“The full look” is my monthly post about the person or people I profiled in my monthly email, redshoes news. In each issue, subscribers get a “‘Sneak’ peek” at someone I think is doing cool things. Below is the entire interview. To subscribe to redshoes news, click here. Thanks for reading!
I met Heather while working at LifeTime Athletic, and later took one of her always-packed fitness classes. I love her style of teaching—she’s casual, funny, and motivating—and how hard she pushes us. Heather is doing some rad things in the fitness industry, including making some new videos and tutorials for her website. I’m excited to introduce you to this inspiring spark plug!
Hey Heather! Tell us about you.
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, met my husband at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and then moved to Chicago. We now live with our two kids in Minneapolis.
At the University of Michigan, I received a BFA in Dance. I’ve danced since the age of 2, so this was a natural path for me. Upon graduating, I danced a bit professionally, worked as a recruiter, was a paralegal, went to law school for a year…. But while I worked at all of those different jobs, I always taught fitness classes at Crunch and Equinox. Teaching was a side gig, but it always kept me creative, healthy, and happy.
What classes do you teach and where?
I teach Cardio Kickboxing, Barre, Total Body Conditioning, Hot Yoga Sculpt, Core Conditioning, and a combination of everything. Currently, I teach at LifeTime Athletic, Athleta, Lululemon, and area high schools for special events.
You have Type 1 diabetes. Will you tell us about that?
Near the end of my senior year at college, I was experiencing the typical diabetic symptoms—extreme thirst, lethargy, frequent urination, and blurred vision. After a couple of weeks like this, I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was December of 2000. I use an insulin pump to better control my blood sugar levels. It’s a constant struggle and some days are more difficult than others. But in all honesty, I feel fortunate to have a condition that I can (somewhat) control.
How did you get into teaching group fitness?
I’ve been teaching fitness for 13 years. In Chicago, I took a Cardio Kickboxing class (it was my first group fitness class) and the instructor asked me after class if she could train me to teach. It seemed like a fun challenge, so I accepted. I will never forget how much I practiced in front of my closet mirror in my tiny bedroom apartment. My poor roommate probably had nightmares of me counting to eight! Getting into fitness was not a deliberate thing, but in retrospect it was a very natural step for me.
What motivates you to do what you do?
My family motivates me daily—I want to be a good role model to my children. They need to see me be passionate about life, work. And with work they see me taking care of my health. I want them to understand that success isn’t measured by money or stature, but more by what good you are doing in the present and for those around you. My husband motivates me to be the best me I can be and to simply focus on that. He reminds me daily that I am enough, and that I have a responsibility to shine. My students, both in person and those that work out with me through video, motivate and inspire me. Their stories, struggles, triumphs, insecurities, honesty, and feedback make me a better instructor every day.
Challenge is a huge motivator for me. If you tell me it’s not possible, I’ll prove you wrong.
Who’s helped you succeed as a fitness professional?
Katie Haggerty, a fitness leader at LifeTime, has been a mentor to me ever since I moved to Minneapolis. She pushed me outside of my comfort zone and into teaching formats that were new to me. Katie is always challenging me to learn more, share my knowledge with as many people as possible, and never doubt my passion. I would not be where I am today without Katie.
Can you tell us about your fitness videos?
Getting involved with fitness videos was also an organic process that I had not planned. It started when I filmed a couple of fitness videos with LifeTime, then flowed into filming with Fitness on Request, a kiosk-based group fitness program. Soon after that, my other mentor, Patrick Goudeau, called me from L.A. to choreograph and shoot a video with him. He started a series called “Patrick Presents” as a way of endorsing and introducing new faces to the fitness industry. Patrick flew me to L.A. to film Kickbox Burn, and we spent last year presenting at fitness conferences. In retrospect, filming fitness videos totally makes sense for me because it’s consistent with my mission to inspire others through fitness to love their bodies today.
What’s in the near future for you and Heather C Fitness?
In terms of videos, I am currently working on some quick cardio and strength workouts (no equipment needed) that my peeps can download from my website. It’s so exciting to share these workouts because they are actually what I do at home when I can’t get to the gym! I’m also working on filming another cardio kickboxing DVD.
This year I’ve also started training instructors as a Master Instructor at LifeTime, and will also be presenting at conferences.
What would you like to do even further down the road?
It’s funny—with most things in my life, I look ahead and have a plan. With fitness, I’ve really found that I’m best if I just focus on my mission, my students, and my projects. When I am truly in the moment is when new opportunities pop up and the next challenge begins.
Where can people find out more about you or connect with you?
My DVD and future workouts can be found on my website, www.heathercfitnes.com. Class schedules and special events are posted weekly on my Facebook page.
This month I’m introducing you to my friend Leslie Paster Fhima, who has a diverse background, and currently teaches about 20 fitness classes each week, plus private clients. She’s also a mom to Zack (26), Chloe (21), and Eli (19).
I met Leslie more than a year ago, when I happened to take her Zumba class one evening. I fell in love with her from the moment she started moving to the music, and I’ve been obsessed with her and her class ever since. She’s my four-times-a-week therapy session, thanks to her getting my heart rate up while my mind goes to its happy place. Leslie says she hates talking about herself, but my Zumba friends and I are always bugging her for more info because she’s a fascinating person who has lived an incredible life. And there’s even more to come! Read on about this gem of a woman.
Hey Leslie! Tell us about you.
I grew up in St. Louis Park, and graduated from St. Louis Park high school in 1977. I skated every day starting at age 8, and I also loved to dance. My dream was to be a professional figure skater.
How did you end up where you are today?
I auditioned for the Ice Follies while still in high school, and got hired. I left home a week after graduation for my new career. I skated professionally for three years, and made lasting friendships. I also gained life experiences and lessons you can only get while being out in the world. While in the Ice Follies, I took up running, which kept me healthy and in good shape. The show hired me to work people out before nightly performances. I even got to work with Peggy Fleming.
After I got out of the show, I decided to open up an “aerobics studio,” as it was called back then. I opened Leslie’s Shape Shop in the early ’80s and went on to win an aerobic competition, which led to to many things, including exercise videos and commercials. My studio was very successful and, of course, an amazing experience.
During this time, I was also starting to run marathons, and went on to complete 10, including the Boston and New York City Marathons.
Of what are you most proud, career-wise?
Winning the National Aerobics Competition and making the videos were highlights of my career.
What keeps you motivated?
The people I teach every day. I work with everyone from pre-school kids to adults, and I can truly say I love my job. I am rewarded each day by the people I teach. It makes me so happy to know I make a difference in their lives, no matter how small.
I think hard work and perseverance has really helped me in my career. I’m not lazy, and I love to work out, so it’s a good combination. Being with my children is also one of my favorite things. I took up snowboarding 14 years ago so I could spend more time with my then 13-year-old son.
As if you weren’t busy enough teaching 20-some classes each week, what else have you been working on?
Besides teaching Zumba, spinning, Pilates, and Barre classes, I’ve also been building my new business. I’ve invented a product called PowerBark. My dog Sadie was my inspiration. I take her with me everywhere I go, so sometimes she misses her meals when she’s with me. Five years ago, I was eating my protein bar and I thought, “Why isn’t there something like this for dogs?” Fast forward to today and, voilá! PowerBark is launching next month!
What words of wisdom can you leave us with?
I never lie about my age. I’m 54 and I think I’m a good role model for women my age. Exercise is the key to life. I can attest to that.