It was 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning when my husband and I tuned into an F45 Training Pittsburgh Strip District workout via Instagram Live.
Admittedly, it was the first workout I had done postpartum.
I was equal parts nervous and excited to exercise.
Kathryn King (the Owner) and Jordan Rose (F45 Studio Manager & Coach) were both on the screen.
The two were in the studio, which at the time, was a blank canvas as they were working through the construction phase and dealing with the uncertainty of COVID-19 (more on that to come).
That blank canvas would soon turn into a fully-operational fitness studio that’s attracted a die-hard community and a level of excitement that’s palpable in the city of Pittsburgh.
Oh, and that first Instagram Live workout?
It was challenging. It was unique. It was fast-paced and Kathryn and Jordan were encouraging.
But…. just when I thought we were done, I heard Kathryn’s voice ring through the phone saying it’s time to finish the workout… with a TWO MINUTE PLANK.
I thought about closing out of the Instagram app and acting like she didn’t say that, but instead, I got down on the ground, shut my eyes, and held the plank as long as I could.
My example is a microcosm of the motivation that Kathryn and her team bring to the table during their workouts.
And to be completely transparent, that night and the days following, if I could have bathed in BENGAY I would have.
However, every sore muscle was a reminder that F45 Training was bringing the heat and a new wave of fitness to Pittsburgh.
From virtual classes to the grand opening of the studio on August 23, it’s been amazing to watch Kathryn bring F45 to the Burgh.
Her journey to get to this spot hasn’t been a straight shot because of the global pandemic.
But, through it all, she persevered.
We did a Q&A session to learn more about F45 and the woman behind Pittsburgh’s popular fitness studio, Kathryn King.
Brick Media Q&A with Kathryn King, Owner, F45 Training Pittsburgh Strip District
Q. What made you want to open an F45 Training studio?
Fitness became a passion for me in college once I realized how much I missed my high school sports team.
I followed that passion and majored in Kinesiology with the dream of opening my own spin studio someday.
To pay for that dream, as well as learn the business and operations side of the house, I decided to go back to school for my MBA and sought a more traditional corporate role.
I ended up close enough to fitness, in the healthcare consulting industry and in Washington, DC, all the while teaching group exercise on the side.
I actually first heard about F45 while in another fitness class. It was the new studio coming to town and therefore, I had to check it out.
The day I walked in, was also their first week.
The owner was there, as well as a small group of coaches and then probably four other (victims) participants to take the class.
It was the most fun and challenged I had ever felt working out.
Within three weeks, the owner and coaches were my good friends, and I was asked to coach there.
While coaching there I was able to get an inside look to the ups and downs, but mostly ups of running a fitness studio.
Q. What makes F45 different?
The F45 culture is like no other.
It’s fun, welcoming, and everyone talks to each other – how crazy is that?!
I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve done where I didn’t even talk to anyone else in the class and the instructor didn’t even know my name.
Usually, the harder the workout, the ‘tougher’ the culture is to feel like you belong.
Plus, F45 is literally for everybody – all ages, all fitness levels.
You work for set time intervals that change each class.
So, it’s on you to do what you can during that time period with the motivation and coaching of the trainers.
I could go on about how great it is.
But, really why F45 as opposed to another workout or franchise?
Because by moving back to Pittsburgh I couldn’t live without it.
I enjoy teaching this HIIT/circuit style workout the most, and it’s something you can do every day because it’s constantly different.
I have seen first hand the difference this workout makes in someone’s life both physically and mentally (and socially).
Since there wasn’t a location in Pittsburgh, I wanted to move quickly to get one here, given the fact the brand was growing so rapidly across the entire globe.
Q. How would you describe F45 Training to someone who has never heard of it before?
F45 Training combines elements of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, and functional training for a fun and challenging workout.
Keywords are fun and challenging.
The team training environment and loud music set the stage for a fun environment, and the workout is always challenging, no matter your fitness level.
If you played sports in high school or college, you may recognize some of the exercises and equipment.
We have pull up bars, sled pushes on the turf, burpees, high knees, rowers, and bikes.
The best part about F45 is the scalability factor. As I mentioned before, F45 is for all fitness levels.
You’re working/resting for set time intervals, which are different every class and participants can go at their own pace.
Instead of a certain number of reps or amount of weight, you simply (easier said than done) work as hard as you can for that time interval.
The longest work interval you will see in F45 is 60 seconds.
Plus, there is a range of weight options when equipment is used, so you can start with 2lbs or 60lbs depending on your fitness level.
There are two personal trainers in every class to help with weight selection, form and technique, and of course, motivation, to push you to YOUR limits.
Q. What’s your favorite workout move? Why?
I love the bike station because you can go all out on speed, resistance, or both.
So, if we have 2-3 sets at the bike station, I’ll have members turn up the resistance every time but try to keep that same pace. It’s just fun!
I taught spin before opening an F45 location, so I also could be biased.
My second favorite exercise is the reverse burpee.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s essentially a squat, a back roll into another squat, and a jump at the top. It’s so much better than a regular burpee!
Q. What has opening F45 during the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about business and yourself?
I am a type-A personality so I like to be in control and am go, go, go, all the time.
There were a lot of hold-ups along the way, including city permits, but I learned that those types of hold-ups are to be expected, and during them, I focused on other aspects of the business.
But, when March 19th hit and the stay at home order went into effect, that was a hold up I could never have expected.
Luckily, we weren’t open yet and were still in construction phases, so I wasn’t charging people memberships yet, but construction also had to halt.
I was concerned that when businesses did reopen we would still be in the construction phase and would essentially lose all the momentum we had built.
But, what I learned aside from patience, is to focus on what you can control.
What I couldn’t control was the pandemic and progress on the studio construction (believe me I tried). But, I could control the product we were offering.
With COVID came the explosion of the virtual world – it was a level playing field, whether we had a studio or not.
I focused on our virtual platform and we began offering Zoom classes, and eventually outdoor classes, building our community before we were even open, and adjusting to the changing state guidelines.
Looking back, I feel lucky to have had that time to grow the community, because now that we are in the studio, our day 1 ‘OGs’ are coordinating class times and brunches.
We’ve created the culture I had hoped for when first embarking on this venture.
Q. If you could give an aspiring entrepreneur any piece of advice, what would it be?
Always plan for more.
More time for construction, more money for construction, rent, more coaches/staff, pretty much everything.
I will admit, as a young entrepreneur I didn’t expect the estimates for how much it costs and the time it takes to open a business to be so far off.
I saved the minimum I thought I needed and took out a loan for the minimum I thought I needed and planned for the time I thought I needed, as well as hired the minimum staff I thought I needed.
I learned this pretty quickly, and now I know you have to pour MORE effort into everything so there are no shortages!
Q. When you’re not at the studio, what are you usually doing?
During the week it’s pretty non-stop, but on weekends, when I’m not at the studio, I’m outside.
Whether it’s hiking with the dog, taking a bike ride, or laying by the pool (depending on how sore my legs are that day), I always spend any free time outside.
Q. What’s your favorite social media channel to use?
I think Instagram is the most time-efficient for me.
Plus, we get a ton of reposts from our members, so it’s fun to see and interact with them on social media.
I do not use Twitter, but I do have both personal and business Facebook pages that I will post to occasionally.
Q. If calories didn’t count, what’s the one not-so-good-for-you food you’d indulge in?
I still indulge on a daily basis, because I love food, especially sweets.
In the summer, I have dairy-free ice cream almost every night.
BUT, if calories didn’t count my day would definitely have meals consisting of donuts and pancakes!
Q. When putting together a playlist for a class, what’s a “must play” song?
Right now, it’s Bloody Valentine by Machine Gun Kelly.
We have a studio DJ that comes every Saturday, and when he plays a mashup version of this the energy is through the roof.
The alternative vibe takes you back to high school days, but still has a fast BPM for getting you through an intense workout.
Otherwise, we love ‘big booty’ mixes on SoundCloud which is a mashup of all the hits.
Q. What’s a random fun fact about you?
Hmmm… In the corporate world, my go-to icebreaker fact was that I am a spin instructor on the side, but now being interviewed as a fitness professional, I’ll have to go with — I have a goal of going to a new country every year (2020 does not count, thanks COVID).
The most recent places I have traveled to pre-COVID were Bali and Hong Kong…Bali has been my favorite thus far.
If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, I HIGHLY suggest checking out F45 Training.
As Kathryn mentioned in her interview, there’s an engaged community, variety in the exercises, and the ability to push yourself to YOUR limits.
You can also learn more about F45 Training on their website.