How many times have you heard the phrase, “it’s all about who you know”? Life is about connections: making them, maintaining them, and celebrating them. Think about your circle of close friends— how did these relationships begin? Was it at work? School? On reality TV?

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the opening of South Side Iron gym in Lemont, Illinois. But before we get to that, let’s rewind a bit…

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Last year, 20 individuals were sent to Hawaii in the pursuit of finding love. The premise of this dating experiment being, if your perfect match was standing right in front of you, would you even know it? What became of this, for two contestants in particular, was something that went beyond MTV’s expectations. Love involves trust and commitment, and while the goal of this show was romance, these qualities are also representative of genuine friendships.

If everything went according to plan 100% of the time, life would be pretty boring. These 20 men and women hoped to come out of this experience hand in hand with their perfect match, and a nice chunk of change from winning the grand prize of one million dollars. Sure, couples were paired and the cash was won, but what MTV couldn’t predict was the wonderful friendship and future business pairing between Connor Smith and Tyler Johnson.

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As this was going on in Hawaii, I was in NY, working at a kickboxing gym, bonding with my fellow trainer over our love for reality dating shows (among other things). A connection was made and we became fast friends, and soon, after discussing the most recent episode of the Bachelor, she suggested I should watch the MTV show Are You The One. As luck would have it, season 3 was premiering in a matter of weeks, allowing me to jump on the AYTO bandwagon.

Many can argue that in this technological world, we’re losing our ability to connect with others. The first word in “social media” is social, and if used correctly, actually enhances our connections exponentially. Through social media, my connection with Tyler — excuse me, Teeboogie — began. We bonded over our love of dancing (they don’t call him teeboogie for no reason), deep thoughts on life, and upbeat positivity.

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Now that we’ve covered the connections made in Hawaii, New York, and the world of social media, let’s jetset over to Illinois. Growing up, fitness has played an important role in Connor’s life. He told us that when he was younger, exercise was his reward. “If you finish your homework, you can go workout with your brother!” Over the past year, he has followed his heart, pursued his passion, and worked until his dreams came true with the opening of South Side Iron. When looking for a staff of fitness professionals he could trust, Tyler was a forerunner on his list. While Teeboogie’s energy is contagious and fitness knowledge is visible (peep the abs), the acquisition of licensure was necessary. So, with that, Tyler studied his butt off, aced his NASM certification exams, and became a licensed personal trainer.

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In due time, all these mentioned connections were bound to collide. A few days before the grand opening of South Side Iron, I sent a “this may sound crazy, but…” text to my college roommate and my fellow kickboxing trainer/reality dating show fan. The best kinds of connections are those that are on the same wavelength as you— the ones who applaud your adventures and who’s personalities enhance your ideas in ways you couldn’t imagine. At 6am on the day of the grand opening, we boarded the plane and headed to Chicago.

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Watching people follow their dreams ignites a special type of inspiration in my soul. Knowing the hard work and dedication that went behind the opening of South Side Iron made the decision to hop on a plane for a 24 hour adventure a no brainer. When watching TV, especially reality dating shows (my guilty pleasure), you don’t often think about the lives of the people off camera. After a taste of fame, it isn’t unusual seeing these individuals selling tummy tea on Instagram, or walking around feeling entitled to special treatment. This is not the case for Connor and Tyler, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Humble and hardworking are the pressing adjectives that come to mind in describing these two men. Both have overcome struggles in their lives that they have not allowed to define them, but instead, have helped them to propel forward and conquer what may seem to others as unconquerable. The positive energy in celebrating this momentous event in their lives was immeasurable… wonderful things happen when you live your dream!

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If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to check out South Side Iron located on 1243 State Street, Lemont. You will walk out feeling strong, inspired and ready to conquer the world!

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