Karen Spruyt is a business owner, a fitness trainer, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She is the owner of F45 Paradise in Adelaide and shares her experience and journey within the health and fitness industry below.
I’ve worked different roles in the fitness industry for 20 years and made the jump into owning my own business when I realised there were changes and improvements I would have liked to implement but couldn’t, as I didn’t have the ability to do so.
I was a trainer at a (different) F45 studio at the time and I really love the model of the business. F45 creates a great atmosphere for members, but is also heavily results-based, so when F45 Paradise was put up for sale by the previous owners, I jumped at the opportunity.
It was actually a challenge coming into a community that was already established because we knew we had to earn member’s trust. We really wanted to build a strong and supportive community of members, so fostering relationships was very important to us.
Covid-19 hit us about a month into taking over the business.
We made the decision to take a financial hit and paused everyone’s memberships, even those on contract, because we wanted to be mindful of everyone’s financial situations. We received almost zero income while South Australia was in lockdown. There were days when I didn’t think we were going to make it through. Some days, I was close to giving up and I struggled to keep positive, even though I’m a positive person by nature. It felt like such an achievement to open our doors again after lockdown.
To me though, it’s extremely important to run my business in line with my values so I don’t doubt for a second that we made the right decision. It was a short-term struggle for a long-term goal.
It was such a win for me when more members came back post-covid compared to pre-covid. During lockdown, we made the effort to establish genuine contact with our members and I knew then that our efforts had been worth it.
Today, I am so proud of the community that we’ve build at F45 Paradise. We can see the results our members get and we have such a great community of people who understand that the journey towards a healthy lifestyle requires a holistic approach to fitness and a healthy mindset around exercise and food.
On balancing work and home life
I’ll be honest, some days are definitely better than others when it comes to finding a balance! There are days when I spread myself too thin and am wearing all my hats at once!
However, I’m lucky that I’ve embarked on this journey as my family are a little older, so I don’t have young children who are reliant on me at home. I also have an incredibly supportive husband and wonderful, passionate staff who understand and support my value system.
Something I’ve learned is that flexibility is key in being able to balance work and home life. Some days, the folded laundry sits on the table for 3 or 4 days before being put away and that’s okay! It’s okay to cut yourself some slack and accept that you can’t do it all.
You can’t pour out of an empty cup, so it’s important to make looking after yourself a priority, but you know what? I’m great at offering this advice to all my members and not as good at listening to my own advice!
Having said that, I find a lot of satisfaction from helping others, so I’m lucky that my job allows me to keep my cup full!
Having a consistent training schedule is important for my well-being so I make it a point to book in for my training sessions at the F45 studio as if I were a member myself. Make appointments with yourself and take that time seriously, as you would any other appointment.
Spending time with my family and friends is also important to me and I’ve reframed my mindset around what spending time with a loved one means. I make the most of every opportunity to spend time together with the people in my life. So, if that’s 30 minutes in the car, on the way to the studio, I'm grateful for it and make the most of it.
On diet culture
I was overweight for most of my life.
Initially, my relationship with exercise was so unhealthy because I saw it as a tool to lose weight and that was it.
I’m an all or nothing person, so whenever I made the decision to lose weight, I’d diet and exercise excessively and then give all of it up once I had shifted the weight. Naturally, the weight would come back because I had stopped exercising and gone back to regular eating. There was no consistency in my routine.
I practiced this unhealthy, yo-yo lifestyle for years until I realised how detrimental this was to my health and made the decision to change my mindset and relationship with exercise and food.
I stopped punishing myself with restriction and started to exercise not to lose weight, but to focus on becoming a healthy person.
The irony of the situation was that my journey with exercise began in an effort to lead a healthier lifestyle, but at one point, I was restricting myself so much that I was underweight, unhealthy and just as unhappy as I had been when I was overweight.
I learned the hard way that when you expect perfection, you set yourself up for failure because it just was not sustainable.
I worked to reframe my mindset around food and exercise and found a balance for both that fit in with my lifestyle.
After this happened, I found that even my relationships with people changed, because when you don’t expect perfection from yourself, you don’t expect the same from other people.
In a nutshell, living your life to such high, exacting standards is not sustainable. Remember that consistency is key to success.
Advice for anyone looking to start on their health and fitness journey
Don’t be afraid to try new things in order to find a form of exercise that you truly enjoy, which is how you maintain consistency. You’re not going to exercise if you find it a chore or if it puts out your life too much, so make the process as easy as possible.
Be careful as well of what you expose yourself to, especially with social media. Find good role models who promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle instead of unattainable fitness goals.
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