What happens when a success-driven Manhattan girl abruptly leaves her international marketing career to get back to her fitness roots?
She transforms the lives of thousands of women, builds a highly successful independent boot camp and becomes a lunar force in the rising tide of professionalism of the industry.
Lindsay Vastola fueled an early fire for fitness in the gym with her dad when she was 14. In high school and college, she worked as a volunteer student athletic trainer for a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic. She loved helping an 80-year-old woman rehab after a hip replacement as well as assisting elite athletes to get back on the field or court after season-ending injuries. Vastola was intrigued by the human body and found satisfaction in seeing the body heal and improve.
But at 20, following a passion in helping others didn't seem prestigious enough, so Vastola majored instead in international politics, focusing on Japanese relations.
After graduation, she was quickly snatched up by a New York City international marketing and communications firm. Vastola earned fast promotions and soon was managing a 32-million-dollar division and 25 employees. She worked long days, had a two-hour commute into the city each way, traveled often and practically slept with her BlackBerry.
Vastola had found the prestige and visible success she was looking for, but fulfillment and a driving sense of purpose were glaringly absent.
Five years later, in 2006, she made an abrupt decision to leave her job. She was about to get married and realized that she didn't like the way her future looked on its current course. She knew that if she didn't leave that job then, the chains of money and prestige would bind even tighter.
"When I made the decision to finally pursue a career as a fitness professional, I knew that it would not be part-time," says Vastola. "In my mind, it was all or nothing. Leaving a guaranteed paycheck opened the door for me to satisfy my inner-entrepreneur, and my passion for fitness was the ideal catalyst for success."
With no job, no money and a wedding three months away, Vastola dove into getting a personal trainer certification and voraciously consumed all the health, fitness and business information she could get. Having worked out in gyms across the country when she travelled for her corporate job, she was familiar with the "typical gym trainer," an image that didn't appeal to her much. She says she was convinced that she had something bigger to offer the world.
So with $624 in a savings account she opened back in high school, Vastola bought a few sets of dumbbells and a stability ball and filled her VW Jetta with gas, ready to travel to clients' homes as their new personal trainer. It was early 2007 and Vastola had just conjured up her business name, "Body Project," while watching the movie School of Rock. Her brother, a graphic designer, helped her design a logo, and suddenly her business felt real.
Vastola's first act of business was spending $15 on a local networking luncheon.
"I remember walking into the luncheon visualizing myself as a confident established expert, not as a novice business owner," says Vastola. "I am more than just a personal trainer... I am a fitness professional."
The following week, Vastola spent $250 on an advertorial article in a local women's newspaper. The next day, she received a call from her first client. Two days later, she had four clients (all of whom are still with Vastola today). She walked away from her first client consultation with a check for more than her $624 in "start-up funds" and she knew she was on her way.
Within six months, Vastola had a full book of clients, was driving more than 500 miles each week and was working as many hours as she had as corporate manager. She loved one-on-one training but realized quickly that her hours were finite and she could not help thousands of people change their lives if she continued to drive door-to-door.
One day, while listening in her car to business/industry experts on CD, Vastola had an epiphany: In order to meet her audacious goal of improving the health of thousands (or millions) of people, she needed to move out of one-on-one personal training, offer group training, build a strong team and invest in working with business coaches.
So, nearly a year after founding Body Project, Vastola hired her first employee, based solely on trust in her vision and faith. Three months later, Body Project launched its first four-week boot camp... and it sold out. The early success with the boot camp proved Vastola's hunch, that boot camps were the best platform to make personal training affordable, offer a positive alternative to the typical gym atmosphere, produce amazing results and give back to the local community.
"I had this instinct that I could take what I was offering in personal training and make it work in a group setting," says Vastola. "I never thought about buying into a cookie-cutter boot camp system."
After six months of sold-out boot camps, Body Project opened a second location. Vastola says she initially thought women would do a four-week camp periodically but found that many of their clients were committed long-term and were practically begging for a year-round program of accountability, support and the out-of-the-box services she offered. Body Project then created a very successful membership program, which marked the evolution of the boot camp into a true community, rather than just a "fitness class."
Vastola moved aggressively into opening a third boot camp location. She quickly hired a newly certified trainer and failed to do adequate demographic research on the location. Vastola didn't have the time or the systems in place to equip the new trainer with the tools and knowledge to make the camp a success. The camp failed and Body Project lost a lot of money on advertising and a long-term lease on a facility.
Vastola analyzed her mistakes and made corrections. She eventually opened a very successful third location with a newly hired -- and well-trained -- trainer. Body Project boot camps continue to grow and evolve, offering services beyond a typical boot camp. Grocery tours, a membership site, teleseminars, coaching calls and group events are just some of the perks Body Project campers receive.
"I really thought of it as personal training made accessible to all," says Vastola.
Body Project now employs seven people -- six trainers and one assistant -- and is on track to open a fourth location in fall 2011.
Vastola herself is creating a special blend of her two lives -- the corporate world and fitness entrepreneurship -- in her upcoming project. She is working with a team to launch a new brand focusing on coaching and mentoring career and success-driven women to take their careers and business goals to the next level using fitness as their catalyst to success.
In doing so, she also hopes to elevate the fitness profession that she loves.
"There is a common public perception that we are just 'exercise teachers,'" says Vastola, "not fitness professionals. Too many people look at becoming a fitness trainer as a nice side job because they like working out and don't embrace the opportunity to be a healthcare professional with the great responsibility of changing a person's life as a qualified expert and coach. "My hope is that we as an industry earn the public's respect as fitness professionals."
Founder and PresidentBody Project Fitness & Health
Certifications: International Sports Sciences Association, CFT
Education: American University, Washington, DC
Contact Info:phone: 609.336.0108email: firstname.lastname@example.org: www.bodyprojectfitness.com