Episode 90: Keith Irace on The Business of Fitness

It Is Important to Honor People’s Time

About Today’s Guest

Keith Irace is the Vice President of Group Fitness at Equinox Fitness Clubs, where he has been a member of the team for nearly 16 years. An industry veteran who has held leadership positions and taught classes for over 25 years, he has been part of vibrant fitness communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

While a graduate student in his home town of Chicago, a part-time front desk job at a fitness club sparked a passion for the industry. After earning his BS in Communications from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and an MS from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Keith immediately became a full-time fitness professional.

A move to Los Angeles led to a 7-year stint as a writer/producer/performer/group fitness instructor (everyone in LA is a multi-hyphenate) after which he returned to a full-time career in fitness with Equinox in 2003.

Keith has been certified by ACE and AFAA along with specialty equipment training for ViPR, TRX, Kettlebells, CrossCore 180 and indoor cycling certifications from Schwinn, Stages, Spinning, and Reebok. He has completed the Equinox Pilates Mat certification and completed countless hours of continuing education at conferences and seminars.

Keith currently resides in New York, where he is enjoying living in a high rise building, walking places and re-acquainting himself with the weather.

Stay In Touch With Keith

Equinox Website





Show Notes
We begin by sharing how we both met many years ago when I took Keith’s cycle class in Los Angeles. Over two decades later I am still a regular in his class, although now it is in NYC.

It was when Keith was in graduate school in Chicago, getting his masters in journalism that he got a part-time job at a fitness club in Chicago working behind the front desk. He would stand behind the front desk and watch the instructors and classes and that became his catalyst to move into the industry.

As with many other guests we talk about the importance of finding a mentor and the fact that wherever you are in the industry, there’s always someone ahead of you and always someone behind you. That knowledge cannot be owned and when we can ask for help and then later offer help, it becomes a circle of mentorship.
We talk about Keith’s career and how over the course of sixteen years he moved from being an instructor, to Group Fitness Manager, Regional Manager and now as VP of Group Fitness. Keith shares that even as a Vice President he still teaches, as it feeds his soul while also giving him time with members.

Keith shares the importance of listening, being present and at the same time honoring other people’s time. He goes on to talk about curating an experience from start to finish, versus simply teaching or coaching a class and the importance of being really thoughtful with everything that you do. Starting with something as simple as being in the studio early and then anything that you can add that feels like it is a nice customer service touch that you can make as a curated experience of your own. He reminds us that we can learn something from everybody and there’s always room for us as we grow and learn from those around us.

We move on to talk about the importance of using social media to connect with your clients and students and the importance of being as authentic in your social media profile as you would be in your real life teaching.

Keith shares his thoughts on how to succeed, especially when first starting out. He encourages us to find the best team and get on it because you’re going to accelerate your career by being around all the rest of the best people. People become successful together as groups and as teams. If you’re not ready to do all of your own program design, find somebody who will give you a leaping off point so that you’re doing something that’s smart and real and authentic. He also reminds us to get feedback from as many people as we can.

Further along in our career, Keith suggests we find a lane and go all in to that area. It may be content creation, it may be management or maybe you create a lane of your own. Keith suggests that we get incredibly good at one thing that will give you a stand out profile. Own your expertise and be an expert at that thing you want to be known for. This will always be a really powerful indicator of your success.

He also reminds us about the importance of – right time, right place, right brand, right moments. Meaning that just because you may hear a “no” it may only be that the timing was not right. Do not let a short term “no” derail your long term “yes.”

Keith shares the importance of self-examination and trusting your gut. To take the time and ask yourself, “what do I need? What do I want?” Along with that as you move ahead Keith talks about the importance of constant learning. When we are constantly a student it allows us to keep feeling fresh and full of ideas, inspired to wake up every day and just devote yourself to what you do.

We close the conversation with Keith talking about the importance of managing time – your own and everyone else’s. To really manage your day with the discipline of saying, I am going to be on schedule and prepared. As a practice, honor your time, honor your schedule. Honor other people’s schedules and it allows you to just be prepared for whatever may come your way.

Right time, right place, right moment.