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When the world turns upside down: Fighting for fitness (and community) through the pandemic

Lisa Hirsch-Solomon successfully captained her fitness studios through the pandemic, fueled by love and a dedication to making her community and clients’ lives better with each class.

Welcome back to #RedefiningFitness! I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ve invited a friend or two as well. 

If you’re new here, or we aren’t connected on LinkedIn, this newsletter is a dedicated space to share wisdom, shout-out people doing amazing work (like you), and support each other in making the world a better and more fulfilling place, one small community at a time.

Each issue highlights a fitness studio/owner who's making cool moves in their community and helping to redefine fitness beyond the confines of the studio or gym. And this month is no exception – I’m honored to share my friend and fellow fitness leader Lisa Hirsch-Solomon, owner/founder of The Studio (MDR). 

Okay, let's get to it!

March Studio Highlight: Lisa Hirsch-Solomon and The Studio (MDR)

I’m incredibly pleased to highlight one of my favorite people in the industry, THE Lisa Hirsch-Solomon, Founder/CEO of The Studio (MDR)

Before she became the fitness entrepreneur we know and love, Lisa was a successful executive in the music industry in New York City, where she grew up. In 2007, she moved to LA wanting a change. But what didn’t change was Lisa’s love for movement and fitness. She was the epitome of the “workout queen.”

And in LA she started to truly reconnect with her passion for fitness. During her music business days, working out had been Lisa’s private escape from the chaos of her demanding career. 

However, after moving to LA and discovering the benefits of the Lagree Method, she saw the transformative effects it had on her energy, mood and body, and a light bulb went off.

At the time Lisa was managing through epilepsy and used the study of physical training and nutrition to make her life easier. The results she experienced became a catalyst for change in all areas of her life, encouraging her to make the leap to fitness entrepreneur. 

Lisa’s years of experience managing client relationships and nurturing new business opportunities gave her a head start as she started her new studio. 

But would it work? Happily, the answer was yes. 

Lisa launched the first The Studio (MDR) location in 2011, and despite the pandemic, there are now five. Now that’s the kind of resilience and success we wish for everyone! 

Her vision of creating a safe and comfortable space that not only allowed people to work out, but that was also a refuge where people could feel good, supported and empowered remains the ethos of The Studio (MDR). In 12+ years, Lisa's built a thriving community of loyal clients as well as interested newcomers, with plans for continued expansion. 

She kindly let me interview her for this issue, and I hope you enjoy learning about Lisa and her incredible studios as much as I enjoyed catching up with her. 

Navigating Covid and Coming Back Stronger with Lisa Hirsch-Solomon

Covid was devastating to many small business/studio owners, and many didn’t come out the other side. How did community play a role in the success of The Studio (MDR) through and beyond 2020?

"Covid was certainly a challenge. We tried to take one day at a time, make good decisions and keep our employees’ best interests in mind while doing everything in our power to protect the long-term viability of our business.

Our success in working with our landlords in securing outdoor space, enabling us to generate some revenue and keep our employees on staff, was probably the turning point that gave us confidence in our ability to persevere during the pandemic.

In addition, it was our caring community of clients and staff who encouraged us to find a way to stay open and provide them with the atmosphere to help release their pent-up tensions and fears of Covid through exercise.

On your site you say, “The Studio (MDR) is more than a workout studio, it’s a destination for lifestyle and wellness.” How do you see fitness being part of a much larger wellness movement? 

Fitness is only part of the greater goal of wellness. At The Studio (MDR), we strive to create an environment that allows people with all different aspirations in their fitness pursuits to be part of a supportive and welcoming community.

Whether they are competitive athletes, weekend warriors, people working to improve their health or just having fun, the studio and its workout serve to satisfy a large group of diverse humans with common goals.   

How do you build such meaningful community in your studios? What do you look for in trainers to help facilitate this dynamic? 

Dedication and commitment must come from the heart. Having confidence in a client’s ability to grow and rise to the challenge of the workout, is part of this obsessed culture. The teachers must be able to work with and be considerate of all levels of clients in each class. Every client needs to feel as though they are the most fantastic human in the room and, most of all, given that this is such an intense workout, they should feel safe and have fun at the same time!  

In addition to our powerful workouts, I believe the atmosphere in our studios really separates us from the rest and provides something unique for every person, whether a beginner or an expert. We enable people to achieve the transformation that they are seeking without the impact and pounding of so many other workout styles. 

Our goal since day one has been to create a peaceful haven for people looking to make a positive change in their lives and feel comfortable while doing so. We keep our class sizes small, so our clients feel like they are getting personal training in a group setting. Our clients always feel and sense our depth of caring.

I feel what sets us apart is how we strive to make the customer feel welcomed, seen and cared for, which has allowed us to create the incredible community that people want to keep coming back to."

It sounds like The Studio (MDR) really brings people together. Have you seen that grow into even deeper support or community beyond the classes?

For years, The Studio (MDR) has served as a respite for many with illnesses, going through separations, job lay-offs, or generally suffering very hard times. It is a safe haven where there is no judgment, and you can come and chat with people or be by yourself for just a few minutes a day and walk out feeling like a weight was lifted off your shoulders.

It is a special sight to see when someone walks out the door and clicks their heels together (for real) with joy saying that “The Studio just made my day!” It makes my heart melt knowing we could help another human feel that sense of light and happiness.  


What can I say? This woman is the REAL DEAL, and her dedicated studio community is a reflection of that. 

If you’re in the Marina del Rey area, check out The Studio (MDR) and tell Lisa hello for me. I have a feeling you won’t regret taking one of her classes. 😉

If you own or attend a studio that you think should be featured in an upcoming issue, please reply to this email and share the details - I want to hear what's good in your corner of the world!

The latest on LinkedIn

I'm writing articles on LinkedIn, and you should check them out if you want more industry thought leadership and insights. 

This most recent one, "When Studio Owners Become Political Leaders: Navigating Community Unrest," is about the leadership and political struggle studio owners faced when BLM protests erupted in June of 2020 during the height of Covid. 

Eighty percent of boutique fitness studio owners are white women. And suddenly, their businesses and the communities that sustained them were thrown into chaos and division, and they found themselves in the role of diplomat, leader, problem-solver, and guide…on a topic none of them had ever prepared for.

Many of these women wanted to stand up and be vocal about their support for the protests. Many didn’t. Regardless of their perspectives, they knew some, many, or even all of their studio members felt differently and would walk away if they didn’t like the politics of the owner. 

It was a tense time. Social issues suddenly became a part of business building that owners who had never signed up to be activists (on either side) struggled with on a daily basis. 

It was a challenging and interesting time, and it highlighted just how impactful these micro-communities of studios and fitness clubs can be.

If you're a studio owner, you're a community leader.

Whether you knew that when you signed up or not, it's the privilege and responsibility you now hold. What will you do with it? 

Read it now, and if you have your own experiences navigating political unrest as a community leader or have thoughts/reactions to the article, please share in the comments!

Until next time

I hope you enjoyed this issue and were inspired by Lisa’s story and commitment to #RedefiningFitness for all, no matter who they are or where they are in their journey, to make the world better one workout at a time. That’s what it’s about! 

If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that here — make sure you don't miss future newsletters! You can also forward this to friends who need inspiration, too. 

I'll be back in April with another studio highlight and some epic, industry-revolutionizing innovations my company, FitGrid, is rolling out. You don't want to miss it. See you then!

Be well,Nt