We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Menechyan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I started lifting weights in 2016, there weren’t a lot of women in the weight rooms at the gyms I’d frequent and my lifting journey began with a focus on getting skinny rather than strong.
Through trial and error, studying fitness and nutrition science, and personal development work, I found that my focus was no longer to reach an arbitrary goal set by societal norms, but rather to build strength, cultivate self-love, and inspire confidence that poured into other areas of my life as well.
Fitness culture remains the same, with its focus on extremisms: whether it’s getting as lean as possible, or lifting the heaviest amount of weight to be considered successful in the gym. It’s our responsibility to navigate it cautiously if we participate. I was hesitant at first, as being a personal trainer meant directly contributing to another’s experience within this fitness/diet culture.
My mission behind starting Body By Mich was to find the balance in the extremes. To encourage the women I train to find their strengths in the gym and focus on fueling their bodies to complement their training. To educate my clients on proper form for weightlifting, as well as fitness and nutrition science. I don’t believe a personal trainer’s role to be someone who dictates movements and controls your eating for short-term goals.
I remain by my core philosophy with training: finding JOY in movement. Rather than regarding it as dreadful or a way to burn calories, I aim to inspire women to view the gym as a place to gain strength, confidence and train because they love their bodies, not because they hate certain parts they’d like to change.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I received my NASM personal training certification in 2019 and started teaching group fitness classes. I was content but knew I wanted to share my knowledge on strength training and build my business on empowering women.
I began with Zoom workouts after the pandemic hit March 2020. This gradually evolved to socially distanced group classes at Griffith Park where I would haul numerous pairs of heavy dumbbells at 6am every morning to Griffith Park. As restrictions eased, I found an outdoor gym in East Hollywood called Crossfit Mindset with access to more equipment. No matter what, I kept my training going. Despite those mornings where some extra sleep would’ve been nice, I knew it would be rewarding to go train a group of eager individuals who later told me I got them through some rough patches during 2020/2021.
You don’t go into personal training for the money. In my opinion, you’re changing lives and it’s the most rewarding job to have. I’m proud to say despite the difficulties I’ve faced, I still wake up every morning excited to go train my clients. Their successes are my successes. I choose the people I work with very carefully because I put in 100% effort and need people who are going to give me the 100% effort back. I care a lot and luckily I attract clients who also care a lot.
That being said, I’ve learned a major lesson about boundary setting along the way. Setting boundaries regarding my work-life balance has been difficult but rewarding as it’s helped with setting boundaries in my personal life as well.
My personal training business is based on the ethics of joy and self-empowerment. I live with those principles and naturally it spreads to my clients. I am happy to genuinely say I love my job and the people I work with. It’s rare that people can claim that and I am extremely grateful for it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am born and raised in Los Angeles so this is a really exciting question to answer. Naturally, we’d start with Los Feliz because it’s been my place of residence for the last 27 years. I love Los Feliz Village because it’s managed to preserve some of the establishments I grew up with and has sprouted many more that remain beloved in the community. We’d start the morning with a sunrise hike in Griffith park then grab coffee at Brü on Vermont. I’d make sure to hit up the boutique stores on Hillhurst/Vermont such as Desperate Vamp, Bell Jar, Otherwild. Lunch would have to be at Loupiotte, my new favorite spot in the village. Later for dinner, Atrium then Pinky’s definitely.
That’s my perfect day in Los Feliz but I would dedicate a day to explore art museums in Downtown LA such as The Broad, MOCA (both locations). Ride the historic Angels Flight Railway.
I love to go dancing at places like Short Stop in Echo Park, The Friend in Silver Lake, Cha Cha in Silverlake.
Beach day at Will Rogers beach but the section informally known as “Ginny Rogers beach” where I regularly see dolphins playing in the waves and it’s actually swimmable.
These are only a handful of my favorite things to do in LA. I have so much more but I can write a solid 20 pages on it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate my success to my clients but not only because they show up consistently. Their excitement for training and the mutual support I see keeps me going. I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by supportive, positive, lovely clients who spread the word about my training.
It’s all about the community and network that’s building around my training. I have clients in East Hollywood and Glendale who don’t personally know each other but will support the strength gains of another through the Instagram community we’ve cultivated. Sometimes they run into each other in public and greet each other with delight over the video they saw of the other deadlifting 135 pounds. It’s empowering.
This is the comradery I wanted to see in the weight room back in 2016 and I am so happy I’m taking part in creating this community of strong women.