I’m in a small room at 432 House, a unique fitness studio concept in midtown Manhattan, getting fitted into a wet compression suit that’s connected to an electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) device. This will send surges of electricity throughout my body that will make my 20-minute workout equal the work of six-hour workout — it’s the future of fitness, and I am ready for it. It’s not long after the New Year, which has given me pause to look back and reflect not only on the fitness industry that I’m so blessed to be a part of, but also on what awaits.
The metaphor is right: I am excited and charged.
My journey into fitness, and co-founding a fitness business of my own, wasn’t a long stretch. From playing field hockey in high school to eventually teaching good old step aerobics during grad school (yes, wearing that leotard) to dabbling in a few half marathons, triatholons and one marathon (never again!), I was always game, ready for a challenge and up for a killer workout.
After my third son was born, I decided I wanted to teach a few of the group fitness classes I was taking at Brick Bodies. I loved the music, choreography and incredible community that had been created in the studio. We now consider group fitness the “club within the club,” and I experienced that in a resounding way. I guessed by entering that “club,” I could inspire other people’s lives as well as add value to my own, and that’s exactly what I did.
Group fitness is having a moment. We are now seeing the rise of the “rock star” instructor and working out in motivational packs. Think CrossFit and how it creates a community within a box. These tribes are now the preferred form of exercise. I saw the start of that at Brick Bodies years ago, where these instructors were motivating under the radar, before Instagram. People flocked to them, as they were “inspiring through movment, which became my future company’s future tagline, and I wanted a piece of that.
From 2006 to 2009, I traveled quite a bit and enjoyed taking classes during my weekends away. I began noticing a lot of cool, boutique-style studios popping up throughout the towns and cities I visited. My cousin lives in the Hamptons on Long Island, and I would literally spend my summer visits hopping into one barre studio after another and was blown away by this ballet-inspired workout and the cool space and experience that went along with it.
It was nothing that I had ever seen or felt before, really small movements that used light weights, body weight and steps such as plies and relevés at a tightly spaced ballet barre with other fitness junkies, moving until our legs shook uncontrollably. It was not only the challenging moves, heart-pumping music and inspirational instructor that motivated me, but also the magnetic feel, mood and setting of this boutique studio space that I wanted more of on a daily basis.
Upon my return, I decided barre had to be offered in Baltimore. I, along with a few other trailblazers from the Brick Bodies team, huddled with Lynne Brick about the power and popularity of this new form, and together, we quickly launched the program. At this time, I also added Pilates Mat and Reformer to my offerings, learning that the incredibly challenging but mindful movements of both barre and Pilates were one of the smartest and most effective ways of strengthening the body and creating better balance, flexibility and body alignment.
In 2009, my best friend since ninth grade, Stacey Vandiver, a Pilates enthusiast, started coming to my barre classes. She instantly fell in love with the program and raised her hand to teach barre at Brick Bodies. One year later, we started SoulBody, when Stacey suggested, after a class, that we do this on our own. We started studio-based, working primarily out of larger health clubs and teaching classes within their “mind body” studios to our friends, then eventually their friends. We then welcomed more and more women seeking this unique workout who discovered us through word-of-mouth. We gained momentum and then our own rock-star following.
We stayed studio-based for a few years before realizing we really had a tried-and-true method of teaching and could create a certification and subscription-based model out of our signature SoulBody barre class. SoulBody’s classes are now in more than 100 clubs around the world. We pride ourselves on our more than 500 inspiring instructors we call our SQUAD who lead our classes with passion throughout the U.S. and in Egypt and the Middle East, Canada, Spain and soon China.
The beauty in what we do is in the lives we change for the better through education and movement. Everybody wants to be a part of a community and be around other like-minded people. I found the fitness community, that motivational tribe, many years ago taking classes at my gym and at studios around the world. That pack inspired me to create something of my own, with Stacey’s nudge.
At SoulBody, we believe that this community, created around wellness and movement, is vital for the longevity of our lives. I’m grateful and proud of what we’ve created. I’m ready to receive the jolts of electricity and to witness the future every day.