By Kari Saitowitz, Founder of The Fhitting Room
The years I worked at Pepsi were filled with incredible experiences, like producing live concerts starring artists such as Beyonce, Kanye West, Green Day, and John Legend, and VIP access to major sporting and entertainment events. I was surrounded by brilliant marketers, creative thinkers, passionate people, and amazing mentors, many of whom were women who were raising families. At the time, I remember thinking I had the best job, but no way was I going to be one of the women who were juggling the demands of a skyrocketing career with those of having young children. As someone who still cannot go to sleep without answering all the emails in my inbox, I just couldn’t see a path to both having a satisfying career and taking care of children.
At the same time, my husband, who started his own company soon after we graduated from business school, continuously asked me if I wanted to “do my own thing.” He always said (and still does) that if he didn’t have to work, he would do exactly what he currently does. He couldn’t understand how working at such a huge company could make me so happy, but it did. I had big budgets and world-class brands to manage, and always had something super exciting in the pipeline.
In 2007, I had my first son and did exactly what I always said I would. Despite my Wharton Undergrad and Harvard Business School degrees, I quit my job to be a full-time mother. My mother stopped teaching when she had my older sister, and I forever credited my own success to having a mom who was always available to carpool, help with homework, attend school events, and anything else that arose. So, I threw myself into making mom friends, scheduling play dates, and attending mommy & me classes. Two years later I had my second son and did more of the same. Did I love it? Sometimes. I loved my boys all the time, but taking care of their every need, ALL the time, not so much. Yet, I still felt like it was the right thing to do.
However, I couldn’t get this “gym idea” (title of an email I sent to one of my best friends and now Chief of Deets & Peeps, Jessica, on 3/1/12) out of my head. I had been doing high intensity workouts with a personal trainer since giving birth to my older son, and my results were amazing. I was at my personal best physically and emotionally, and I felt strong, resilient, and empowered. At the same time, fitness boutiques were springing up, and people were excited to work out at specialized studios. Boutiques offered focused classes, entertaining instructors, beautiful and clean spaces, and an opportunity to work out while having fun and socializing with friends and fellow exercisers. I saw friends embrace boutique fitness and compare notes on their workouts, instructors, and fitness fashions. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an opportunity to deliver the awesome cross-training workouts I was doing one-on-one, in a boutique setting while still providing a personalized experience and fantastic results.
I approached Eric Salvador (a.k.a. El Capitan) with my gym idea after having an opportunity to observe him as a personal trainer, group exercise program developer, and group fitness master, and I was ecstatic when he said he was on board. I remember getting off a phone call with Eric one morning in August 2012 and thinking, “This business will not fail in his hands.” Eric knew how to keep clients safe, and provide personalized coaching while lighting up a room packed with people. He set the stage for what would become our incredible bench of talent, and knew how to deliver the effectiveness of a 5-star personal training session in a kickass, contagiously fun setting.
The best thing I did was surround myself with people I love, trust, respect, enjoy, admire, and would never want to disappoint. I hold myself to a super high standard, but wanting endless success and growth for my team and clients keeps me energized and motivated even when I’m running on 4 hours of sleep. You cannot wait for the right time to make changes in your life, whatever that change may be. You also cannot let fear hold you back from something that could be amazing. Luckily I’m married to someone whose favorite quote is, “The question is not, who is going to let me. The question is, who is going to stop me.” It’s not always easy to maintain this mindset, but I try.
Now, I look back at the time when I thought staying home with my kids was, “the right thing to do,” and I wonder, “According to who?!” I have friends who are Managing Directors at investment banks, Chief Marketing Officers of large companies, producers of TV shows, teachers, part-timers and of course CEOs of their households. And, each and every one of them is probably a better wife, mother, friend, and individual BECAUSE of, not in spite of, the career choice she has made. Some of us are wired to make up games and captivate a room of young children and others are designed to ascend corporate ladders. All I know is that a happy person makes a better mother (or anything else) than an unhappy person.
For me personally, most days resemble a dumbbell (how ironic). After dropping my kids off at school, I head to one of my studios and work until the end of the school day. I almost always pick up my kids from school and take them to their after school activities, usually a sport. I love watching them play, and choose to cut back on sleep in exchange for the thrill of watching one my boys crush a homerun. I punt on most housework and pretty much never cook. But, I do homework with my kids, read to them every night, and put them to sleep. Then, I typically work for another 4 hours before going to bed. My team knows they will receive emails from me at all hours of the night, but they also know I don’t expect a response at 1am. It’s a schedule that works for me. I’m not sure that I’d be fulfilled with only a biological family or only a career if I were forced to choose only one, but I know that I am incredibly lucky to be part of two of the best families, my biological one and of course my FHITfamily. I wouldn’t trade either for the world.
Prior to founding The Fhitting Room, Kari Saitowitz was a Marketing Executive at Pepsi-Cola Company. She left the world of boardrooms and bubbles and entered the world of diapers and sleepless nights seven years ago, and was introduced to High Intensity Training to work off her pregnancy weight. Kari was blown away not only by the results of HIT physically and emotionally, but also by how much fun she was having during her workouts. Kari has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.