ONE-ON-ONE WITH LORI LOWELL

JUNE 15, 2020

Upon returning home from graduating college with a degree in Dance from the University of South Florida, Lori Lowell began to dance with some local D.C. area dance companies after working in her day job with the lobbying group for Nike shoes on Capitol Hill. Coincidentally, it was a time when Nike was launching its fitness shoe and clothing line and she was given the side job of distributing the brand’s clothing and shoes to the fitness studios and gyms in the DC metropolitan area. That was the beginning of her exposure to the world of fitness and here she tells FIBO Focus of her journey to becoming the owner of seven Gold’s Gym locations in northern Virginia and the founder of the Drishti Beats music concept.

Please take us on your journey into the fitness business.

Entering into the fitness world working witssssssh Nike was really the moment of my absolute certainty that the fitness industry was my destiny. I never turned back. I soon became a group fitness instructor and director for a chain of clubs in the Northern Virginia area, followed by my husband, Jeremy, and I becoming a partner in one gym in 1995. In 1996 our partner decided to de-brand and become a licensee for Gold’s Gym. 

So that’s how the Gold’s Gym connection began?

My husband and I were quickly catapulted into the world of Gold’s Gym and it was an absolute amazing brand with phenomenal energy and passion by the licensors and our locations still have the same feeling as it did in 1996. It wasn’t long before I took on the role of National Group Fitness Director for Gold’s Gym International, continued to grow our own franchise clubs, became a Les Mills national trainer and presenter, and a speaker for the fitness industry focusing on programming. I immersed myself into the world of program development and club operations. 

That’s a full resume.

The journey has been and still is amazing. I feel strongly that I have the best partnership group in the world. We love our gyms and our communities and we continue to operate with passion even through COVID. We are steadfast in coming out of this stronger and better than before and we laugh with each other through thick and thin. My partnership group is smart and I’m proud to be a part of this esteemed group.

So what motivates you today?

I have the opportunity to constantly reinvent myself and move in various directions in the industry that keep me inspired and bring me joy.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It is giving those that work with me the opportunity to find their passion and realize their potential. I love taking our group ideas and bringing them to fruition. I love the idea of doing something with our team that is collaborative and goal oriented. I love giving those I serve opportunities. 

How about your least favorite part of being in this business?

That is watching the industry at-large devalue the fitness product and wonder how we allowed this to happen. It’s unnerving.

What do you look for in hiring the people who work with you?

When hiring people, I look for those that are willing to truly think and have creative ideas and are ready to jump in and give it a whirl. Most importantly I look for people that want to make a difference for the better with their co-workers and our members.

Is it difficult finding that combination in people?

It’s simple. Our business is simple and if one is fortunate enough to find their space in fitness it is the most fabulous career in the world with great rewards on so many levels.

How about your own fitness routine these days.

My own fitness routine consists of yoga, weight training and indoor cycling, specifically our own developed product MOi Cycle, religiously every day. I love to exercise and I love to teach yoga.

On a topical note, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted business at your gyms and your interaction with your clients?

During the pandemic we have completely revamped our clubs with hard-working employees who have shown up every day making enhancements. We are so proud of the progress we have made, and we know that our members are excited to come back. I truly can’t wait to reopen on June 12th. We are ready.

What specific steps have you taken to prepare for reopening?

We have tried to do everything possible to ensure that when we do open we will have all precautions in place to provide as safe an environment as possible. I think if we stay focused and have our landlords work with us we can and will recover. We just need some time to get our business back up to the same operating revenue platform that we had before. 

How do you do that?

We will simply dig in and fight the fight that we need to. Our life work for years has been put into these clubs; we need to recover. Our partners, specifically Joe Harrison and Sandy Hall and my husband Jeremy, have just done an amazing job with staying focused on reopening. 

How would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States, both pre- and post-COVID-19? What is the industry going to need to do to recover from all of this?

The fitness industry was not as strong pre-COVID than what it appeared to have been. I’m surprised to see so much Chapter 11 happening with so many chains. The truth comes out, right? I don’t know, I just know something is wrong. 

What is your solution?

My true feeling is that if we compete against ourselves, we win. But if we compete against the competition we lose. I just truly feel that way, so I am focusing on our members and our gyms.

How do you do that as the business struggles to reopen?

It’s so fun to be creative and have fun with our members and business. It’s amazing to still be a small company and truly immerse ourselves into creating experiences and sharing stories with our members. I am going to stick with why I entered into the business to begin with — passion, commitment, program development for success and partner collaboration. I have amazing colleagues and I truly do hope that we all can come back and get ahead on the backside of this.

What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. fitness business?

FIBO USA seems to be making its mark. It is young, fresh and liberal. I love that. It is open for new creative ideas. It’s fun to see what they are doing. 

What one piece of advice would you give to other club owners or trainers on how to be better – and make more money – in the fitness business?

One piece of advice or two — be creative and avoid getting stuck in the protocols of others.

And …

Be your own boss and celebrate the joy of fitness by helping people and making their lives better through fitness and community. Be adamant about creating the space and providing amazing experiences that are right for you and your vision.   

That’s an exciting way to look at this business.

Big risk, big reward — big risk, big loss. Who knows? But “Give It All,” which just happens to be the name of our next Drishti Beats music track being released on International Yoga Day, June 21.

The Drishti Beats Goes On

Drishti Beats is Lori Lowell’s labor of love.

Having a strong musical and yoga background, in 2014 she and her husband, Jeremy, along with their daughter (vocalist) Ariel, son (producer, conscious rapper) Alec, and son (graphic designer) Ian decided to create a band with other musicians to produce music specifically for their yoga classes. 

They quickly got on the festival circuit, released music on all music platforms (downtempo electronic chill, with live musical elements) and began teaching yoga classes with their band on stage at EDM style music festivals. They have traveled the world performing and teaching.

In addition, both Lori and Jeremy are E-RYT 500 yoga teachers and have developed the Drishti Beats Yoga Teacher Training RYT-200 and RYT-300 hour yoga teacher training, both live and online. 

Their Gold’s Gym locations provide them with the opportunity to build an entire yoga platform, train instructors who are on their schedule and facilitate trainings at its locations.

“It has been an amazing project and currently our online platform has trainees immersed in our training from all over the world,” Lowell says. “If we can make our yoga programs thrive in a Gold’s Gym, we can do it anywhere and our Drishti Beats Yoga classes are standing-room-only and really dive deep into true traditional Vinyasa Flow with wonderful contemporary vibes.”

She explains that Drishti Beats is becoming a lifestyle brand with music, yoga training, festivals combining to create a “beautiful and mindful brand.”

Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the growth of the concept, thanks to the cooperation of Yoga Alliance accrediting Online Yoga Teacher Trainings. “We have so many trainees immersing themselves wholeheartedly in our Yoga Teacher Training,” Lowell says. “We are humbled.”