Y'all. I’ve been MIA for waaaaay too long, but having a baby and taking 6 months off for the first time in my life is a pretty good excuse, right? Isaac is 4.5 months and the sweetest addition to our family. His birth was beautiful, and I'll be posting about it soon (Lord willing)! :)
I’m really hoping to get into a regular posting schedule, and I couldn’t be more excited to kick things off with a feature on one of the most inspiring women I know. Suzanne Bowen is not only a fitness icon, she’s a wife, homeschool mama, business owner, and Jesus-follower who makes getting in shape something to look forward to. Seriously. I’ve never been more excited to work out than I am with Barre Amped. I was a ballet dancer through childhood and planned to make it my career until some back issues turned me in another direction. Finding a workout that makes me feel like I could still kill a ballet class makes me infinitely happy!
But its better to let her explain who she is and what she does, so on to the interview!
But its better to let her explain who she is and what she does, so on to the interview!
1) How did you come to own your own business?
After I left New York City as a Lotte Berk Method Instructor, the United States’ original barre technique, I moved to Franklin, TN, to be near family, and I opened a small fitness studio with the help of my parents. I was in my late 20s. Then, I met my now husband, Levi, through one of my clients, and we hit it off immediately. In order to get married and travel overseas with him, I had to close my fledgling first studio. After traveling, we moved back to Franklin, had our first baby, and then, when she was almost a year old, I got back into exercise via teaching classes and starring in an Abs DVD called 10 Minute Solution: Blast off Belly Fat.
I was teaching exercise in a local gym and all of my barre training influenced my workouts. I started out with four women and by the end of my “boot camp” I had a packed out class of 30 women. They would do barre exercises holding on to spin bikes! They were hooked. No one at that time, outside major mass markets, knew what barre workouts were. Now you see barre workouts are the trendiest, and most effective workouts for women because they are feminine, yet challenging. They are very good for helping counter stress levels. And they work!
After a few years, I decided it was time to open my own studio in Franklin. Within a year, I had women from all over the country writing to ask if I would train them to teach barre. I started our certification business which took off like wildfire. I also started streaming barre workouts through my website. Six years later, I am streaming barre in my private studio and our teacher training business has not slowed down. My husband left his construction business because we are full time in exercise. I have a great partner in him. We have a blast!
2) What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of what I do is speaking into women’s lives in terms of self image. I walked out of tremendous self hatred and self doubt having huge issues with body image all through my 20s. It became apparent to me when I was in NYC teaching women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds that this epidemic of self hatred was very real. I knew I wasn’t alone. I would listen to women after class tell me how much they hated their thighs or how much they wished they could look like me (or not like themselves) and I woke up to the very real war that is waged on women as they look in the mirror. At the time I was teaching barre classes in NYC, I wasn’t a believer. It was through that war with myself and the depression I felt over my shortcomings and all that I wasn’t, that one day, I cried out to Jesus that if He were real, to please help me. I felt instant peace and warmth come over me. It was through that self hatred that I met the God of my dreams, the Father I always hoped was there but thought was too good to be true. And for that struggle, I am grateful because it led me to Jesus, my savior who gave me peace which passes all understanding.
Though my freedom from body image distortion wasn’t immediately healed and I had to (and still have to) walk away from the lies of perfectionism and the traps of the enemy, I am definitely much better. I have embraced aging and I have hope that there is more to my life and my existence than my outer shell. I like to say, “I am much more than my thighs!”
Because of my very real struggle with severe dysmorphia in my past, I am able to speak truth to the women who work out with me. Through my workouts, I get to remind them of their worth. I get emails often from women thanking me for helping them stop believing the lies that they must look a certain way in order to be loved, valued, or accepted. And though I work very hard and often need a break, those emails keep me going because women need to know they are more than what the fitness, fashion, and beauty industries sell them.
I also have to say that I love teaching exercise with good form and I love hearing testimonials of fat loss, flexibility gains, de-stressing, increased strength, and feelings of general well being. When you realize that exercise is not punishment and doesn’t have to include running bleachers or flipping tires, but can instead be life giving and energizing and enjoyable, it’s a win for me! We need to enjoy what we do and it needs to be sustainable. To hear people love my workouts is hugely rewarding!
3) How do you walk the tightrope that is working motherhood? I try to avoid the word balance, because it’s never perfectly balanced for me, and I know that questions can feel flippant sometimes. But how does it work for your family on a typical day?
You are so right in avoiding the word balance! Sometimes it feels like survival! Haha! We homeschool our children, and in Florida where we live, there are yearly evaluations and tremendous pressure. We get up in the mornings and after breakfast we do our school. Then, Levi and I come up to the office and work for the afternoon. At night we always try to have dinner together. It’s really that simple. We have a rebounder in our living room that the kids jump on and we often walk, hike, bike, and stay active. But I admit, I do not have it altogether and I have a legal pad with me to make to do lists all the time! It can be so stressful sometimes because the children are literally with us nonstop. I try my best to live in the moment, though, because I see how fast time really does fly.
4) What is your advice to women who want to get in shape but are afraid of getting over the hurdle of just starting?
Start walking if the weather is right. Just put on some shoes and walk outside if you can. Notice how walking makes you feel better. It doesn’t have to be far. Then, think about what kind of exercise you might like. Is it dancing? Could it be a Zumba class or DVD? Do you like strength training? Find a good strength class that has beginner options. Or are you curious about barre? Women love it! They feel challenged but feminine and the results are generally amazing.
Sign up for classes or streaming memberships that show a love for “real women” and who have group support (online or in person). For my website, we have a Facebook group for streaming members from around the world and we always have challenges going on. Women get to check in with accomplishments, questions, and concerns. There is always someone there to listen, offer advice, or celebrate. It’s been amazing to see such a virtual sisterhood! Group classes or private group training can be amazing for helping women feel secure and part of a team while offering hands on corrections to make sure they are getting the most out of the workouts. And, for those who have the means, personal training is great. However, I am a huge fan of groups because of the support and cost effectiveness.
Always choose something that is non-punishing and that you look forward to. We have got to understand that exercise is a gift and not something to dread. We need to be kind to our bodies so that we can age well, feel alive, and feel youthful, no matter our age.
5) What is the SBF (or Suzanne Bowen Fitness) theme song?
The song I have posted in my group more than any other one is Free to Be Me by FB! My favorite line is “Perfection is my enemy.” It’s really great to see so many women from different areas trending on the identity track. God created us uniquely and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. There is no one “youer than you” and Free to Be Me is my favorite anthem for my SBFFs. :) ***I promise I didn't pay her to say that! :)***
Wow. One of my favorite things she said was, "always choose something that is non-punishing and that you look forward to. We have got to understand that exercise is a gift and not something to dread. We need to be kind to our bodies so that we can age well, feel alive, and feel youthful, no matter our age." This is exactly how I feel about Suzanne's workouts. They make me feel good about myself, not like I'm striving to have the "perfect body" (which doesn't exist, by the way) or fit into a particular swimsuit. She's a real women who cares for her body and works hard to make it strong, and she makes me feel like I can too.
Are you interested in trying her workouts? There are several options: DVDs, local classes, or (my favorite option as someone who is on the road) streaming. All are available here. You can get 24/7 streaming access to over 200 workouts for FREE for two days (no credit card required), and you'll also get access to custom workout plans, an online community of support, and the SBF Food Guide which includes recipes, shopping lists, food journal and more! Let me know in the comments if you try it and what you think!
Here is where you can find Suzanne on the web: