Episode 97: Sara Kooperman on The Business of Fitness
“When It’s Not Working Hit Delete and Move On”
About Today’s Guest
Sara, CEO of SCW Fitness Education and WATERinMOTION®, is a visionary leader that has transformed the fitness education community. A successful business owner and advisor, she is a keynote speaker, published author, podcast presenter and sought-after industry leader. Sara has launched nine successful MANIA® fitness-professional conventions and over 35 live and online certifications. Her company has touched more than 100,000 Fitness Professionals face-to-face and engaged another 300,000+ in virtual connections. Having produced over 600 Fitness Instructor Training videos, written several books and been published repeatedly in magazines and newspapers, Sara is well-known for her creativity and impact on the health and wellness industry. She has a unique ability to share her passion and devotion towards fitness education through her humor, enthusiasm and her effervescent no-nonsense personality.
Sara is committed to sharing her knowledge and expertise as a fitness industry leader for the past 3 decades through speaking engagements across the world. She is a favorite presenter for the Athletic Business Show, Medical Fitness Association, International Council on Active Aging, JCC, Club Industry, YMCA, Illinois Park & Recreation Association, AYP, CanFitPro, IDEA, FitPro, Filex, IHRSA, Marriott Vacation Club, Gold’s Gym, WIFA, Nevada Recreation & Park Association as well as over a dozen international events throughout the world. Sara is also the former Owner and CEO of Les Mills Midwest, which she successfully led for over 10 years.
Sara is an attorney who graduated from Washington University School of Law and completed undergraduate work from Cambridge University in England. Sara was selected as a Gold Medal winner distinguishing her as a business leader who has contributed to the economic health of her community. She also is the proud recipient of the Illinois State Business Woman of the Year and AEA’s Global Award for Contribution to the Aquatic Industry.
Having been a former adjunct faculty member for the Kenneth Cooper Institute, ACSM, NASM, ACE and AFAA, Sara serves on the Gold’s Gym Think Tank, is on the Women In Fitness Association (WIFA) Board of Directors, and is a proud inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. Sara has left an indelible mark on the fitness industry as she continues to make her impact on fitness professionals worldwide.
Stay In Touch With Sara
We begin the show by reflecting back on how I remember first meeting Sara. Her event was the first fitness convention that ever I presented. I still remember the nerves that I felt, as I took to the stage for the first time.
Sara’s memories go back a little further to the time when I was introduced to the Reebok Faculty as the new “face of Reebok.” Well, maybe you can imagine how that went down. Just like anything I needed to earn the trust (and respect) of the team and that was going to take a few years.
Sara shares that inside her business she is always looking to hire people with stronger and different talents to her own. She believes that working this way elevates both her business and also her own path to success.
Sara talks about how her father encouraged her from an early age to share her voice and have it heard by others and she goes on to talk about the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. People who will lift you up and see the best in you. She shares that while you can’t choose your family, you can choose your extended family and the people who will be there for you when things are going great and also there for you when you are in the struggles of life. During the more challenging times, if things are not going as planned Sara shares how her husband invited her to simply, “hit delete and move on.” Not always easy, but always worth it.
Sara currently runs nine very successful conventions but we go back to a time where she had to cancel her first event due to a lack of attendance. She shares how she managed to get to the others side through the kindness of some vendors and presenters, and even in her darkest times, her husband would remind her of all that was still so good and positive in her life.
We go back in time to the time when Sara first moved into the world of fitness. It began through the world of dance and she shares that it was only when she was dancing that she felt beautiful. She was also a runner at school and it was the combination of athletics and dance that brought the world of aerobics into her world.
During her start as a fitness instructor, Sara attended the IDEA convention, which was and still is one of the most recognized fitness conventions in the United States. She loved every moment but realized that the cost was going to be prohibitive to attend every year. It was this thought that propelled her to create and develop her own fitness events. She began by renting space in a hotel, asking friends for help and Sara City Workouts was born.
Sara shares her thought that not everyone needs to do fitness full time, and that teaching fitness part-time is a fantastic way to contribute to the industry. She then shares if you do want to try to move into fitness full time, to try different things and see which types of projects and people resonate with you and where you do your best work.
Sara encourages us to take risks and to learn from our mistakes and the “seeming” failures that happen as we go for our dreams. She reminds us that what social media shows is only half of the story and for any success to happen we will have to have setbacks along the way.
Sara believes the future of the wellness industry will be both in bricks and clicks, meaning both the online portals along with face to face connection.
Sara believes that one of the best ways to get where you want to go is to simply show up, work hard and persevere. She invites us to choose carefully the people we choose to listen to and to schedule and plan our time carefully so that we can create our best future.
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