How a 19-Year-Old L.A. Gym Owner Survived and Thrived During the Pandemic

Despite the difficulties of putting together a business in the past year, Lola Mormino’s clientele has been growing

At 19 years old, Lola Mormino is one of the youngest gym owners in the country.

Immediately after graduating from high school, she made strides to become NASM certified in 2020.

“I took that test the day after I graduated… I graduated on June 10 and took the test on the 11th,” Mormino said. “Once I became certified, I posted that I’m taking clients and I had two clients that reached out or two people that reached out to me… from there, I gave them a referral program saying ‘if you bring your friend, you’ll get your next session free’ type of thing.”

In February 2021, she had to get six more clients before being able to actually open the space. Later that month, she did exactly that and spent the next two months before the opening buying equipment and décor for the gym.

In the midst of the pandemic in April 2021, Mormino officially opened her gym, Lola’s House, in Westlake Village.

Small businesses certainly felt the effects of the pandemic. According to a survey of 885,000 businesses during the period of Oct. 2020 to Jan. 2022, Statista reported that 116,820 (13.2 percent) of them closed due to COVID in 2021.

Mormino cites creativity and adaptation, such as socially distanced workouts with clients between the end of her driveway and garage door.

Mormino working with a client on an exercise. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Anderson)

“I was like, we’re gonna make this work, because we still have goals to achieve, for me and for my clients,” she said. “It definitely was a learning process for me just opening something in the middle of a pandemic like that… it could have been a little bit easier but I managed to work through it.”

It is not Mormino’s first encounter with obstacles, however, as her interest in fitness was sparked by an array of health struggles.

She was born with cancer, and during the removal of the tumor on her tailbone, an IV in her wrist slipped out and went through her bloodstream. This resulted in third-degree calcium burns throughout her entire forearm.

However, the problems did not stop there, as she continued to face more complications.

“From ages seven to 15, I had an autoimmune disease called vasovagal syncope, which basically just means that if I get overheated, scared, shocked if I see blood or stress, then I pass out,” Mormino said.

At the age of ten, she passed out due to her condition and woke up paralyzed from her knees down. She made a steady recovery and was eventually able to walk again through “a lot of physical therapy.”

A large goal of Mormino’s for most of her life was to get to the Olympics for hockey, which she had trained for from 2017 to 2018. However, during one of her games, she began to faint and was taken to the Long Beach emergency room.

A close-up shot of Mormino. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Anderson)

“One of the first things they diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS),” she recalled. “They were so unsure of what was going on to the point where like, the nurses were crying because these episodes happened about three times a day, ranging from six to 20 minutes of me just like looking lifeless, not being able to move and just totally unconscious.”

Later that year, after multiple stints in the hospital for treatment and failed accurate diagnoses, doctors directed her to holistic treatment. After being told the holistic doctor was “99 percent sure” they could treat her, she underwent more examinations.

Following years of struggle searching for a cure to a seemingly-unidentifiable disease, the results came back with answers.

“I mean, there was like, babesiosis disease. It’s a form of Lyme. There was Epstein-Barr which is chronic fatigue. There were gut infections; a whole bunch of brought a broad variety of issues,” Mormino continued.

“He gave me some vitamins, supplements… I was taking probably maybe 15 different ones like three times a day… once December 27 hit of 2018 that was the last episode I ever had.”

After a long battle with health complications, Mormino was able to prevail with the odds stacked against her. She currently sees 20 clients and is even considering opening another location “anywhere between Woodland Hills” to the “LA area.”

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