WHY I COMPETE. WHY I NOSH.

It's is the one year anniversary of nosh bar

and June 30th, 2017 was the first day I delivered product to my very first official customer, Reformation Fitness in Washington, DC! Misook is co-owner of Reformation Fitness and is very special to me because first she was my fitness instructor, then she became my first nosh bar retail partner, then she became my teacher and boss when I started teaching spin at Reformation Fitness. Misook’s fitness resume is impressive and extensive. In this interview, you’ll get to learn all about how dental student becomes a competitor in national physique and fitness shows, what it takes to start two business without the business background to do so, and her thoughts on the fitness industry in DC and what advice she’d give to new trainers and to trainees. You’ll also hear the story of how nosh bar became a business and how Misook played a critical role in that – which she only learned when we sat down together.
 
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Since this interview is so long, below are some headings so you can skip around. Also, make sure you read down to the end to get a little treat for our one year anniversary!
 
-xoxo, Michele
 
SECTIONS
DENTISTRY TO FITNESS
TEACHING EXPERIENCE IN DC (FORMATS & LOCATIONS)
CLOSING FIRST BUSINESS/OPENING UP REFORMATION FITNESS
OPENING A BUSINESS – RISKS & REWARDS
FUTURE OF FITNESS INDUSTRY/THOUGHTS FOR TRAINERS & TRAINEES
LEAVING CORPORATE FOR FITNESS/HEALTH COACH INDUSTRY
NUTRITION FOR FITNESS
LIFE & FITNESS FOR A FITNESS INSTRUCTOR

Misook-studio-owner-reformation-fitness-washington-dc 
Michele: I brought nosh bar to you just as a little gift, which back then was called ‘theBAR.’. I packaged it in a clear bag tied tight with some string and a handwritten tag. I think I had started to think about food products, but I had no intention of selling a product yet. The next day I got an email from you saying ‘I LOVED THE BAR you left me!!! Packaging is super cute and it’s so much better than our bars [I won’t mention the name of the other bars ;)]. I would like an order please. Email me your marketing materials and we can get the word out.’ I actually freaked out and called my sister, who came up with the chocolate recipe, and our friend Cori, who eventually did all of the design, and I was like CORI WHAT ARE MARKETING MATERIALS??!!. The bars sold really well there and that’s when I realized it could be a business.
 
Misook: oh ok, so I was one of the first business owners to taste it?
 
Michele: you WERE the first business owner to taste it, the first to buy it, and it was you who told me it was a product that was good enough to sell! Because of you, there are nosh bars.
 
Misook: wow!! I didn’t know this! Yay! I think just by accident by picking me to taste it is probably one of the interesting parts about this because I’ve had plenty of bars, being in the fitness industry for over 22 years and a lot of coaches and trainers, we are back to back half the time, so we’re always having a bar to eat quickly and get us through the next couple of sessions. Yours just stood out. It wasn’t forcing this thick chunky thick mass into my mouth. It actually had texture, flavor, tasted natural and nuttier, versus coated with artificial flavoring to make it taste good. And it is satisfying. It can carry you through for a few hours. You definitely created a pretty good product that hit the spot.
 
Michele: I’m so glad! I’m told the trainers at other gyms that carry nosh bars are eating them when they have back to back classes.

DENTISTRY TO FITNESS 

Michele: What did you study and how did you get into the fitness industry?
 
Misook: I went to University of Maryland as a pre-dental major! I had my future already planned: I was going to be a dentist and then go into to orthodontics. I even know what practice I wanted to work at post-college. Then midway through my college experience, I was like, ‘I don’t want to look at teeth for the rest of my life!’ ha-ha! Anatomy became a part of my studies, which led me to kinesthesiology, thinking I’d go into physical therapy. But along the way, during college, I auditioned to teach. I never taught step aerobics, never taught kick boxing, but just knew that I wanted to do something active besides just studying and working. I auditioned at UMD to be an instructor at the student gym.
 
Michele: had you taken a bunch of classes there?
 
Misook: Ummm, I don’t think so.
 
Michele: You were just like, ‘I’m going to go teach…
 
Misook: I’m just going to go teach! I missed being active. I had a dance background and so I had been moving my entire life up until college. I took a seminar with the gym before the audition and ended up getting the teaching gig. Teaching classes became my hobby, and my love for it made me interested in learning other formats and getting certifications!
 
Michele: that happens to so many people! People who were athletes all their lives but then go to college and completely stop.
 
Misook: It’s stressful! The demands of college and the pressure from your family, and the next steps and goals in life you’re “supposed” to achieve.
 
Michele: That’s so true. I played team sports my entire life and when I went to college and didn’t play a sport there, I had to train myself to exercise alone. I didn’t take classes back then, but now I love taking classes and it brings back a team mentality.
 
Misook: 20 years ago, there weren’t as many studio classes to take. Now it’s not just for your workout, but people use classes to network for work and socially. It makes it much easier to make it a priority and a daily thing now, so it’s good times and I think it’s really exciting.
 
Michele: Didn’t you compete in body building competitions?
 
Misook: Sure did! I’m very much goal driven. I don’t just work out to have the extra meal or have the extra glass of wine, and even though that is a good reward, so I need something extra to work towards, and once I reach it, I find another goal to work towards. That’s been me forever. When I graduated college, and accomplished that, I needed a short-term goal. Right after college was when I did sport aerobics!
 
Michele: Is that like those videos of people wearing tights and reaching from side to side?
 

 
Misook: It’s like tumbling combined with aerobics. There are fun tricks, where you do a straddle jump and land into a push up. I had a technical coach that would teach me some fun, creative, intricate movements and a choreographer that put together a complication of music, into a 3 or 4-minute performance. It was fun.
 
Michele: wow that sounds really fun. And really challenging. It sounds like you use your entire body.
 
Misook: yea! It was a lot of fun. If you google sport aerobics – its terrible ha-ha – back then you’ll see the leotard and Reebok high top wearing athletes, really bad. Thankfully it kind of changed. It’s really big in Asia and in Europe, not so much in the states.
 
sport-aerobics-outfit-saved-by-the-bell 
Misook: From there I got into body building. I did sport aerobics, which was an individual sport. Placed bronze. And then did physique for several years. The first year I placed locally, which qualified me for nationals in California, which I won in my class! It was fun.

“Commitment – to see how far I can push myself. When you decide to commit to a competition, it requires discipline.”

Michele: What have you taken from that experience that you apply in your life and while you teach?

 
Misook: Commitment – to see how far I can push myself. It is definitely another part time job. Because when you decide to commit to a competition, it requires discipline. It also showed me the different types of training, which has helped with my career now. For example, my training program was very different for the fitness show versus the physique show but I saw the variations of training and what outcomes they had. It also taught me the importance of proper nutrition (for both physique and fitness): that’s like 80% of it.
 
Michele: Speaking of competition, can we please do an American Ninja Warrior in Blagden Alley?
 
Misook: American Ninja Warrior is SO hard to qualify for!! The last competition I did was right before my daughter, and my daughter is now 8. I did Nation’s Capital Physique show and placed 3rd there. And I competed for 6 years in total.
 
Michele: Did you want to compete again after your daughter was born?
 
Misook: That’s a good question! It didn’t cross my mind. I think like a year ago it did cross my mind for like a hot second. I just have too many other priorities!
 
Michele: Well now you own a business, and have an entire family.
 
Misook: I think that if you make it a priority, you can fit whatever you WANT in your schedule. If I really wanted to make it a priority to compete again, I suppose I could do it. But my list of priorities is just too important right now: kids, business, and continuing growth in all aspects of what’s already going on in my life.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE IN DC (FORMATS & LOCATIONS) 

Michele: Where did you teach in DC before you opened up Reformation Fitness?
 
Misook: After I graduated, I turned my hobby into a career. I taught at many different corporate gyms and personal trained privately, then became a group fitness coordinator for Golds Gym, which is how I got into the business end of it. I then became a master trainer for Les Mills, and kept growing my resume just because I was curious and wanted to know what else was out there. I was doing several years, over 10 years, of just doing programing for corporate gyms such as Energy Club, Golds Gym, Washington Sports Club. Managing their group exercise program, introducing small group training at a fee and generating money for corporate clubs that didn’t realize that group exercise could be a thing. Group Exercise was the perfect bridge between classes and personal training. Then I launched boot camps, which can go up to 50-60 people depending on how many coaches I had, and that generated a huge amount of dollars. At Vida, I introduced TRX, Pilates reformer, boot camps, and small group training and was generating revenue for them. In 2012, after having my son, I decided I was ready to see if I could do it for myself.
 
misook-kids-reformation-fitness-washington-dc

CLOSING FIRST BUSINESS/OPENING UP REFORMATION FITNESS

Michele: Ok so now you’re opening the studio. Were you and Mike (Misook’s business partner) always going to open the studio together?
 
Misook: Mike was actually one of my clients at Vida because he had some back pain and his doctor told him to do Pilates. He loved it and eventually got his certification and did some training with me. I left Vida to open my own studio, a decision I made while I was pregnant by the way ha-ha! I opened a spinning studio with someone who already owned the space on 14th St NW called Peloton, which means ‘pack of riders’ in French. Although I eventually sold my portion of it about one year after, it was a good experience because I learned the back end of running a business. But it was a hard struggle for sure. And from the get-go I think the partnership wasn’t there, which was the biggest challenge for me. Around the same time, Mike opened a Pilates studio in Shaw, at 9th and N NW. Mike and I would get together and just pow wow about business and talk about what we were struggling with. Mike taught me quite a bit and we made it through together the first year. A year in, I decided to sell because the partnership wasn’t there and Mike needed more people to teach reformer, so I said ‘why don’t I come help you?’ While I was phasing out of Peloton, I was helping Mike teach reformer, and from there, it organically grew. Mike’s Pilates studio was where District Pilates is now, and eventually the lease of the jewelry store next door was up and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to expand and try other formats. We opened that up, even while divided by a wall, and started teaching TRX and other studio classes. This is when we became business partners and when we opened Reformation Fitness.


reformation-fitness-washington-dc-studio-building-blagden-alley 
Michele: Yes, I remember that old space!
 
Misook: Our lease ran out before we were able to make it to our new space so we actually had to run classes out of where Urban Athletics currently is at the Convention Center! It was crazy times.
 
Michele: Yes, but you have a loyal customer base so everyone stuck with you guys through it.
 
Misook: You know, fitness is tricky. Fitness is everywhere now in DC. But you have to make it convenient for people to go. We knew we wanted to stay here, and thankfully we were about 100 lunges away from this space. I did the lunges and it is 100!

OPENING A BUSINESS – RISKS & REWARDS

Michele: that’s amazing! Opening a business can be so risky and scary.
 
Misook: I’m scared too. Still I’m scared. Mike and I are looking at other spaces and it scares the crap out of me. Like do we have the capital? Do we need investors? Do we need to take another loan out? Every step of the way it’s been a process. But taking that leap is just the leap of faith.
 
Michele: how much did you prepare before and how much was on the job learning?
 
Misook: I would say most of it was on the job, in the moment. You have to bounce the ideas back with a partner or people that you’re surrounded by: friends, family, someone who may know something. You just have to take that leap. 

FUTURE OF FITNESS INDUSTRY/THOUGHTS FOR TRAINERS & TRAINEES 

Michele: We touched on this before, but with the direction the fitness industry is going, what makes you excited and what makes you nervous? And that can include health as well, but if you have anything in particular, because people do talk about body image a lot.
 
Misook: What I love with what’s happening throughout fitness is that it’s not just a to-do, like a checklist, like you have to work out today. People actually do it because it’s fun, because it’s social, and they do it to network thing now instead of going to a bar or restaurant. I’m interested to see how fitness is going to constantly evolve and grow.

kettlebells-stand-reformation-fitness-washington-dc
Michele: We have all sorts of people now doing really high intensity classes that they might not be prepared for, or doing the right form.
 
Misook: Yes. What I always envisioned was a one-stop-shop for all fitness levels. Reformation Fitness offers four different programs, 4 different genres and 4 different levels. We tap into the various interest and levels and try to individualize the program based on their needs and likes. This goes back to the training and certification. One format is not going to get you to your ultimate goal. You have to have diversity to switch it up. And that’s what I always wanted to do, being able to offer all different formats so we do cater to various different levels. I wouldn’t throw someone who just got off the couch into a Metcon class. We have to get them to feel enjoyment before we throw them into an intimidating class. If they find moving is enjoyable, they’ll come back. And then you add more to that movement.
 
Michele: What piece of fitness wisdom would you give, that would apply to everyone. What do you see that people don’t do enough of, or motivation advice?
 
Misook: As a coach, what I would encourage or teach other coaches to introduce success into your students or clients and let them know that they are successful, THEN challenge. Always positive then negative because this is what helps people grow. They’re going to feel like they’re succeeding at something and so you celebrate it and encourage it. Then you give them a little push when they come back. I feed off the energy from my students which gives them energy back. And as a participant, just move to what makes your body feel best and don’t just come work out because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do. Find something that you’re doing that actually gives you some emotions, that you’re actually enjoying instead of looking at the clock, like OMG I have another 20 minutes to go. There are so many different programs out there and you’ll find something you love. And once you find that you’ll be able to grow into other fitness options. It can take a year or it can take two years. I feel like there’s something out there for everybody. Like don’t put ME in a running class. I hate running.
 
Michele: ha-ha that’s a well-known fact here.
 
Misook: you can write this down: I HATE RUNNING.
 
rowing-machine-metcon-reformation-fitness-washington-dc

LEAVING CORPORATE FOR FITNESS/HEALTH COACH INDUSTRY 

Michele: Also, there are people now who want to leave their corporate jobs to become fitness instructors or health coaches or something. What would you tell those people?
 
Misook: I would tell them that definitely do it if your heart is telling you and you actually absolutely love this industry. It is a very rewarding career and it doesn’t feel like work half the time. If you’re getting all of that, it’s probably a good move. But don’t make it a one trick pony. Don’t just stick to one program. There is so much out there – continue to grow your fitness resume. Even if you’re not going to get certified, at least try everything a few times.

NUTRITION FOR FITNESS 

Michele: I always like to ask people why they nosh. Why nosh bar, but more importantly, why do you lead a healthy life style. And that doesn’t mean healthy all the time, healthy means you know, having an emotionally healthy and non-punishing relationship with food as well. Why does a healthy lifestyle help you accomplish what you need to do every day?
 
Misook: Since I’m in the fitness industry, my entire everything from nutrition to workouts to your mental being, all that kind of fits into a whole pod, into one thing. Nutrition is huge. Sadly, you can work out every day of the week and if you don’t eat properly you’re never going to get your goals. Nutrition has to be a good 75-80% of what you do and what you focus on. With nosh bars, it really does add that little extra umph that you need, like if you’re starving or in between meals, you need a snack, it really does satisfy what you’re craving at the moment. And it’s also very whole. Its natural. It does not taste at all artificial. It’s kind of like eating a handful of almonds, and dried fruit, and that gives you exactly the energy that you need. All of that kind of ties into it. If you eat properly you move better. If you move better you have the better state of mind. And then your mind becomes more positive and happier overall. So that is a continual circle and if you continue to live like that day to day. 

LIFE & FITNESS OF A FITNESS INSTRUCTOR

Michele: I want to know what a typical day looks like for you, when do you work out, and what’s your workout of choice?
 
Misook: My typical day, sad to say, Monday through Sunday, my alarm is ALWAYS set. Ha-ha. Even though my body wakes up before the alarm, I always set it just in case. So 4:30 wake up call, get to the studio by 5:30. While I’m in the car, I have one hard-boiled egg and one piece of cheese. I hard boil my eggs every Sunday and have them for a week. I don’t like coffee, so I do have an energy drink, which I’m trying to cut back on ha-ha. A Rockstar or Monster. And it’s probably killing me from the inside. By 6am I’m this happy, wired, energized coach ready to go. I have classes and teach between 6 and noon, then if I have an hour in the afternoon I try to answer some emails, go through some business in MindBody, and try to take care of anything else. I wish I had a longer span where I could sit in front of the computer, but at the end of the day I pick up my son, feed him, give him an iPad, ‘omg I know it’s so bad,’ then log in and get some more work done, pick up my daughter, then get her fed or give her a snack, then running around to put the kids in sport or teaching more classes.

misook-reformation-fitness-kids
Michele: wow so that’s a long day. What time do you go to bed?
 
Misook: anywhere between 9 and 10, after I get the kids fed, bathed, do homework or reading with them.
 
Michele: do you ever go out and like eat dinner with people your own age?
 
Misook: I LOVEEE my family time dinner with my kids. I have to say going out doesn’t happen much, but I do try to schedule it. My day off is every Sunday afternoon I have scheduled family time which I love.
 
Michele: When do you fit your fitness in?
 
Misook: My workouts!  It can be many things. I can drop into a class at Reformation Fitness. If I’m not teaching a 6am, I’ll go to a 6am class. Or I’ll fit one in later in the morning or after I pick my son up and will work out in Virginia. I try to get my workouts in under an hour because my day is scheduled by the hour. I work out most weeks 5 days and if I can get 6 that’s a good week.
 
Michele: Why do YOU work out? 
 
Misook: Oh, good one. Since I don’t have a certain goal I’m working towards now, I actually do it because it’s my time to clear my mind and puts me in a better mood and it’s my time for myself. I also like to do our program here, the metcon program so I can relate and share with our members what they should be feeling and also know that I’m also human and that I’ve done it too and it sucked for me. You can’t talk the talk or walk the walk if you don’t do it yourself.

reformation-fitness-washington-dc-spin-cycling
Michele: That’s the one thing with like when I’m teaching spin. I always have an internal debate about being on the bike or getting off and not being on the bike and being there for them on the floor. But part of me is wanting to make sure I’m giving them a good work out too by doing it myself, but I also want to make sure I’m there for them to talk to them and encourage them, which can be hard to do on the bike, it can be hard to be on the bike and focus on what I need to say to keep them working their hardest.
 
Misook: It can depend on the format of the class too, so spin class, I would teach it very much on a timer, where you don’t have to be on the bike, but if you’re in a rhythm based class so you can be on the beat, so if they get off the beat they can look up at the instructor and see what beat they should be on. And if you’re doing it, it motivates them to do it. It really depends on the format. Like in metcon, as much as there are many times where I want to jump in it, I’d be more effective if I’m watching and giving little movement adjustments here and there to help them through the work out.
 
Michele: ok now this is actually the last one. do you have any sort of food in your diet that you do every day?
 
Misook: I like consistency. If I don’t have my 6 eggs boiled on Sunday night or if I don’t get to it Monday, I’m pretty messed up for the week. I always have my eggs and cheese.
 
Michele: What kind of cheese do you eat?
 
Misook: I just get a mozzarella string cheese.
 
Michele: omg I love string cheese!
 
Misook: Me too! So that’s my breakfast. I have a banana, which I’m going to have soon (11am), some sort of turkey wrap with greens is my lunch. Like if I don’t prepare that in the middle of the day I’m screwed for the next day. I also eat Territory Foods. What I can’t leave out is chicken though. My weakness is carbs, I love rice with everything. While I love to eat chicken and broccoli. My weakness is rice. Shocker huh?!
 
Michele: Only you can make that joke. That was so fun. Thank you for sitting down with me!
 
Misook: Anytime! This was a lot of fun and I am so excited for your journey as well. We’re learning as we go.
 
Michele: If people waited for their product to be perfect before bringing it to market, they'd never get there.
 
Misook: Such is life. Our biggest things in life: career, choosing a partner, having kids, I was never ready for any of it and it was never perfect but somehow it always worked out. Just do it and you make it work. And then you look back and you’re like ‘Oh, I survived that!’
 
Misook is the owner of and is a trainer at Reformation Fitness in Washington, DC. She loves goji berry and peanut nosh bars. To celebrate our one year anniversary, we’re giving away a discount on goji berry and peanut nosh bars! Use code ‘oneyear’ at checkout from now until July 7th, 2018.