Candace Cordelia is a Pennsylvania-based journalist and on-camera broadcaster/host, with…
Lauren Eirk Is On a Crusade to Help Women Over 40 Feel Better About Their Bodies.
“I wanted to put something out there that was quality. I wanted to help people to navigate all the misinformation that’s out there.”- Lauren Eirk
Fitness Integrated Science owner and chief trainer Lauren Eirk is taking her decades-long experience as a yoga instructor, therapist, and personal trainer to helping women over the age of 40 achieve better health. With her own Fitness Integrated Science TV app, her mission has become even clearer amid the onset of the COVID-19 health pandemic. Athletech News sat down with Eirk to find out how her journey as a CEO and fitness expert first materialized, where she sees the fitness industry headed, and much more.
Athletech News: Please tell us about Fitness Integrated Science and how either your role or the company (if you are a founder) came to fruition
Eirk: My business was rebranded in 2020, and is now called Fitness Integrated Science. Not only do I have an app that is available on the iOS and Android Store and Roku, but I recently purchased a commercial property to house my wellness center in Louisville, KY. We specialize in resistance training and Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT), working to improve muscular imbalances. We also offer private group classes and Yoga Therapy as well. I conduct Yoga Teacher Training courses throughout the year.
The whole back of my facility is actually a filming studio, where we film up to five videos a week for Fitness Integrated Science TV. Many of my clients, because of the results of the pandemic, are seeking a hybrid approach to fitness, with a combination of in-person and online services. FIS TV is a 24/7 On-Demand video service with over 300 pre-recorded videos and live classes with new content added weekly. We offer wellness coaching and a weekly programming guide with information about nutrition, workout plans, fitness science education, and motivation. We try to give them a lot of education. Our market is pretty much people that are over age 40 who are looking to age actively and take care of their joints. I do some online coaching with people that are on my channel, and give everyone the ability to chat with me so that we can kind of figure out exactly what they’re dealing with.
I am the CEO. My husband, Robert… he is my video guy. He’s my IT guy. He’s wonderful. He has a background in software development. We also have a marketing company that we use, led by the amazing Gabrielle Becker. I also use Armando Arrastia of Five Oaks Communications to help me market my Teacher Training programs. I have two MATs, three Personal Trainers, and two Yoga Teachers in my local facility. So, we have kind of a small, sort of niche business that’s one-on-one.
Athletech News: What was your journey like to get to this point?
Eirk: I think everybody has a story. I’ve been in this industry for over three decades. I started teaching fitness at 16 years old, so I’ve been in this industry a really long time. I’ve always been obsessed with fitness and health. The reason for that is when I was a teenager I had a pretty significant eating disorder. I had anorexia and bulimia. Through the struggles to recover, it set me on a mission to help others. I put myself through college working in the fitness industry. I used to teach in a lot of box gyms, wellness centers, private studios, schools, hospitals, you name it. I actually taught as many as 30 classes a week at one time, managed many group fitness programs, and trained individual clients.
I had to go through a lot of introspection and obviously professional help dealing with my eating disorder. At an early age, because of the damage that I did to my body, my joints started to break down in my late 20s. I can remember having to get up in the morning and take ibuprofen just to get to the bathroom so that I could teach my first class at 8 o’clock because of the plantar fasciitis I had in my feet. I did this for many years as I went through college. By 1992, I completed my first college degree and decided to become a Fitness Presenter. I was actually educating fitness professionals at the national level by 1998, soon to be international. I was going through a lot of education in the fitness industry, getting a lot of certifications. I had signed a contract to make some DVDs and teach in several Fitness Conferences when I had my first significant knee injury at age 28.
I ended up having surgery. The next two years I was sort of nursing my knee and doing some tours across the United States. I was teaching two workshops a weekend in two different cities each time. I ended up with a second knee injury and was actually forced to take time off for recovery again. That really started getting me thinking ‘I don’t know very much. So I need to go back to learning.’ I started studying biomechanics. I really just went on this huge quest of ‘I just want to learn as much as I can.’ Through this time I did not spare any expense or time or anything that I gave up. I wasn’t married. I never had kids. I didn’t spend a lot of time with my friends. I did a lot of sacrificing.
Throughout all my training in biomechanics…I was applying all of it in my yoga practice and fitness classes. I began to be asked to teach the anatomy and physiology sections in several national programs in the yoga world. As I was doing that I started noticing that there was a big hole in many of these teacher training programs. In 2010, I wrote my 500 Hour Teacher Training. I got it submitted to Yoga Alliance and it was Registered. Throughout this time, I was already starting to break away from the box gyms just because they were no longer really aligned with what I was wanting to do. I wanted to have a closer, personal relationship with my clients. I wanted to teach fitness and education on a new level because of everything that I was learning. Throughout the time I was writing my teacher training, I also decided to go back to school. I got my Masters in Health Fitness Management and I decided to start my first business after having many trials and errors professionally. In early 2000, I met one of my mentors, Greg Roskopf, who is the founder of Muscle Activation Techniques. I decided to study MAT to learn more about the body. I achieved my first MAT Specialist Certification and I started actually putting my hands on people, testing and treating muscular imbalances. I started recognizing how dysfunctional most people’s bodies are, considering our lifestyles and how we take care of ourselves. I started questioning my skills professionally, asking, ‘What am I doing? What am I teaching people? Do my training sessions even help?’
The on-going education in MAT has made me so much better at what I do. It has made me realize what people need from their fitness programs. My goal is to help as many people as I can. The pandemic was actually a blessing that forced me to put a lot of my methods on video. This allows me to reach more people. The reason that I want to work with people over 40 is because I think fitness has always been marketed to “fit” people. They don’t market to people that need it. They only market to people that are already fit and they’re feeding their addiction, which I did myself. I know how that story ends. It’s not pretty. Along the way we have to learn how to exercise smarter.
Athletech News: What is your greatest strength?
Eirk: I’m a very hard worker. I’ve always been a lifelong learner. I love being in school. I love taking classes. I like to take complex information and teach it to other people. I like to educate people about things that are maybe a little more “heady” and make it user-friendly so that I can help people on a much greater level. I don’t shy away from difficult projects. I definitely think that’s my strength as a teacher. I love to empower people with knowledge.
Athletech News: What motivates you?
Eirk: When I was younger I used to love a lot of choreography and dance, and I would get clients that would just want to lose weight. But as I’ve gotten older, what really motivates me the most is when I have those complex clients who have gotten lost in the medical field, maybe they have been to the physical therapy, they’ve been to the chiropractor. They’ve gone through surgery, they’ve done everything that they can do and they’re still not quite where they want to be. Then that’s usually when I see them and I absolutely love it when I can help somebody take back their body, to help them feel good about themselves again and to help them make exercise feel better. There’s nothing better than to give someone a new lease on life. I want to help people avoid the stupid mistakes that I’ve made and assist them in navigating complex health issues. It gives me a lot of joy.
Athletech News: What are some of your daily habits?
Eirk: I’m a vegan, so my daily habit is I definitely try to eat more of a plant-based diet. I’m always researching that. I am not a morning person, but I love being up late at night. I love the stillness of the night. I love drinking coffee! It is my vice I guess. But one thing that I do almost daily – I’m a gym rat. I love working out. It’s my peace. It’s my alone time. It’s my oasis. Whether that’s being in the gym, lifting weights, doing yoga, doing pilates, meditating, or being outside walking my dog, for me it’s not right if I am not moving. It’s definitely something I do on a daily basis, and when I don’t, you can ask anybody, I’m really grouchy.
Athletech News: When have you failed? Talk about your failures. What have you learned from them?
Eirk: First of all I can say, how much time do you have? That’s my first answer. The next part of that is, I don’t know that anything is a failure because you always learn something from it. So I really embrace my failures. One of my biggest failures is probably not allowing myself to shine, not believing in myself enough to show up big in my industry and in the world, and not really speaking my truth. I’ve always felt like I was on the outside of things. I’ve always thought of things differently, which is common with many entrepreneurs. Usually when things become popular I tend to question it.
I look back at some of the opportunities that were passed along to me in the industry that I actually didn’t take advantage of because I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t think that people would want to listen to what I had to say. I didn’t want to shake the boat. I was afraid to speak my truth. My mom used to recite a poem to me that was called, ‘When I’m old, I’ll wear purple.’ The whole poem is about being bold when you get older and it really does resonate with me now. Now that I’m 52, I want to speak my truth and put my ideas out there more. She said, ‘Lauren, if not you, who? And if not now, when?’ And I’ve always thought about her comments, and they contributed to propelling me to where I am now. My biggest fault is not taking chances, not believing in myself and not being loud enough. That’s something in my 50s that I am definitely changing.
Athletech News: Where did you get the idea for Fitness Integrated Science?
Eirk: I go back to something that I heard of by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He said in his work that he thought he had to have had a conversation in heaven and he said, ‘I want to teach people about self-reliance,’ and then God said, ‘Well, you better get your *ss into an orphanage.’ I feel like I had a conversation with God and… I said to God, ‘I want to teach people about being comfortable in their bodies and being able to have high self-esteem.’ And so my God said to me, ‘Well, we’re gonna put you in a body and mind that gives you an eating disorder as a kid.’ So that really propelled me on this path and I can’t see myself doing anything else. Being able to help women, especially, with feeling better about themselves and feeling better inside of their bodies, whether that be a modified exercise or whatever, my path, my mission was set for me the moment I hit the earth. I really do believe that. But as far as the business that I have now, definitely considering all of my injuries and struggles– that’s what made me discover MAT, that’s what made me discover Yoga Therapy, that’s what made me really want to understand exercise.
But during the pandemic when my studio shut down, which was March the 18th, I’ll never forget that day. I had a pretty thriving business with a lot of classes and many instructors. I, at the time, didn’t even realize how exhausted I was with all of that and all of the instructors and their schedules and the members and the drama. All the things that I was managing at the time. The shutdown was actually a blessing for me. I put my life on pause so I could realize some things. We had actually already done a lot on YouTube, so I was already familiar with being on camera. But when the pandemic hit we started immediately streaming classes for just my clients. We made them three days a week so that they could continue. I stopped all the memberships, but I wanted them to be able to feel like they were being supported. So we made it free to anyone who needed that support.
We were doing three classes a week regularly and I started noticing that more and more people were watching. I was starting to get people outside of my circle just naturally without even advertising it, and it got bigger and bigger. And then as we started to recognize that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon, we realized we needed a way to monetize this and create a real business. So we researched a lot of the platforms that are out there – Uscreen, Televideo – and we ended up going with Vimeo OTT. Because my husband is a software developer, we developed that on our website. We just had a dot tv and it was on our website and we started it from there. As people started understanding it and wanting more and more, I started putting out emails. I started communicating with them more and they enjoyed the information. Now, it’s developed into this full-on coaching thing. We ended up investing in three apps. We’re now in contract with Vimeo. We’ve just kind of gone on down this road that I never thought that I would be on. I am thrilled to be on this platform. I look forward to developing this for many years to come.
Athletech News: When did you know that you had something of substantial value?
Eirk: I have a lot of clients that I work with in MAT, group classes, and personal training, but I can only work with a person so many times. And I only have so much time in a day. So, if I see someone once a week or once a month, let’s just say, I have no control over what they do in between those sessions. Not only that, my schedule can get very full, having to put people on a waiting list to see me. There’s also been people that I’ve met out of town, or people that have moved away that really need my services, but I don’t have any ability to work directly with them anymore because either A, I don’t have any openings in my schedule, or B, they just don’t live anywhere near me. So when I started developing this app, it became so wonderful for me to be able to use my videos to give to clients as an exercise prescription, so-to-speak. I try to teach people on my app not only just how to exercise, but how to exercise in a way that is nourishing to their bodies. My goal is to reach people from all over the world.
Athletech News: How do you manage stress?
Eirk: My dad is probably my best friend and he always says, “Lauren, things will always look better in the morning. Get some sleep,” whenever I’m stressed. And he’s always right. I think sometimes I’m stressed because I get exhausted, so I want to put that out there that sleep is something that’s very underrated. Sometimes if I’m super stressed I really just need to get some more sleep.
Also, I love animals. I try to support the Humane Society here in Louisville, KY. I spend a lot of time with my dog [Rufus] and my cats [Jacob, Edward, and Gabriel]. I spend a lot of time with them. Rufus and I take a walk every single day outside with no distractions. No electronic media, no social media, no one can call me, no music. It’s just me, the dog and nature. I also spend a lot of time with my cats, taking care of them. It just soothes my soul.
Sometimes when I’m stressed, I just need alone time, whether it’s working out, meditating, watching a movie that I like, [or] listening to music. It’s just alone time, quiet time and animal time.
Athletech News: Where do you see the future of fitness going?
Eirk: Back when I first started in fitness, I was back in the legwarmers and the aerobics… I can remember teaching Jazzercise. Now the way that I look at it, I definitely think that you are going to see less brick and mortar businesses. I got asked this exact same question [while being on a panel for the Fitness Business Association], because as an industry we’re all questioning where is this industry going to go?
I think that if any fitness business tries to make it here going forward, just focusing on clients visiting them in person to their four walls, they’re going to lose. [During the pandemic] we noticed that you couldn’t buy a pair of dumbbells on Amazon. Pelotons are still flying off the shelves. People are outfitting their own home gyms now. I don’t think that online fitness is going to go away. I think you’re gonna see some people that will stay online, because maybe this has just become more convenient for them. Maybe they didn’t realize how much they enjoy working out from home, and now they’re going to continue working out at home. Some people are going to do a hybrid approach to working out. I also think that there are going to be people that still want that in-person experience. So that means that as a fitness professional our skillset needs to be increased exponentially.
What we learned from the pandemic is that no matter how much money you have, no matter how much you own… if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. I think that what’s going to happen going forward, I hope this is what happens, that people are going to be more invested in health and prevention.
Candace Cordelia is a Pennsylvania-based journalist and on-camera broadcaster/host, with a reporting background in wrestling, entertainment, and lifestyle. Her reporting work has been featured on websites and in publications such as Bustle, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, New York Daily News, am New York, ABC News, Yahoo!, Good Morning America, Madame Noire, Sister 2 Sister, etonline.com, Diva Dirt and The Everyday Fan. Her favorite workout influencers include Chloe Ting, Cassey Ho, Pamela Reif and Mary Braun. She still can’t stand burpees and Rebbl Dark Chocolate Immunity Elixir is one of her favorite post-workout protein sips. You can follow Candace on Twitter @CandaceCordelia and on Instagram @thatgirlcandace16.