily Hickey (left) and Maria Snow (right) in the lobby of the new Versō lobby. While the studio has been open for business since Saturday, the owners are preparing for their grand opening, which will take place Nov. 6-7. Photo by Sarah Antle.

With the goal of creating a fitness centre that encompasses all aspects of wellness, co-owners Emily Hickey and Maria Snow opened Studio Versō on Saturday in St. John’s.

Hickey and Snow say there has been a lack of accessible fitness centres in the city. So, they were inspired to create a studio featuring spin and row classes with accessible machines and adapted equipment. 

“From the design of the space to our machines to our team, inclusion has been included in every step of that,” Hickey said

Hickey cited gender-neutral and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms as examples of the kinds of steps Versō is taking to be inclusive.

“(We) wanted to share something amazing with St. John’s and create a space where people can come [and] avail of spaces that benefit their wellness,” Hickey said.

From her perspective, having even one person benefit from the inclusion of accessible machines would be enough.

A first for Newfoundland and Labrador

Studio Versō is the first fitness studio in Newfoundland to offer the Invictus Active Trainer, a wheelchair treadmill that can be used in all Versō programming. It has also included an adapted Ski Erg, a wheelchair-accessible rowing machine.

For Hickey and Snow, accessibility and inclusion are at the forefront of their business plan.

From programming to space design, Hickey and Snow said they are continuously working to make their space welcoming for everyone. Snow said they have already received feedback and will consult with people who have faced barriers to inclusion in different fitness spaces in the past. 

“What do you need? And how can we make that happen? How can we get you to avail of something that we know is so powerful?” Snow asks of clients.

 

The recently opened Studio VERSO space.
Studio Versō recently opened at 60 O’Leary Avenue. Owners Emily Hickey and Maria Snow put signage in the windows to indicate an inclusive space. Photo by Sarah Antle.

Noting what they say is a lack of representation in the fitness community, Hickey and Snow have focused on creating a team that is representative of the community. Hickey recalled telling one of her first classes, “‘My ride is going to look different than your ride. And your ride is going to look different than your neighbour’s ride.’ And that’s how it should be.”

Physical and mental health

Snow says the Versō owners’ different backgrounds are an advantage to their business program: Her training in psychology and occupational therapy complements Hickey’s business and law school background. Because of this variety, she said they each bring different experiences and perspectives to their planning. Hickey agreed, saying they “went to town” in preparation for their opening. The Versō team was already training and instructing classes on their opening day.

Wanting to encompass physical and mental health, Snow said she and Hickey are big dreamers. As a result, they want to reflect the energy that the community gives them.

“People feel the energy in the room,” Snow said, “and they take that into their daily lives.”

Studio Versō’s grand opening event will take place on Nov. 6-7.

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