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Mary Richards creates community through fitness

On a warm Wednesday night, Jordan Richards stands at the bottom of an imposing set of stairs. He takes a breath and sprints up while his coach encourages him to the top.

"You got this, Jordan."

On this particular night, his coach wasn't Bill Belichick and this wasn't Gillette Stadium. It was his wife, Mary, standing at the bottom of the stairs at Harvard Stadium.

Mary pushed him and the dozen other people there for one of her weekly, free pop-up workouts, which often include running up the infamous stairs at Harvard's football stadium.

After working as a strength and conditioning coach at Boston College, Mary decided to take the steps to start her own business: MacStrong Fitness. Through pop-up workouts and one-on-one training with clients, she is not only hoping to encourage others on their own fitness journeys. She wants to build a community of people who support each other.

With a rotating group of regulars joining her on Wednesday nights, she has started to do just that. Whether it's people from church, people she has met through Jordan's time with the Patriots, or people who -- like on this night -- stumbled upon the group and decided to join, the positive energy among the strangers is contagious.

And that's exactly what she's going for.

"I started to really just connect with people. I want to invest into the lives of specifically women, but it's for everyone right now. I'm not selective," Mary said. "I just feel like there needs to be a healthier mentality when it comes to working out, when it comes to dieting, when it comes to just being full body- mind, body and soul."

Mary learned this through her own battles. In high school, she struggled with anorexia, and while playing softball, she shattered her femur running to first base.

"I broke my leg. The doctor couldn't explain it," she said. "Obviously, I knew it was partially because of my anorexia, but I didn't really admit it to myself then. I wasn't eating 100 percent ... I had to work myself back to full athletic shape in recovery. I prayed. I was like, 'God, if you'll heal my leg, I will dedicate the rest of my life to teaching people how to take care of their bodies.' It accelerated into a career for myself in college athletics and then also now, my own business."

This passion for building a healthy relationship with fitness creates an uplifting environment where people of all fitness levels feel comfortable coming to train, and in chasing her dreams, Mary had her own strong support system, namely Jordan.

"I say marry someone who supports you. He loves people so, so well, and he really cares. He cares for people, and sometimes I look over and he's helping someone with the modification while I was running with a different person. He'll be able to modify because he has the knowledge and he has the experience of working out. It means a lot as a young couple too because people see our relationship and they're like, ‘Wow, I love that. They're working together.’" 

By the end of the night, Mary and Jordan weren't the only one cheering people on. Those who had just met that night encouraged one another as they made their way up the stadium stairs at their own pace.

"Each person that comes, I know they're here for a reason. They don't just happen here by mistake," Mary said. "I just want people to feel welcomed, people not to feel pressured to come. I just want them to know that they matter."

The MacStrong pop-up workouts are free and open to the public. For more information and dates, check out MacStrong Fitness's Instagram page.

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