Sanctified: Discovering self through movement

It’s 7 o’clock on a gloomy Monday morning and my alarm starts to sing its annoying Grammy snubbed tune called “Get your a$$ up.” Eye fortunately pressed its proverbial Kryptonite aka “the Snooze button” to afford myself at least another fifteen minutes of slumber. As eye nestle my body back into the cozy comfort of my blanket, eye can hear the voices of my gym trainers yell out “No challenge, no change.” As if they are standing directly above my bed, eye immediately throw the covers off my body, take a quick “wake me up” shower, get dressed, grab my keys, run down a flight of stairs and hop into my Chipmobile en route to “The Sanc.” Once eye am around the easy-to-navigate I-95N/146 area (sarcastic tone) on my morning commute, eye find myself looking for any excuse to take an exit from the maze-like lines and head back to my cozy bed. As soon as eye start to divert from the Monday mission, eye see the faces of the previously mentioned trainers flash in my mind and remember that there is no fitness transformation without commitment to the process. And then eye pull into The Sanc. Upon arriving, eye sprint up the stairs determined, in my mind, to let my walk up the stairs be my only warm-up to the workout. Eye get to the door, swing it open and per usual, eye am greeted by Tahj and Mo’s smiling faces, vigorously strong dap-hugs (yes eye made up a word) and the infamous words “You ready for this work. Aight cool, the warm-up is on the board.” 

With more than two decades of combined experience, Tahj Eddington and Morris Parson are the owners and lead trainers at The Fitness Sanctuary aka “The Sanc.” They have successfully turned what many feel can be a judgmental and arduous process into a journey of enlightenment and self-discovery. Members of “The Sanc” fall in love with the process and the entirety of their journey as they are encouraged to work on their mental and spiritual selves as well. Each member is welcomed to write words of wisdom and motivation on the gym’s wall which also features beautiful art. The space is vibrant and each person feels right at home as they chase personal goals. Throughout the years the program has also evolved to include other components and collaborations with outside entities that help push members to achieve their highest form of self. Eye had the opportunity to sit down with Tahj and Morris aka Mo to talk about their journey and it went a little something like this:

Morris (L) and Tahj (R). (Photo courtesy of the author)

Reuben Tillman III aka Chip Doug (Motif): When did you know you were interested in jumping into the world of fitness? 

Tahj Eddington: I have always wanted to help people. My original intention was to become a physical therapist. I’ve always been a solutionist. I like to diagnose problems and figure out ways to solve them. In high school, I was an outstanding athlete and with that came many hours of training. 

After reaping all the physical benefits of my training, I started to realize what it was doing for me psychologically. Especially when I was upset, frustrated, or discouraged. Going to train just became a positive vice I would turn to when stressed or depressed. I developed a very good reputation training at other gyms. People noticed my focus, structure, and grit and started asking me to help them. I’ll never forget two women in particular that became my first clients. They saw me training and said to me, “You look like you know what you’re doing.” I knew it was real when one of the women I started working with couldn’t do a move properly. I was able to simplify things and give her something similar to the move and within a couple of weeks she was performing the move with ease. I haven’t looked back since. 

Morris Parson:  When I started out training, it was just for my personal health goals. Also, at that time, I was trying to find myself and my purpose in life. While in school, I started helping out my brother Tahj with personal training clients on a part-time basis. Originally, I didn’t think I would be motivated to work in the fitness industry long term but once I realized the impact it had on people’s lives I instantly found myself fully invested.

CD: What makes Fitness Sanctuary stand out from other facilities? 

TE: The difference from our gym and other gyms is the accountability and the nutritional education we provide. We simplify the process by bringing context to the complex. We believe in teaching people how to live a healthy lifestyle, and we promote “Fitness Independence.” Some of our core components come by teaching quality functional movements, progressive overload, how to eat for your goals, and the importance of recovery. We teach how to handle and limit stress by making better choices for your overall well being.

MP: The Sanctuary addresses a huge issue in the fitness industry. Most People may have gym memberships but rarely have the tools available to be successful in the gym. We prioritize our clients which we call our “Fit Family.” Our individualized approach allows for each client to connect with a coach where they can address all the road bumps that happen on a fitness journey. Our coaches prioritize “Fitness Independence” which means we are teaching everyone how to be successful regardless of what environment they choose to be in. No other gym puts their clients first like we do and I say that with confidence. We are constantly connecting the gym to personal needs and wants. We also address mental health as well as physical health, which promotes breaking down barriers and building fortitude. Lastly, we built partnerships that help us do something no other gym is doing, which is offering our baseline services absolutely free!

CD: What made you expand beyond just “having a gym” and into overall wellness? 

TE: We evolved from just being in the gym to concentrating on overall wellness when we started to see that we were having a psychological effect on our members. We noticed improvements in our members’ moods. In particular, we noticed our clients experience more energy and less depression. Even the conversations started to change during the sessions. We weren’t just talking about health and fitness, but also about being parents, wrestling with self-guilt, and just the everyday challenges of life. A lot of the things that transpire in the gym translate to life really well because the more you challenge yourself in the gym the stronger you get. As in life, the more things you overcome, the more resilient you are. 

MP: The people we engaged with made that an easy process because of the testimonies we received early on. Most people don’t realize this but a good trainer is also like a part-time therapist. Many studies confirm how exercising improves mood and gets people talking. This made me realize that we are an essential part of all our clients’ lives. This is deeper than fitness. This is frontline healthcare. We aren’t waiting until something happens for us to respond, we are getting ahead of the game and building barriers to fight against whatever life throws at us. At the Sanctuary we understand that you need physical fitness, mental fitness, and spiritual fitness! That message is not promoted enough and it’s also one that you can’t fake like you care about it. You really have to be living and working on these things personally as well.

CD: How have clients’ successes and stories impacted your own individual journeys? 

TE: My members have helped me grow so much. They’ve taught me patience, compassion, and the effect of having quality relationships. Anybody can train you, but can they resonate with you? The same way they learn from me, I learn from them. Ways to move through life and deal with adversity. I care about them so much and they have helped me grow into the person I am today. I owe it to them and myself to get at least 1% better every day. 

MP:  Client success is the validation I need to know that what I’m doing is worth all the hard work I put in. Things haven’t always been easy owning a business but the people are a constant reminder to keep pushing through. I also had to make a change from my past life of partying and the temptations of the nightlife. I realized that people look to me for help and they need me for a greater purpose. My clients have made me raise the bar for myself and for that I’m forever grateful.

CD: Where does your inspiration to keep going and challenge yourself come from? 

TE: My inspiration comes from seeing how I didn’t want to live. I watched drugs and religion destroy my family. I watched my family and friends become miserable and depressed working jobs they hated. I just want to live my life on my own terms. Being able to monetize something I love to do is a blessing and I’m grateful that this career path has allowed me to be able to take care of my daughters and me.The inspiration now comes from being able to affect people’s lives in a positive way. Being able to change the trajectory of someone’s life.

MP: My upbringing has had a huge residual effect on my mentality to want growth. At the age of 19, I had the unfortunate experience of being shot in the head and I almost lost my life. Shortly after that I lost several close friends due to gun violence including my best friend David De La Cruz. Those times would go down as some of the most violent years in RI history. This bred in me not only a will to survive, but it also birthed a curiosity within about why my path was filled with so much pain. So I decided a while ago to turn my pain into power which gave me a drive to help people. This mentality has revealed that so many people experience hardships but there are not many outlets that help people overcome the struggle. I understand that we need more leaders to change the social norms that we live in. When I still see how many people around me are still living an unhealthy life mentally or physically, it lights a fire in me to keep going!

CD: What’s next? 

TE: What’s next for us is focusing on establishing our brand and what it stands for. Creating more environments for like-minded people like us to change and save lives. The goal is to create our own facility from the ground up and franchise it across the world. Fitness Sanctuary isn’t a gym, it’s a lifestyle.

MP: We plan on changing the whole industry with our “Fitness Independence” model. We also expect many other fitness professionals to follow this path. As we become the leaders for what a healthy lifestyle looks and feels like, we will also look to create the best fitness facilities Rhode Island has ever seen. This I can say with confidence is God’s plan because this wasn’t the initial thought. We have grown and developed into this over the years and we are extremely excited to see where this road leads to.

For more information email at or contact through Instagram: Tahj: @train_like_tahj // Morris: @mo_motivates_me // Fitness Sanctuary: @fitnesssanctuary