Lisa Druxman knows intimately how life's tough decisions often create a perfect solution that remains hidden until moment of choice becomes unbearable. The founder and CEO of Stroller Strides, one of the nation's fastest growing franchises, Druxman's life in fitness seemed to be headed to a screeching halt when she had her first baby in 2001.

Like many moms, she adored her career until the day the nurse laid that precious baby into her arms. Druxman cringed at the idea of a day care raising her child, but with a background in fitness, she knew she had more to share with the world.

Doorway to a Dream Job
Druxman's passion for fitness ignited during her undergraduate days. She didn't want to trade study time for a minimum wage job, and she was already taken many group ex classes every week, Druxman started teaching aerobics as a way to make some money during her workouts.

Working for a large chain club for a couple of years, Druxman decided she wanted to add to her group ex capabilities by becoming a personal trainer. She took the club's training program but also became ACE-certified. She was quickly promoted from trainer to fitness director to general manager, all while climbing the ladder to a masters degree in psychology, studying lifestyle weight management and exercise adherence.

Even though she loved the training and management jobs with the chain club, her dream job was at "the" club in San Diego, The Sporting Club Aventine.

"It was beautiful," says Druxman. "It had the best trainers, the best classes, etc. But the trainers had tons of experience, and it was very tough to get into."

Druxman sent her resume several times to The Sporting Club Aventine but never got a response. One day, she took her resume in and asked to speak with the fitness director. Druxman figured, if nothing else, at least the fitness director could place a face with the resume, and it would be harder to ignore.

The fitness director was in a bind that day, however, and needed someone immediately who was willing to open the club at 4:45 AM. Druxman eagerly volunteered and started her new job at her dream club the next day.

"I had the least experience," she says, "but was willing to do what others were not. I worked hard and was super passionate about my work."

Within six months, Druxman was helping the struggling fitness director and was promoted to fitness director's assistant. Shortly thereafter, she became the fitness director and managed the whole fitness team and all the fitness activities.

She held that position for six years until 1997, when the club was bought out by a larger company. She was then promoted to general manager of the entire club. She was 27 and the youngest GM in the history of the company.

Druxman says she learned both fitness and business as general manager. She learned everything from budgets to marketing, from PR to consulting.

"I owe what I know about the fitness business to this amazing experience," she says.

Oh, Baby!
Riding high at the top of her game in 2000, Druxman got some life-altering news. She was pregnant. "I was both thrilled and devastated," she recalls. "I had always wanted to be a mom, but I also loved my work. I could not see a way to be the mom I wanted to be while in this 60-hours-a-week position."

Druxman continued to work until the day she gave birth and then took a three-month maternity leave. “My maternity leave was so precious to me," she says. "I didn't want to miss one moment with my sweet baby boy, so I created a workout that I could do with him. It was our best hour of the day. I was happy, and he was happy."

But Druxman says that by doing the workouts alone, she was missing the connection with other people, especially other mothers. So she started an exercise class "based on mothers, babies and strollers" in her neighborhood. She figured she could help other moms get their body back, and they could answer some of the many questions she faced as a new mother.

The class was a hit, and it didn't take the forward-thinking, willing-to-do-what-others-won't Druxman long to see the potential of such a class. She knew she could turn this single class into a thriving business that would facilitate both ambition and family. She decided not to return to her old job.

"It still gives me goose bumps to visit a Stoller Strides class," says Druxman. "This class is so much more than a fitness program for these moms. It's a lifeline. They are being such great roles models for their kids.

"Our mission is to help moms make strides in fitness, motherhood and life," Druxman continues. "Staying true to this mission has helped us define our choices in our business."

Big Strides and Balance
In 2001, Druxman opened 12 Stroller Strides locations in San Diego. Two years later, she licensed the program in 10 locations across the country. Druxman says she later discovered that a licensing agreement wasn't appropriate for the business, and she spent a lot of money converting over to the franchise agreement that Stroller Strides now offers.

Stroller Strides is now one of the fastest growing franchises in the US and has more than 1,000 locations nationwide.

As Druxman continues to build her business, she, like all the moms she serves, struggles to find a healthy balance of all the demands placed on today's women. "I carve out purposeful time for each important area in my life: marriage, kids, work and me," she notes.

Druxman says she and her husband plan a date night at the beginning of each month, and they do the same with each one of their kids. At the beginning of each week, Druxman also schedules her own workouts.

"There is never enough time," she says. "You have to make time for each area that is important. It is a constant struggle and a journey I am on, just like everyone else."

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