Mountain View resident Reena Vokoun’s passion for balancing mind and body found a first local outlet when she began leading yoga at her sons’ Springer School, focusing on body awareness, breathing and mindfulness – tools to manage stress and hone focus and balance.
Her idea found a fit with local parents, too, and three years ago she founded a wellness business – Passion Fit – to expand her adult offering to nearby companies as well as online.
Take a class with Vokoun at Marti’s Dance Studio at Los Altos’ Rancho Shopping Center and you might start shaking your hips to pop or Bollywood tunes for a half-hour of high-energy dance before planking and pulsing through 30 minutes of strength and length.
Vokoun found the studio after searching area locations and loving the space Marti Gibeau had created. After starting her own dance business in 1974, Gibeau has been offering space to other movement-teachers.
Vokoun reserved weekly time slots to take over the sunlit studio space and started recruiting friends, fellow parents from Springer and neighbors to join her on the dance floor.
“My mission is to help women, but also a broader organization, to flourish from inside out,” she said.
Achieving goals while having a good time
“I spent so many years of my career in corporate America,” Vokoun said.
Working desk jobs at companies ranging from Google to Yahoo, Reebok and General Electric gave her a cultural context when it came to contemplating how to achieve the unachievable – fit one more thing (exercise) into every day.
“Even if you’re busy, have a stressful job and young children, there are ways to do it,” she assured a skeptical reporter – and then started describing the many ways she has worked to make it happen for herself, too.
Vokoun evolved from first watching workout videos as a child to dance team and cheerleading in high school, and teaching kickboxing and cardio after that. She threw in a marathon and ESPN fitness championship along the way. Loving to move inspired her business focus, but it also reflected a central personal interest.
“I realized I wanted to be healthy, and the way to be at your best was wellness,” she said of the philosophy that evolved into her business. “I want the classes to be a very positive experience for people – supportive, encouraging and inclusive about meeting people where they are. But I also want it to be challenging.”
Vokoun started building Passion Fit three years ago and switched to full-time entrepreneurship in early 2016. Although she had been teaching fitness and dance since college, turning a personal passion into a fully functional operation has required a different set of professional skills. As a solo fitness entrepreneur, she’s taken a classic “side hustle” and had to figure out the brand building that can make it something more.
Her YouTube series highlights body sculpting, strength, cardio training and dance, and she just finished shooting a new series on parent-and-child yoga. The free online courses have drawn exercisers from around the world, but they form one piece of the puzzle rather than an answer in and of themselves. As fitness trends evolve in the U.S. to include paid, free and sponsored work, entrepreneurs have to reinvent themselves along the way.
“There are days when it can be hard. You have to take an honest look at yourself and what’s working and what’s not,” Vokoun said.
She described a balance between strategic thinking and passion – not only for her own career, but also for clients trying to balance overwork and self-care.
The search for wellness
What does that search for wellness mean, in the Passion Fit context? Vokoun said she focuses on how fitness, eating and mindfulness work together to make life better for a person. She specializes in looking at how one can fit all three into an already over-busy life. Her dance-focused classes prioritize athletic, high-energy choreography that uses the entire body. Some of the parents who attend her Los Altos class only get an hour or two a week to themselves to work out – so Vokoun has to figure out how to fit a head-to-toe workout, touching every muscle group, into her hourlong classes.
A typical week might have a ’90s throwback class or a fusion set alternating between hip-hop and Bollywood dance. She sets her own choreography, with pop, jazz and Latin influences, to flow with a given piece of music and add unexpected moments to otherwise familiar routines.
Vokoun models what she preaches. She choreographs future classes in her Mountain View garage’s workout space, shared as a play space with her sons, and keeps a ballet barre and elliptical trainer in the bedroom for opportunistic 20-minute workouts first thing in the morning. Online workouts done at odd hours of the day help balance parenting, business and a continuing desire to exercise – a subject she blogs and speaks about, as well as fueling via YouTube.
“Nowadays you don’t need a big TV – you can do it on your phone,” she pointed out. “If you’ve deemed in your own mind that this is a priority, you will make it happen.”
For more information, visit passionfit.com.