Pandemic Loss, Divorce and Depression: Why Dameka Quimby is Fighting to Keep her Gym

January 7, 2021 by
Courtesy of Dameka Quimby
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When Dameka Quimby opened CrossFit Pine Creek in Pittsburgh, PA in November 2018, she wasn’t expecting the quick growth she saw. Within a year, her membership jumped from 37 to 170 members and she was in the process of looking for a larger space. “Things were going extraordinarily well,” she said. Then 2020 hit, and Quimby was hit with nightmare after nightmare after nightmare.

  • Early in the year, one of her morning members unexpectedly and tragically committed suicide. “I coached him three days a week. I knew him well. He had five kids. It was just so sad,” she said. 
  • A week later came the first COVID-19 shutdown, and like many small gym owners, her business started wilting away. In a matter of weeks, she had lost half of her members and half her coaches. “I was so sad and so scared. We did have a good chunk of loyal members, but we had a lot of new members too, who we didn’t have strong relationships with yet,” she said.
  • At the same time, Quimby’s marriage was rapidly unraveling, and eventually she and her husband opted for divorce. 
  • Quimby fell into a deep depression. “By May, I was totally broken,” she said.
  • By the time the fall came, her business was no longer able to pay its bills. “We lost $500 in October, $1,500 in November and $2,600 in December,” she explained. 

Needless to say, nobody would blame Quimby if she decided to close her doors and move on from gym ownership. But this is not what she is doing. 

One big thing: Though Quimby admits she has considered throwing in the towel, her community and the power of fitness is too important to her overall health and life, she explained. 

  • Fitness is the number one thing that helps Quimby cope with her depression, she explained, something she has been dealing with since she was hit with postpartum depression after her first daughter was born. After her second child was born, she was “at the heaviest and most unhappy I had been in years,” Quimby said. Finding CrossFIt allowed her to come off her medication and use fitness to manage her depression. “Physical activity is the number one thing that impacts my mood,” she said. 
  •  This was especially true of 2020. “People in my community have propped me up this year. I have some really good friends who workout with me on Sunday and help make me feel alive…I have lost so much. I need my community to hold onto. That’s what’s going to help me through the next year,” she said. 
Courtesy of Dameka Quimby

Notable: Quimby also credits CrossFit LLC for their help in recent weeks. Knowing she was struggling financially, they gave her three months off her affiliation fees. “It helps a lot,” she said. “I asked them for one month and they gave me three.”

Choosing to see the good: Despite the tragedy and loss of 2020, Quimby, who was allowed to reopen her doors on January 4 after being closed for a second time, is feeling hopeful and clear-headed about the direction of her business. 

  • “I have endured this long, so what’s another three months? We can build back. And to be honest, I know more who I am and what I want to accomplish in my community now. I am in an amazing space. I don’t have any other gyms in my backyard and there are a million people in the area,” she said. 
  • She added: “We grew from 37 to 170 members without any marketing, and I know we can do it again…There are just too many signs saying don’t give up yet, that change is on the horizon.”

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