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Inspiring Conversations with Suzanne Klaus of Forward Fitness

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzanne Klaus.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
In the fall of 2006, I started college at Mizzou. I was about to major in teaching, but I decided to change it to Dietetics. I loved biology and after witnessing so many people who I love struggle with weight and health, I knew I wanted to become a dietitian. For me, it is about so much more than a number on a scale. It is about helping someone achieve their goals and create the life they want.

I applied to the Dietetics program and was one of 15 accepted! Mizzou is a CUP program, meaning that you do your dietetics internship while at school and are ready to sit for your board exam once you graduate. I graduated with a degree in Medical Dietetics and passed my board exam in the summer of 2010. I got my first job as a dietitian at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center. I spent about a year there before moving back to St. Louis and working as a dietitian at a gym. There I met my now husband, Mike.

Mike was making the transition from bartender to trainer. He was tired of the bar scene and late nights. Mike was an athlete all through high school. Afterwards, his active lifestyle ceased to exist and was paired with unhealthy eating habits. One day while at Famous Bar, Mike picked up a shirt and from across the floor a salesperson yelled, “Sir, that’s not for you!” Mike looked down and saw he was holding a slim fit shirt and Mike was no longer had his athletic high school build. Later that year, Mike was hospitalized for an appendectomy. The shirt incident and wanting to avoid any future hospital visits caused him to look at his current choices. Once he got out of the hospital, the packed gym bag that had been sitting in his car for months was put to use. Mike found his passion for working out and wanted to share that with others.

In October of 2014, Mike and I decided to open our own training studio. On October 29th of 2014, Forward Fitness became a business. We wanted to do things our way and create a space and business we were proud of.

We found our current space in Maplewood in November of 2014. After painting, laying flooring, and adding equipment, on January 6th of 2015 we opened our doors for training. We have been moving forward ever since.

We celebrated our 6th anniversary this year and look forward to many more! We currently have a thriving community of over 120 members.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We have had some growing pains and learned some lessons along the way! We’ve learned we are not for everyone and that’s okay. It’s more important to stay true to who we are then try to change to fit what we think someone wants. Continually developing and looking at our mission, vision, and values helped with that. We also learned to delegate tasks to the best person for the job.

As with most businesses, COVID prevented some challenges. On St. Patrick’s Day the gym closed its physical space, and we made a fast pivot to live stream classes and delivering program design via Bridge Tracker (an app). Our members were awesome. Almost all of them continued with this remote membership until we were able to open our doors on June 15th, 2020. I think that goes to show what how important it is to focus on serving and support people. Even though 2020 brought numerous challenges, it also allowed us to create better systems and provide an even better service to our members. Our accountability system was certainly taken to the next level and our community became even closer.

We’ve been impressed with Forward Fitness, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Forward Fitness is your neighborhood gym. On paper, we are a 2000 sq ft personal training studio that offers personalized training, small group classes, and nutrition coaching. But we are so much more. While we pride ourselves in our program design, training knowledge, and attention to form, a gym is about so much more than just working out. It is about creating a positive community. It’s about listening to people and meeting them where they are at. It’s about helping people reach their goals. It’s about creating an environment that brings out the best and opens doors to things members once thought were impossible. It’s about creating a place someone looks forward to coming.

We care about our members and want them to show up. We reach out to check on them if they miss their session or haven’t been in. Each member has an accountability coach to help them continue to move forward with and develop their goals. We help them think about and build the habits and identity that will get them to their goals.

For us a positive and encouraging community is key. When you walk into our gym you are greeted with a smile and a hello “insert your name.” Our Forward Fam knows one another and roots for one another. They can drop their guard and not worry about what others will think about them. Many of our members have made friendships in the gym that have carried outside gym time. We help to foster this community by hosting an annual (minus 2020) Forward Fitness Thanksgiving, BBQs, and group hikes. We love our Forward Fam!

Gyms can be intimidating. We offer a complimentary strategy session to each potential member. During this time, we listen to learn more about who they are, discuss their goals, and do a movement screen. From this, we can create their personalized training program and/or know if we need to adjust any movements in the class setting to meet them where they are at and prevent injury. We have people in their 20s all the way into their 70s working out at Forward Fitness. We are able to create programs that challenge each person at their level.

What’s next?
We are excited to continue to grow our community and change lives. We are in the process of hiring an additional coach! We would eventually love to own our own, bigger space!

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Your Story Photography (on all but the “Red Team” and Guardian Battle” photos)

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