Jon Fischer, also known as the Coach Cub, is the man behind Camp Bear in Portugal, the Pawed Group in NYC (which recently wonderfully changed its name to ‘Belly’), and the various cuddle piles and bear yoga classes around New York City!
Jon took some time away from his busy schedule to tell me about all his projects and what’s coming next for him!
Richard Jones: Jon its so good to sit down with you – tell our bears about yourself.
Jon Fischer: Of course! I’m a cub living in Brooklyn, NY. I’m a Health & Wellness Coach who works with clients on body confidence and on making small changes to improve their mental and physical health. I also host podcast, a retreat in Portugal called Camp Bear, and a group in NYC called Belly (formerly named Pawed) that organizes bear yoga classes, cuddle piles, and workshops. I primarily work with folks in the bear community, so when I started my coaching practice nearly a decade ago, I went by Coach Cub …and that name stuck!
RJ: What got you into the wellness world and especially for bears?
JF: In short, I woke up in my 20s after over a decade of self-destruction, anger, and anxiety and for the first time in my life I thought: “How do I take care of myself and my body?”
That started me on a journey of exploring my mental and physical health. Once I had made some breakthroughs around my mindset and how to take small steps to make changes for myself, I realized my bigger passion was for helping others.
After I became board-certified as a coach, I looked around and saw very few people in the wellness space catering to the bear community. I wasn’t sure how receptive bears would be – but within months I had over a dozen clients and shortly thereafter I launched my group Belly.
So there was clearly a need. And every time I added on new services, like bear yoga classes then cuddle piles then body positivity workshops – and ultimately retreats, people kept showing up and benefiting. The supportive and inclusive community I built in NYC kept growing locally. Then during COVID while I was hosting virtual classes the community expanded to folks all over the world.
RJ: Why do you think people seek you out?
JF: Bears seek me out for coaching for a variety of reasons – mainly about wanting to feel better and take small steps to improve their health. But inevitably we work through some body-confidence and self-esteem issues.
There are so many coaches out there – but I often hear from my clients that they wanted to work with me because I understand them already. I am in the community, and I’m not going to judge them or guide them to set goals they don’t want to work on.
As for my classes and retreats, people join because they want to be part of the supportive community I’ve built. They want to try new activities – like cuddle piles, yoga, meditation, etc – among people like them.
RJ: What have been the biggest discoveries for you on this journey?
JF: Oh boy, I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way – that’s for sure. But a few interesting discoveries from my work are…
1. There are MANY people in the queer community – bears especially – who feel excluded and judged. Most people are finding it difficult to connect with a supportive group even within the bear community itself.
2. Healing and growth can be fun. My retreats and my classes are silly and fun and loving. What I need to do is create some intentions and hold space, and the folks who come bring good, loving energy. – and they support each other.
3. The community that I created is as helpful to me as it is to my members. I feel supported and loved, and I feed that energy back into the group.
RJ: And what about challenges and how you overcame them?
Throughout my life, I’ve dealt with tons of insecurities, as well as general anxiety and panic disorder. I was destructive when I was younger because I left lost.
I’ve done a lot of work on myself, but nothing makes you face your fears more than creating something and putting yourself out in the world.
Every step I’ve taken with my coaching business, my classes, my podcast, and my retreats forced me to overcome my issues. I was able to persevere because of the tools I learned on my journey. From attending therapy to reaching out when I needed help, and learning to trust my intuition and instincts.
And it’s a never-ending process! But every step I take makes it easier to take the next one.
RJ: Outside of your work in NYC, you have created this wonderful new Bear Wellness retreat in Portugal – How did that come about?
JF: Yes, Camp Bear Hug brings together all the work I’ve done so far. I wanted to create a space for my community where they could let their guard down and be themselves. I’ve experienced the magic of attending and working at bear retreats – so I knew the format would work.
But like everything I do, I wanted it to be transformational and impactful – but also fun and silly, and relaxed…just like summer camp. So that’s what I created. And I’m lucky to have connected with a team of passionate, fun guys all over the world who help me make the camp run.
RJ: Why Portugal?
JF: I’ve spent a lot of time in Portugal having met friends who have become family from the time I studied abroad in college. I set an intention 15 years ago to create a bagel company with those friends. . And while It was kind of a joke, I’ve always had that idea of creating something for others to share in the love that I have for the people, the culture, and the food (before it became trendy, I might add!)
Things never happen as planned, right? I went down my path and started my coaching and group work in NYC.
Flash forward to 2021, I connected with someone named Marcelo on Instagram. He was a Brazilian bear interested in my work and wanted to put on a retreat in Lisbon, where he lives. I also wanted to create a retreat but never figured out where it could be.
So, Portugal was the obvious choice. It’s a desirable country to visit these days. It’s gay-friendly, a beautiful setting, and down-to-earth. I love showing people the places I’ve visited that are off the beaten path.
RJ: What can us bigger boys and bears do that’s easy and quick to make us feel better or to begin a health journey?
JF: The simplest and yet – at times – the most difficult thing to do is to begin to appreciate and even love yourself and your body right now. You don’t have to like everything about yourself, but it’s important to love yourself. All changes and improvements made from that place will be longer-lasting and meaningful.
Remember, you don’t need to do anything to be valued and loved. But if you think there are areas to improve, figure out what you want to do that’s practical. Start small. Connect with people you admire, find a coach and therapists who can help guide you, and find a community that will celebrate you for who you are.
As a coach, I don’t tell anyone what to do; Instead, I ask them to reflect on their own lives. Two questions I would suggest you think about today are: 1. What parts of my body do I appreciate, and why? 2. What is one small thing can you do today – something that takes less than 5 minutes – to make yourself a little happier and more energetic?