Kimberly Fowler, 61
If there is a commonality among our people, it is an innate sense of curiosity combined with a drive to move forward. Kimberly Fowler is one of us. She came from a tough background near the New Jersey shore. Her school district was poor; they had to share the building with another district so the day was split between the two. Her free time was spent in the waves, swimming and surfing with what became a lifelong passion for sports, fitness and wellness. Her escape route was through Boston University, then on to TX to get a law degree.
Speaking with Kimberly in her quiet Marina del Rey home, one finds a gracious, softly spoken, articulate woman of some considerable modesty. She reveals the time she spent living in Monaco dating Prince Albert while practicing law there as if this is a completely unexceptional thing, or the time she almost died from a free climbing fall in Nevada as if she slipped on the stairs, or overcoming a brain tumor as if this is nothing. Hers can be seen as a fantastic journey but the way she tells it, there is nothing that exceptional about what she has been doing. Like so many of us, she is always seeking, always investigating, and always wondering: “Can I do that?”
Not for the Faint of Heart
Kimberly was the COO of a large corporation, went on to found the groundbreaking chain of exercise studios YAS, written a couple of books, and is now training for a marathon in September. Having recently closed her 18-year YAS business, she has been consulting in the health/fitness sector and carefully investigating her next adventure. This may all sound completely over the top, and in the hands of a hyperbolic PR agent it could be. But Kim is nothing like that. She is almost shy about where she has been, and very honest about not being exactly sure what she will do next. She misses the community of thousands that she created at YAS, but then running a business of that size with its hundreds of employees is “not for the faint of heart.”
First Hybrid Studio
You founded YAS in (?). Why? What was the need you were seeing that you wanted to address?
I opened YAS (which is the acronym for Yoga and Spinning) in 2001. It was honestly created out of frustration. Those were my workouts back in the ’90s. I used both yoga and spinning to supplement my other sports, like running, biking, hiking, tennis — basically helped me stay injury free. I would take a yoga class at one studio then have to head across town to catch a spinning class afterwards. Back then there weren’t spin studios. Spinning was done in big box gyms like Gold’s, LA Fitness, etc. The boutique studios really didn’t exist except for small yoga studios. Hard to believe, right?
People thought I was crazy, but YAS became the 1st hybrid studio which created a whole new trend in fitness. I’ve been called the Godmother of the Hybrids. Which I’m proud of. It’s funny: beyond being a new concept, I was in my 40s when I started YAS and I was a lawyer, COO of a $200 million company. So people, and my friends, thought I was nuts mostly because of my age and the fact that I was leaving a high paying career to open a gym. Plus in 2001, Venice was gang area! You didn’t even want to walk down Abbot Kinney. It definitely took vision.
What are you doing now?
I have my own consulting firm called WellFit Global Consulting. I work with fitness and wellness entrepreneurs to guide them through the perils of entrepreneurship and to help them find their secret sauce. My favorite question is: What makes you special? It can be a tough question to answer. I also work with a private equity firm, Integrity Square, who funds concepts in what we call the HALO (Health, Active Lifestyle and Outdoors) sector.
I get asked consistently: What’s your next thing? Everyone wants to know what the next big trend is going to be. I think I have figured it out. I will say, it’s another idea that came to me out of frustration. I’ll have to keep you posted on that one.
What was the adaptation process for you to this new role?
Having YAS for over 16 years and prior to that being the COO/Council of a 200 million dollar vitamin company gave me a lot of experience in health and fitness, a lot of good and some that were very difficult. The good, the bad, and the ugly — I’ve been through it all. I am able to take those experiences and help others get through their challenges and guide them through the struggles of being an entrepreneur.
What is this we hear about a marathon? Is this the first time for you?
I LOVE running! I started running marathons in the ’80s after I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I actually stopped running when I started YAS. I was teaching 4 or 5 classes a day plus running my business. I was also Nike’s Yoga Athlete, writing books (2 published by Rodale). So no time to run or play tennis.
I was asked to run the New York Marathon for the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2017, which got me back into running. Right now I’m training for the Sydney Marathon which is on September 15th. I love Australia; it should be fun. But I’m way behind in my training.
What is your fitness routine?
I normally get up at 6am and meditate. I’ve been practicing TM since the ’80s. Depending on the day I either run, play tennis, do yoga with weights or hike. I live on the beach so sometimes I just walk near the water.
Anything different for you now vs at 50 in terms of fitness/health routines?
For sure. I definitely don’t have the energy I once had and find that the recovery is much more difficult. So, I have incorporated a lot more recovery methods in my routine such as cryotherapy. I’m a huge believer in cryo for all sorts of inflammation reductions. It was tremendously helpful when I was training for the New York Marathon and my knees were in constant pain. It was developed in the ’70s in Japan as an arthritis treatment, and also seems to have benefits for brain health. There is an IV drip called a Myers’ Cocktail (vitamins and glutathione) that also seems to work well for me. I’m always looking for the newest recovery/wellness modalities.
You have overcome so much in your life. What do you tell yourself when you are having resistance to working out, or trouble pushing through a problem?
Well, to be honest, I say “Fowler, get your f*cking sneakers on and just go.” If I don’t feel like running I’ll give myself the option of going for a walk instead which ends up turning into a run. I have great rock playlists: try walking to Aerosmith Train Kept A-Rollin’ or The Doors LA Woman.
What sort of foods are you eating?
The whole diet thing, paleo vs vegan is very confusing. I try to eat healthy but, to be honest, I am not much of a chef or a foodie. I really like fresh juices and they are part of my routine. I do eat a lot of salads and pasta. I try to eat at places that have healthy options like True Food Kitchen. I used to live in the South of France (Monaco) and loved what I guess you would call the Mediterranean diet.
What would you say is the most overlooked thing in health/wellness/fitness for people our age to be living better lives?
Find community. That was the main thing YAS was known for. I miss it and haven’t found it anywhere. There is a lot of research about how community affects us as we age.
Take Nothing for Granted
You seem quite passionate about the things you do. Has it always been like this, or is it changing for you?
Whatever I do, I always give it my all and don’t take anything for granted. I came from an underprivileged background, so I have had to work very hard for everything that I have achieved. So I am very passionate about business. I love having an idea and bringing it to life. This is why I am so excited about what I hope will be my next big idea. I also love helping women in business and being a mentor. Oh, and of course sports! Playing and watching. (I was a sports agent in the ’80s.)
What are some of the interesting trends in wellness and fitness these days?
The fact that wellness and fitness are now merging is interesting, and how that is changing the landscape of retail space, spas and hotels. (That’s from a business perspective.)
Are you taking any supplements? NAD+, resveratrol, metformin…?
I do take supplements, I always have. As I’ve gotten older I’ve added vitamin D3 (bone health), fish oil (brain health), more focus on probiotics. I use BioK. I have tried NAD+ IVs a few times at Cienega Med Spa. I like the research behind it. I also take hormone replacement: estradiol, progesterone and testosterone. I take melatonin; I’m always looking for things to help me sleep!
Dating in the 60s
What is your feeling about dating in the 60s? Any dos and don’ts?
Haven’t dated that much since turning 60. I did have a blind date a month ago. We met on LinkedIn. He did a great interview regarding being an American who owns a French soccer team. Since I lived in France I knew that would have been tough. We went back and forth texting. He invited me to Bordeaux to watch his soccer team play. Timewise that didn’t work out. (Couldn’t leave my beloved aging dog, Lucky, for that long.)
So I met him in Miami where he lives. It was interesting. We both run; he took me to Soul Cycle for a spin class. We were going to play tennis but it was raining. In one of our conversations Madonna came up, how old she was. I told him I’m the same age as she is and there was a pause in the conversation. I knew he was 6 years younger than me but even though he said he Googled me I guess he didn’t notice my age. Wasn’t a love match.
So, I don’t have much experience on that front. I haven’t done the online dating yet, just Bumble’s Friend Match. The one who keeps sending me women with long gray hair who have cats. Again, not a match.
I’m sure you hear this all the time, you should do some type of dating service. ? (Editor: working on that.)
You are out in the sun a lot, and your skin looks great. What is your skincare routine?
I spent so much time in the sun in the ’80s and ’90s. When I started YAS, all my workouts were indoors. Now I’m outside all the time again. I have a whole cabinet of suntan lotions. I also wear long sleeves as much as possible plus hats and visors. I workout early before the sun really comes out. The June gloom here on the west side of LA helps. Keeping your skin looking good as you age is a lot of work! My hands are my biggest issue.
Global Wellness Summit
We are both going to Global Wellness Summit in HK. You are a veteran of several. What do you look forward to getting out of it?
Well, one is: I’ve never been to Hong Kong, so I’m excited to be going there. I have friends, more like business acquittances, that I only see at the Global Wellness Summits. I also love being around some of the top thought leaders in the wellness industry. You never know who you are going to sit next to at a lecture of when I’m speaking on a panel. I always learn a lot and I love to learn.