My Fitness Life is an occasional feature on the Stronger Blog in which we highlight inspirational journeys to health and fitness. Today we meet the Schulte family of Fort Collins, CO: Robert is a physician and surgeon, who found it difficult to sacrifice family time for exercise. Colleen, busy stay-at-home mom of three, had not been to the gym in 15 years. Both parents realized they needed to be in better shape, and were concerned that their teenage son, Nick, was heading towards a sedentary lifestyle. The three joined Koko FitClub together to embrace a more active lifestyle, and the changes have been dramatic.
Koko: Tell us a bit about your family. What has fitness meant to you?
Robert: We are older parents and, for me, I just couldn’t find time or motivation to work out. In big box gyms, you don’t know what you’re doing, and going to the gym isn’t very exciting when you don’t know what to do. I found Koko and thought, “Great, we’ll get some guidance.” And then, I thought about our son.
Nick is our middle child. He loves to bike but is not very active otherwise. He didn’t have a great self-image and needed…something. So, my wife and I invited him to do this with us. When I don’t feel like going, one of the others does, so we end up working out a lot. And, Nick spends quality time with his parents, a huge bonus.
Colleen: I used to go to a gym with friends. When Robert presented Koko, I was a little skeptical: What was this? Would we enjoy it? I was a little intimidated. Could we do this? But I found that, with the support of the family and the ease of the Koko system, it’s been great.
Nick is not active with sports like our other children have been. He’s struggled with weight – not overweight, but not fit. I thought, if our son can see that we value fitness and health, it might build a lifelong love of being active and healthy. Koko has done that for us.
Koko: How do you all stay motivated?
Colleen: Koko challenges us and we love it. We go in, we have fun. All the little motivational things that Koko has built in – like the super medallions you get [for working out consistently] each month. Nick said to us, “If you get your medallion and I don’t, I’ll be so sad. I can’t see myself starting over without you.” It’s fun to share that joy of succeeding. Every time you walk out of Koko, you feel like you succeeded. Encouraging each other and just being together — that’s what keeps me motivated.
Robert: And the information you get at Koko, the data, that’s motivating, too. Knowing how many pounds we lifted, what our strength gains and scores look like – we love to compare data.
Koko: What do you do for fun as a family and as individuals?
Robert: We just came back from spring break, skiing for 8 days straight. And all that skiing didn’t bother me at all, thanks to Koko. Working out has made a huge difference. I kept up with the kids the whole time without pain. Last night we were playing soccer together and I wasn’t winded, no aches and pains. That’s part of my motivation – being able to do those things with the kids. In November, while playing football with Colleen’s brothers, I thought, “Gosh, I am in horrible shape. This is brutal, this is dumb. I should be able to keep up with my kids.” Now I can.
Colleen: We are very active as a family. We hike, we bike, we ski, we walk our dog. [Being fit] is one of the things I wanted to instill in my children. As I look at my mom in her late 70s and aunt in her 80s, their health is diminishing because they’ve never exercised. My mom was a widow when I was a baby and she spent all her time just taking care of us, not herself. You have to take care of your muscles so you can enjoy all that has been given to us in this world. Living in the mountains, we want to be able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors — not just look around and see it, but actually climb those mountains.
Koko: What has been your biggest fitness obstacle?
Robert: It was time. I would feel bad if I went to the gym by myself because I don’t see my family enough. I felt selfish spending the workout time on my own. Now, it’s nice that they go with me.
Colleen: If I can answer for Nick, he didn’t want to feel stupid in front of people. The way that Koko is set up, you are so focused while you are doing it, you don’t feel like you are being watched. I always felt at the gym like people were watching, judging – a meat market. At Koko, there is none of that. Nick gets in there and just goes to work. He’s not self-conscious. At a regular gym, we wouldn’t know if we were doing the exercises or whether we were doing them right. At first, when the weight was heavy, we needed some help with form. The staff at Koko would show us the right way, correcting us without making us feel judged.
Koko: What are your fitness goals?
Robert: To be able to run with the kids and not keel over. At our age (I’m 47 and Colleen is 50), things were starting to hurt. Just being in shape is important to me. My family has a history of heart disease. I just want to see my kids grow up.
Colleen: At first, my main goal was to be fit and keep up with the kids. Now, it is to set a precedence for the kids that, in order to enjoy life, you have to eat well and exercise. Having been a child who was overweight, I want my kids to know that you need to set a healthy lifestyle, make it a routine.
For Nick, being in middle school, his goal is to improve self-image. He has gained so much in his self-confidence in the past 6 months, really taking notice of where he is and feeling good about himself. As he grows older and becomes that awkward teen, he’ll really appreciate the fact that he started to take care of himself now. Even his overall attitude has been better. He’s no longer tormenting his younger sibling. The chip on his shoulder has gone.
Koko: How has your body changed?
Robert: Everything has shifted. I feel stronger and much better about myself. We are only in our 11th week, and the results are pretty amazing.
One of the biggest joys for me was, about 6-7 weeks into Koko, Nick was running to the corner and back. I noticed his energy was up. He looks fitter, he feels better. Even on vacation, he could take his shirt off at the pool with confidence.
Colleen: For me, my body started slimming down from the top. In your 50s everything drops. All the weight around the bra line and “muffin top” and jiggle arms — its all starting to tone up and go away. I just want to wear a pair of shorts and say, “Yeah, at fifty I look great in a pair of shorts!” I haven’t worked out in 15 years, so it takes time. It’s fun.
Koko: What would you want people to know about the digital gym?
Robert: I’d tell people that Koko is very different from what they might expect. We know what “gyms” are, and expectations are low for any new concept. I say try Koko, and you will stick around. It’s not just another gym. It is completely different. At Koko, 67% of members actually use it, in other gyms 67% don’t use it. To continue wanting to use it and enjoy it — something is different from other places.
Colleen: When you join a local FitClub you really belong to that club. But when you go on vacation, there are Koko’s across the United States so you can go enjoy Koko wherever you go. Our Koko in Fort Collins does a great job of hiring the staff. You feel like you are family.
Robert: Wherever you go, you can find a Koko. It’s very comforting.
Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer, Koko FitClub
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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.