EcoTrek focuses on fitness outdoors. How did you get the idea for it?
I had already been a personal trainer for several years and personal trainers have to keep up their continuing education credits. I had been through the youth fitness and senior fitness. I was going through the categories I had already done and at the very bottom of the list was an 'outdoor action certificate.' So I clicked on that and it ended up being this three-day workshop at the Nike headquarters in Oregon.
So, it all started because of a little box.
All these trainers were doing running groups in the outdoors and I thought, "Michigan is so cool and we have all these opportunities; not just along Lake Michigan. Our trail system is awesome, our parks system is so cool, why not try to get people outdoors and use what we have right here?" I took a group of girlfriends out ... and it went really well that first time and kind of grew from there.
You founded EcoTrek in 2006. How has it grown in the past eight years?
The EcoTrek Fitness Bars, that's really grown quite a bit. Once I got them into all the Meijer stores, people jumped right on board and liked them. They're healthy, but they also taste good. That has been my main focus lately, just building that brand. ... I also get contacted at least once a week by trainers who want EcoTrek in their town. So, we're growing it that way, too.
What do you think people enjoy about outdoor fitness?
Everyone's going, going, going and constantly connected to technology. Focusing more on nature connects you more to the earth and it just feels healthier, too. When you go to the gym, people have their ear buds in and they're zoning out and not communicating with other people. When you're outdoors and you're with someone, you're basically forced to talk to them -- or you can be in your own quietness. But it's just good to come back to the earth.
You do EcoTrek sessions year-round. What are benefits to participating in the winter?
I don't know if it's been proven or not, but it really feels like your immune system is stronger when you get outside in the winter. Just being in that fresh air and not being in a stuffy atmosphere. ... And there's something about it that makes you feel a little youthful when you're outside playing. When you're stomping in rain puddles or stepping your boots into snow.
What else do people get out of an EcoTrek session?
The terrain is different each time and we have several locations within the series, so it's not like we're meeting in the same park or trail each time. We've divided it into flexibility, strength training and cardio, so it becomes a well-rounded workout. And the strength training is all body weight exercises and we bring along the resistance bands. The camaraderie is really cool as well.
What kind of fitness level do you have to be to do EcoTrek?
It's for all fitness levels. Sometimes I meet people and they say, "I'm going to have to work out before I see you," but that's not the point. We're all different fitness levels. It's not like there are a bunch of Marathon Marys there running the trails. We've got people fresh off the couch, too!