“It was perfect”

Former CycleBox owner finds success after COVID-19 closes business
John L. Moore
Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021

Taylor County residents have seen a number of small businesses collapse under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ana Almeida, women’s conditioning coach for Taylor County Schools, experienced it firsthand.

Ana Almeida, left, spots for a student during weight training. (Photo: John L. Moore)

As the owner of CycleBox on Main Street, she led clients through indoor cycling-based fitness sessions that simulated realistic riding conditions to enhance their workouts. Over the din of a pump-up playlist, it was her job to guide and encourage each group as she tracked the progress of participants to offer personalized feedback in real time. It was a fun take on fitness, and clients loved the way she delicately balanced encouraging them to do better with celebrating where they were at.

Her goal for CycleBox, as stated on its now-defunct Facebook page, was to help clients reach their “highest sustainable level of fitness” so they could be healthier, stronger and happier. She wanted those she worked with to fall in love with exercise the way she did as a teen growing up in Brazil.

“I’ve lived in the States for 15 or 16 years now, and I came here to study at Campbellsville University where I got my masters degree in teaching English as a second language,” she said. “Fitness was always a part of my life, especially as a teenager lifting, but it wasn’t until I got [to Campbellsville] that I started getting serious about it, dedicating myself to learning more and earning certifications in personal training and indoor cycling.”

Knowledge of fitness and her passion for passing it on were the foundation upon which Almeida opened CycleBox on Oct. 22, 2018. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, though, she felt called by the Lord to close her doors, and spent long hours asking Him for guidance.

CycleBox closed on Dec. 19, 2020, after Almeida was offered a full-time position with the county school district.

Charles Higdon Jr., superintendent, was in the middle of making a variety of investments in Taylor County’s women’s athletics program when he extended the job offer, since she had done well working part-time with the district’s athletes already.

He announced her hiring in January 2021 during a discussion about the district’s plans for a women’s fitness and training lab on the Taylor County High School campus — another investment he intends to make into the women’s athletics program.

“With the way [the pandemic] was going, I couldn’t see a way out with CycleBox,” Almeida said, “so for Mr. Higdon to invite me to start training the girls when he did … it was perfect.”

Being credentialed as both an educator and fitness instructor, having a chance to combine her two loves for a sports conditioning position with the school district was a God-sent opportunity.

“I want every girl … to feel confident and empowered as an athlete.”

In the months since, she has built rapport with the young women she trains, and finds joy in being able to help a new generation settle into a fitness routine that’s right for them.

“It’s so much easier to develop good habits when you’re in your teenage years compared to when you’re in your 30s and 40s,” she said. “I want every girl to know that they can do it, and I want them to feel confident and empowered as an athlete.”

In addition to working with student athletes participating in women’s sports, she branched out over the summer and worked with members of the band program, too, and was delighted to coach them through workouts that would help them be in top form during performances.

She also offers conditioning to participants in women’s sports as an elective during class periods at the middle and high school, working with them on a daily basis.

“Having a chance to work with these younger ladies has been like a shot in the arm for me,” she said. “I love every second of it.”

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