Refusing to sink: The Anchor Method studio powers mental and physical health

“I moved to California in the middle of the fifth grade, and then I was really depressed. Through that, the thing that stuck with me is ‘I refuse to sink.’ And that’s where the anchor came from; that’s the symbol that got me out of that depression and what keeps me out of that mental state,” Emily Switzer said.

Showing off her newly-opened studio, Switzer stands proudly. (Photo courtesy of Emily Switzer)

Switzer uses this experience and mantra to fuel her passion for fitness. In mid-August, she opened Anchor Method, a fitness studio in Kentfield that combines mental and physical health for young women. Her “anchor method” works to build trusted relationships with middle and high school girls to improve strength and confidence while introducing them to the fitness world.

“I’ve always been active through middle school, elementary school and high school. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t see results because my nutrition was pretty bad. You don’t really know what you’re eating, and when you hit puberty, your body starts to change, and you’re stuck and you don’t know what to do,” Switzer said. “And there’s always body image issues at that age when you’re a teenage girl.

The concept that I want to implement for teenage girls is skipping those one to two years when you’re messing around at the gym, trying to gain confidence. The Anchor Method is that stepping stone to help get teenage girls more comfortable in the gym.”

Before opening Anchor Method, Switzer worked as a one-on-one personal trainer during the pandemic and developed close relationships with her clients. Since she was the only person outside of their home they would see, she became their best friend, therapist and nutritionist. The bonds she was able to create are the leading inspiration for her program, and being 21-years-old makes her more relatable to her young clients.

“I’m realizing, coming out of [the pandemic], how many people have anxiety: it’s tough to find friendships and community, and it’s really hard to trust people,” Switzer said. “I want to try to rebuild that, especially in the teenage girl community.”

Thinking about a mental-wellness prompt provided by the teacher, the girls participate in the end-of-class reflection. (Photo courtesy of Emily Switzer)

In addition to the community focus, the program is unique in other ways: the first 45 minutes of fitness training include one-on-one feedback and modifications to customize the workout for individual needs. After the exercise circuit, the last 15 minutes of the class are dedicated to reflection and stretching. Switzer gives the class a prompt to think about, and they share their thoughts with the rest of the group.

“[The reflection] is never forced, but I’m realizing what sets the anchor method apart from other programs is that we’re building that trust and that vulnerability. Working out for that first 45 minutes, people that are shy or may not be comfortable talking about their feelings end up opening up,” Switzer said.

Archie Williams senior Margot West has been attending Anchor Method classes since they opened, and she enjoys balancing mental and physical health.

“[In our reflections], there are deep and complex conversations, [and] it’s nice to have these with other teen girls about the struggles that we all experience [in] a safe environment,” West said.

The ability to have vulnerable conversations with other girls their age is beneficial for their mental well-being. Available on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school as well as Saturday mornings, Switzer’s program attracts many local students, including Kent Middle School eighth-grader Kate Rubel.

Lifting a weight set for her level, each workout is modified by Switzer. (Photo courtesy of Emily Switzer)

“[The all-girl class] is definitely part of the energy in the room. Emily has made a very safe place. Everyone comes together; you can feel like you trust them,” Rubel said. “It’s unique because Emily tells you her story. She wants to help other people not go to the same place she was in when she was our age. She’s always so open. She’s always there for you. Even if it’s not during the class, she reaches out to you, and it’s very sweet.”

Switzer enjoys staying involved in the lives of her clients. She likes to incorporate different activities and projects into the reflection, such as writing out affirmations and personal goals. This approach makes the girls feel very comfortable with Switzer.

“Emily gives you a lot of personal attention; she’ll come over and give you specific advice on how to improve what you’re doing. You’re with a class full of other people [and] at the same time creating closer connections in the actual training,” West said.

In the future, Switzer hopes to grow Anchor Method to include different demographics, including teenage boys, moms and adults. She already feels that she’s made an impact on the clients she has been able to interact with and expanding could benefit more groups of people.

“Integrating mental and physical health is a really cool idea that I think could go across the U.S. [and] worldwide,” Switzer said. “Especially post-pandemic, I can see that these are the two things we need right now.”