IDEA Member Profile: Karen O' Brien
Member Since 1983
The movie Kramer vs. Kramer was a box office hit, Margaret Thatcher was named Britain’s first female prime minister and Michael Jackson had four top 10 hits from his Off the Wall album. The year was 1979, and Karen O’Brien—a nurse—was starting to teach fitness classes at a YMCA in Prescott, a small town in Arizona. Three years later, in 1982, she began teaching an “aerobic dance” class at a community college—the first of its kind at the college. Karen, who was the only instructor teaching aerobic dance in Prescott at the time, found it difficult to network with other fitness professionals. That all changed in 1983 when she attended Fitcamp in San Diego, where Karen met IDEA founder Kathie Davis. Karen has been an IDEA member ever since and has attended all but three of our conventions.
Over the past 19 years as an active IDEA member, Karen has always appreciated the networking and educational opportunities offered through the association. Karen’s favorite thing about being an IDEA member is the ongoing, continuing education available through the magazines and events. “IDEA really has encouraged members to share ideas and expand their abilities,” she says.
By 1987, Karen had increased her hours teaching fitness at the community college and added stretch and aqua classes to the curriculum. She had stopped working as a nurse by then. “I had burned out on nursing,” she explains. “I found fitness more rewarding because I could contribute more in a group setting.”
Several of Karen’s older group exercise participants began asking her for more personalized training, so in 1996, Karen became certified as a personal fitness trainer. She found personal training even more rewarding than group fitness because she could spend time working with clients one-on-one or two or three at a time.
Despite her many years as a fitness professional, Karen has never experienced burnout in her fitness career. “I love the individual contact, seeing clients change as they became more at ease with their bodies and with themselves,” says Karen. Even though she has given a lot of herself over the years, she has reaped her own rewards. “I’ve gotten so much more back just seeing clients improve—and this kept me going. That’s one of the reasons why I never burned out.” Karen’s love of fitness hasn’t been lost on her family either. She’s proud to report that her daughter is a physical education teacher.
Although she’s “officially” retired now, Karen hasn’t slowed down too much. She’s always on call to substitute teach at three local fitness centers and, in fact, she’s been “substitute” teaching a Monday evening class for the last six months. Karen still trains a few clients as well, which makes her husband wonder if she’s retired at all. She enjoys going to the gym herself and recently started taking yoga and Pilates classes.
O’Brien has noticed that over the years, the emphasis has moved from bodybuilding to healthy lifestyles, mind-body awareness and the quantity and quality of life. She recalls how hard it was to get people into a stretching and flexibility class she started in 1979. O’Brien is pleased to report that’s not the case today as yoga and Pilates grow in popularity and more people realize the importance of flexibility.
“I credit IDEA with enabling me to grow professionally over the past 19 years, to change with the times, avoid burnout and always strive to be a better fitness professional,” says O’Brien.
Editor’s Note: As part of IDEA’s continuing 20th anniversary coverage, we will be periodically profiling longtime IDEA members throughout the year. If you would like to be considered for inclusion in a future issue, please send a brief description and a photo to Diane Lofshult, IDEA Health & Fitness Association, 6190 Cornerstone Ct. E., Ste. 204, San Diego, CA 92121-3773.
March 2002 idea health & fitness source