Chan Little Changes Her Clients’ Lives at Downtown Wellness Studio

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The veteran and Durham native opened The 360° Approach in 2015 with a mission to move away from membership models and focus on personalized workouts

Chan Little
Chan Little was recognized as one of Durham Magazine’s 2022 Women of Achievement.

By Elizabeth Kane | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor Chan Little is up by 4 a.m. and ready to get ahead of her day. “I am definitely a morning person,” she says. These days, she says, are full of one-on-one workouts and group exercise sessions where she strives to help the people in her community feel their best, both physically and mentally. 

Chan left for the Air Force after graduating from Hillside High School in 1997, and she served for eight years. “Outside the U.S., I lived in Germany and Japan [and] served four months in Qatar during Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Chan moved back to Durham after her time in the military and worked for eight years at the Durham YMCAs as a personal trainer and wellness coach, and eventually became the director of wellness. 

Chan says she truly enjoyed working at the YMCA, but “as I was [moved] more into leadership management with each promotion, I was moved away from working with people,” she says. “I decided to open a wellness studio, so I could do more coaching and training and have more of a direct impact on lives. … I wanted [The 360° Approach] to have my full focus. [A place] where I could give 100%. 

“I feel really passionate about wellness,” Chan says, adding that The 360° Approach is about offering “a holistic approach to wellness” for people and making it accessible to everyone. “There’s not [just] one part of you … that individuals should focus on,” she says. “[Being well] is not just about fitness, and it’s not just about what you’re eating.” 

Chan says her clients tell her that they walk away feeling encouraged and inspired. “I create change in the lives of people,” Chan says. “[My clients] walk away saying, ‘I can do this.’” For Chan, that’s a powerful and emotional feeling. “I’ve sat with so many clients who have cried, who have been successful and who have failed,” she says. “It’s just a wide range.” 

Chan Little

Sariah Hopkins, a personal trainer at The 360° Approach, met Chan years ago at the YMCA and describes her as a mentor. “She inspired me,” Sariah says. “I wanted to become a personal trainer after taking her classes at the YMCA. … [It] was wonderful watching Chan build The 360° Approach.” Sariah is one of six trainers/coaches on staff, which also includes three group fitness instructors and a nutritionist. “The studio isn’t like most gyms,” Chan says. “We don’t have a regular membership – just a lot of options for people to connect in different ways. We have a little more than 100 people who visit us regularly for classes and training, [and] another 100-150 [who are] served yearly through wellness or weight loss programs. [Around] 150-200 other individuals drop in for different reasons, from visiting town to training programs.” 

Chan says she loves Durham, going to exhibits at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and listening to live music at Durham Central Park. She lives downtown, near Durham School of the Arts, where her niece goes to school. “My niece is like my child,” Chan says. She also volunteers by giving wellness talks at churches including Monument of Faith Church and United for Christ Church, and enjoys spending time with her cat, Zora, and her dog, Thor. “[Thor] goes to work with me every day,” Chan says. “He’s the greeter [at The 360° Approach].” 

Sariah believes that much of Chan’s success lies in her power to build community and how she pays such close attention to each person who walks through her business’s doors. “Probably the thing I love most about her … [is] every time I see her, she gives me a big hug and she says, ‘Do you know how much I love you?’” Sariah says. “And it’s just wonderful. I don’t know if she knows how much that means to me … it’s huge. She just shares her heart, freely.” 

“I absolutely love what I do,” Chan says. “I absolutely love being a positive part of people’s lives.” 

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