When Karen first started working out at California Family Fitness thirteen years ago, she had no idea she would someday find herself an instructor. She was too busy focusing on reaching her own fitness goals to even imagine that she could someday be an inspiration and driving force to others.
But today, that’s exactly what Karen is doing: inspiring and motivating members to reach their own goals. With her signature knee-socks and awesome playlists, Karen’s light-hearted and earnest approach to teaching has made her cardio kickboxing classes a favorite with members.
Looking at her lead a class with vibrant energy and strength, you might think Karen was a born fitness fanatic. But her journey towards health and fitness was not without its own bumps in the road, and she has overcome more than most women will ever face in a lifetime.
“Give me an excuse why you can’t workout, and I will give you mine,” says Karen. “You’ve had two kids? I’ve had seven.”
Karen was a mother to four of her children when she found out that she had breast cancer. She underwent six months of intensive chemotherapy, and came out the other side a survivor. A few months after she finished the chemo, Karen received surprising news: she was pregnant with number five. “My doctors told me I probably wouldn’t have any more children, because the chemo was so intensive. But we had number five, then our sixth, and our seventh.”
She beat cancer, but Karen still had another battle to fight.
“I was over 250 pounds when I started at the gyms,” Karen admits. “I gave myself a goal; I’m gonna do it for 30 days, and when I hit that I said I would do another 30.” The system worked, and Karen now recommends the same mentality to her students.
“You can do anything in a small amount of time. When I teach a Tabata class, I tell my students they can do anything for 20 seconds. It’s such a short amount of time, they probably couldn’t even get to the door to walk out of the class in 20 seconds. Breaking things into smaller, more realistic goals helps you stay focused. You tell yourself ‘I choose to do this.’ It’s all about choice.”
As Karen embraced a new routine, a fitness instructor noticed that she had a flair for one class in particular: cardio kickboxing. With the encouragement of her instructor, Karen got her turbo kick instructor certification. A second instructor pushed her to audition for a position at the Orangevale CalFit, and she has been teaching classes ever since.
While she still loves the cardio kickboxing that first helped her bridge the gap from gym member to fitness instructor, Karen has also received additional certifications such as Ripped and Tabata.
The high intensity interval Tabata Boot Camp is a personal favorite, because it allows Karen to get the most efficient workout in the shortest time. “Some people work out long hours so they can eat. I’d rather watch what I eat and make my workouts as efficient as possible. If I’m going to spend a few hours at the gym, I want to get my workout done so I can be with my kids at the pool doing chill out time.” Karen may be dedicated to her workout routine and clean eating, but she still carves out a bit of time now and then for her favorite guilty pleasures: Nutella and Netflix.
For this mother of seven, her kids are still the driving force behind her motivation; to finish school, to get her recreational management degree, to do her job, to complete her workouts. “It would be so easy to quit, but I want to finish so they can see I can finish. And finish strong.”
Karen has a motivating phrase that she uses in her fitness classes: “Do it for your haters.” It’s a theme that is personal to her. “I have people who want to see me fail, but I won’t let them. I want to be healthy for my kids, I want to be around to see my grandchildren be born, and to take care of my own parents as they age.”
“We’re only given one body.” Words of wisdom from a woman whose body has given her seven children, beat cancer, and taken her on a journey from overweight to inspiring.