In 2019, Greg Viggiano created a gym for his wife, Jessica Rafalowski Viggiano for one purpose: to help her get back in shape both physically and mentally following the birth of their first child. Soon, though, the husband-and-wife team discovered that this fitness labor of love, originally built for one, could be better served for an entire community, built on curls, crunches, and a bit of “cognitive flow.”
With that idea came the creation of Trilogy Health, a modestly equipped studio in Farmington, CT, about 15 miles from Hartford. With the successful role the studio had in helping Jessica, a former Miss Florida USA, overcome her battle with postpartum depression, their opened their private studio into what they call a “micro gym.”
The facility, which the Viggianos say is large enough for a handful of people to train comfortably, is equipped with the workout essentials — including dumbbells, kettlebells, benches, even rowing machines. Up to three members at a time can reserve an hour of studio time — 24-7 —to get their own training in at their convenience.
A year ago, the duo also added a virtual online membership — thanks to gym shutdowns due to COVID — which can be accessed online via the SugarWOD app. Members will receive five workouts customized by Greg and Jess. They tailored the workouts for minimal equipment that can be done at home while using the app, at the studio, at their own gym.
“Greg actually built the gym for me to like have a private, safe space where I could work out and start feeling better about myself,” Jess says. “And then we started like developing the business out of that. But what makes us different is that we actually incorporate a mental health aspect into it.”
There are three elements that make up the Trilogy Health training (hence the name). Each consists of functional strength and endurance training along with daily mobility training. Each workout usually lasts roughly 45 minutes. On top of that, twice weekly they offer custom Mindfulness, Meditation, and Life Hacks lessons — it’s what they call the “Cognitive Flow” portion of the program.
“I think in any business, it’s never as fast as you want it to grow, but we’re making headway,” Greg says. “I think the concept is working — we’re trying to create the community both locally and virtually. It’s been an interesting kind of hybrid model, and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”
Battling PPD through training
Jessica explains it as a light switch going off and a new person dawning, following the birth of her first daughter Stella. Complications left Jess, a 2009 top 10 finisher in the Miss USA pageant and lifelong fitness enthusiast battling another unexpected ailment, postpartum depression. With such a disciplined healthy lifestyle, Jess never thought it could happen to her, until she began suffering bouts of insomnia, paranoia, even hallucinations.
“It was like the first time I ever experienced anything like depression in my whole life,” she says. “So it was like, it was a shocking, shocking situation for me and my husband,” she says. “I just saw everything differently. It was very scary. It was the scariest experience. And I was so resistant to believing that I had postpartum depression because I wasn’t necessarily sad.”
The American Psychiatric Association estimates that nearly 70% of new mothers suffer from some sort of postpartum depression, which they define it as a serious but treatable illness which occurs during pregnancy or after childbirth. Its symptoms can include sadness, anxiety, as well as changed in energy, sleep and appetite.
Jess’ plight also affected Greg, a certified life coach as well. Being in the wellness industry, he knew the key to Jess getting back to normal was get her back to an effective workout routine — she had also gained 50 pounds as well. And studies have indicated that physical activity both during and after pregnancy can help reduce its symptoms of postpartum depression. So Greg found a commercial space about a 10 minute drive away from their Connecticut home and created an environment in which his wife would be able to train comfortably and have a bit of space to herself when needed during this time.
“She had a really tough experience with postpartum depression,” Greg says. “So that’s where Trilogy kind of started. We were both scrambling, trying to figure out what works, and since fitness has always been a part of our lives, I found a spot, built it out in a couple of months and she had her private space to train.”
Giving Trilogy’s keys to its members
With 500 square feet equipped with the necessary tools most people would need at any gym for a full workout, a lot of the workouts, the couple says, can be done with as little as a pair of dumbbells in less than an hour.. But don’t mistake simple for challenging, Greg says.
“We look at full-body, functional movements each day,” says Greg, an NASM- and CrossFit-certified trainer. “We aim for more high intensity but at a pace that works for everyone.”
The gym became a game changer for Jess, who not only lost all the weight gained during her pregnancy, but she competed and won her first fitness show, earning a pro card as well — accomplishing this with her new full-time role as mother. To do all this daily, like other mothers and working families, Trilogy’s workouts are designed to get the most in as short a period of time.
“I don’t have a whole lot of time anymore,” Jess says. “So I need to, you know, be very efficient with my workouts. So that’s kind of like how we have our models designed. It’s like quick intense, and, uh, you can do it anywhere as long as you have a pair of dumbbells.”
A Trilogy workout can range from HIIT to EMOM. One example of a workout can include a four-exercise, four-minute (or 100-rep) challenge of dumbbell push press, weighted situp, kettlebell swings, and squats. To measure your progress against other members, you can add your score to the app.
“If you’re in the area, you can come in, you can work out with us, you can work out from home, you can do it anywhere, Jess says. But what makes us different is that we actually incorporate a mental health aspect into it. It’s kind of why we call it Trilogy. It addresses the mind, the body and the soul.”
Growing two families
The couple’s booming fitness business has become an accidental blessing for the couple, brought about by a tumultuous set of circumstances. With Jess and Greg soon expecting a second child, their family continues to grow. At the same their Trilogy family is expanding as well, but still small enough for it not to lose its personal touch.
“This is a labor of love for us right now,” Jess says. “We would really love to see it grow, but we want to stay super involved with our members, always checking in with them, their diets, and just their overall well being. That’s kind of the feel that we want to have. We want it to be really personal. We don’t really want to become that business that has so many members that you can’t even respond to.”
Greg agrees that through their passion for fitness, Trilogy has made them both stronger, physically and spiritually.
“This allowed us both to get healthy, to be honest,” Greg says. “It’s made us stronger as a couple, which is really cool. This has become a project that has helped our house grow. “