Fitz Koehler keeps clients in gear with her gimmick-free health programs.
By Caitlyn Finnegan
Fitz Koehler has trained with celebrities and Olympic athletes, penned more than 3,000 fitness and beauty articles and launched a website that attracts more than two million visitors each year. Yet all of that is just the beginning for the personal trainer and health guru who has spent more than 20 years building her lifestyle brand into an international company.
Koehler’s Gainesville-based company, Fitzness International, specializes in fitness education and fitness programing through group classes, seminars and personal training. The former competitive kickboxer and nationally certified fitness instructor doesn’t consider her job done until she’s tacked ten years on to the life of anyone who has experienced her programs.
Koehler took her first step into the fitness industry with a part-time job teaching group fitness classes throughout high school and her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida. She graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but decided to trade her plans for law school to pursue fitness.
“That’s when I had a revelation that this is what I love to do, this is what I’m good at,” Koehler says. “I just had to think of how to turn it into a career instead of a job.”
She served as the fitness director for an international cruise ship company and earned a spot as an instructor for the Cardio Jam television series before heading back to school to get her master’s degree in exercise and sports science.
Seeing a need for honesty in what she saw as an industry overrun with fad diets, trendy group classes and expensive supplements, Koehler decided to start a lifestyle company that would focus on the basics: clean eating, regular exercise and a no-fear approach to sweat.
“My brand of fitness is gimmick-free; it’s the real deal,” Koehler says. “I want [my clients] to reject diets, all the shakes, all the fads, everything they don’t need.”
Koehler started her website with health tips, recipes and expert interviews in 1997, but reformatted it into an online magazine in 2009. Besides personally training clients a couple days each week, she participates in seminars, lectures, group classes, radio and television appearances in more than a dozen countries through Fitzness International. Koehler has spoken at events hosted by the American Cancer Society, the Girl Scouts of America, March of Dimes and Alachua Public Schools.
Fitzness isn’t meant just for athletes and fitness buffs; Koehler works with clients who range from teenagers to grandparents, helping anyone who wants to develop a healthier lifestyle.
“People spend all this time searching for ways to make their life better,” Koehler says. “Fitness is that magic thing they are looking for; they just have to put some effort into it.”
When Koehler was searching for more ways to draw traffic to her website, Fitzness.com, she contacted the management teams of different athletes and celebrities asking them to make an appearance on a series of online interview segments. The segments paired celebrity fitness stories with their personal tips and tricks for eating healthfully and keeping workout routines fresh.
“As a fitness professional, celebrities are a tremendous tool,” Koehler says. “People look up to them and, because of their career, they have to stay in amazing shape.”
The segment’s popularity skyrocketed, and others began to reach out to Koehler after seeing their friends on the site. Brooke Shields, Bruce Jenner, Christina Applegate and Kirk Herbstreit have all made an appearance on Koehler’s site, sharing some of their go-to exercises and motivation for staying fit.
Fitzness’ growth is also bolstered by Koehler’s freelance efforts. She has written thousands of articles for outlets like America Online, SheKnows.com and the national edition of Examiner.com. Koehler has also been featured as a fitness expert in publications such as Glamour, Parenting, Oxygen and The Police and Fireman’s Journal.
Koehler is also the author of “The Everything Flat Belly Cookbook” and a contributing editor for “35 Things to Know to Raise Active Kids,” “How to Travel Fit” and “The Everything Fit Pregnancy Book.”
Taking a Stance
One of Koehler’s personal missions is to work closely with nonprofits and children.
Koehler started The Morning Mile, a before-school fitness program that has teamed up with 110 schools in the U.S., Canada and a U.S. air force base in Tokyo, to encourage families to work out together. Each morning, children and their parents hit the tracks at their local schools to begin the day walking or running.
“It’s a way to promote lifelong health,” Koehler says. “They can always start their day by walking or running.”
She runs with her own children each morning, getting in two to three miles while talking over what they have to do that day.
For now, she is working to expand her radio and television segment, The Fitzness Minute, beyond just its current spot on ABC’s WCJB TV20 News, hosting more health workshops and speaking at corporate events.
Koehler hopes to expand the reach of her company and create jobs for contributors who can write articles, film health tip segments and train others to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“I would love to help other people find jobs and earn a living through Fitzness,” Koehler said.
Photos courtesy Fitz Koehler