A holistic fitness approach for women – today and 35 years ago
Our conversation with Jasmin Kirstein, owner of My Sportlady, and “The Munich Yogi”, Patricia Kaymer
When Jasmin Kirstein opened My Sportlady in Munich 35 years ago, it was the city’s first fitness studio for women. Even then, she pursued a holistic idea of health for her members. Over the years, she’s added a spa, a cooking school, a dance school and childcare to My Sportlady. Jasmin herself is a trained yoga teacher and Ayurveda expert. Jasmin meets Patricia Kaymer at My Sportlady, which is affectionately referred to by members as the “living room” of the neighbourhood. Patricia, who is also a trained yoga teacher, inspires her followers on her Instagram channel @themunichyogi by sharing yoga exercises along with nutrition and beauty tips. Patricia is equally passionate about health and wellbeing – and communicates about it on her channels. Her followers are digital. Jasmin meets her members every day at the studio. Both share the same topics and a similar target group, but they communicate very differently with their respective audience. FIBO spoke to the two about their passion and the various possibilities of implementing a holistic fitness approach in the 21. century.
Thank you for your time today. What does a holistic approach to fitness and health mean for you personally?
Jasmin: For me, a holistic approach to health definitely doesn’t just mean athleticism. Clearly, diet should be considered, along with general wellbeing – meaning how well I sleep, how balanced I feel. Treating yourself in a mindful way, I feel, really encompasses this holistic approach. Patricia: I see it similarly. A holistic approach, to me, means being able to exercise and work out hard, yet still finding calm. I’m a yoga teacher, and I like to practice this myself. Yoga is a great way for me to relax and balance the male and female energy in us. Everyday life for us women is actually quite masculine. We have to do everything and be able to do it all. No wonder our inner balance often gets lost. Meditation and breathing exercises – even brief ones at the office – help me to take a deep breath and listen to myself. Healthy nutrition and essential oils that support me emotionally and health-wise are also a part of the mix for me.
Jasmin, you’ve been introducing your holistic fitness concept to your members at My Sportlady for 35 years. How do you explain your approach to new members?
Jasmin: We basically start by showing new members our space and listening to find out what they’re really looking for, what their individual needs are. I often talk to women who say they’re looking for a gym where they can work out hard, but they really just seem to need an opportunity to find some balance. There’s a remarkable number of successful power women who go straight to attending group fitness classes, such as boot camp and other power workouts. Our multifaceted programme is aimed at motivating them to give something else a try, like yoga or meditation. My holistic studio concept has grown over the years. Awareness for mindfulness and wellbeing has changed a lot in recent years, in the public eye as well as in me. We took our first step with yoga back then. The continued enhancement of our offerings also has a lot to do with me personally. Whenever I’ve realized that I needed something at a certain point in time – be it childcare, cooking or meditation – we’ve added it to our portfolio. But there are also new impulses coming from my team all the time, and we’re able to co-evolve with the steadily growing demands of society at large.
How has your approach towards existing and prospective members changed over the years? What roles do digitalisation and social media play today in acquiring and retaining customers?
Jasmin: To be honest, personal recommendations work best for us – then as now. A friend brings a friend, or women from the neighbourhood notice us when they stroll past with their prams and stop by. The credit fort that, of course, goes to our great location right in the centre of Munich. Honestly, it seems to me that our target audience isn’t particularly savvy when it comes to social media. I don’t see that many members with their mobile phones here at the studio. But that might also have to do with the fact that women are looking for a time-out here. In general, though, we’re noticing a change in this area, too. We recently launched our own app and used it to conduct a satisfaction survey as part of a bachelor thesis of one of our employees. It was clear to see that the app and its functionalities are being used. The more digital we become, the more intensively our digital offerings are used. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to that. Nevertheless, we still frequently lack the necessary capacities. While we have in-house competence – our studio manager, who has a Masters in Sport Management, is in charge of social media marketing – but it’s quite difficult for us to naturally integrate this into our daily studio operations. We’re an owner-run fitness studio with extensive business day to day, not a professional content studio with video teams and photographers churning out high-gloss photos and videos every day. This might be possible for large fitness chains with their in-house marketing departments. It then shows up in the Google rankings, which often do not reflect actual quality and reality.
Patricia, you expose your daily life at @themunichyogi. To what extent do you think that you can motivate followers to become active themselves and start doing yoga and exercise while pursuing a holistic, healthy lifestyle?
Patricia: I think most of my followers already exercise in some form. I myself originally came from golf, which is why we have lots of golfers. Many do fitness sports and of course yoga. In fact, I often get questions like: “How can I get started with yoga?”; “ Can you recommend a good YouTube yoga channel?”; “ Do you know a yoga studio in the city of XYZ?” Questions about essential oils, which I often show because I’ve integrated them into my daily routine, are becoming more frequent. We also get questions about and discuss topics such as good sleep and healthy nutrition. I get a lot of feedback in general, and I enjoy the dialogue on Instagram. And of course I’m happy if people get in touch because they saw that I already exercised in the morning and pick themselves up, too. Jasmin: As part of our social media activities, we’ve increasingly been dealing with influencers lately. What deters me is targeted advertising for products. At My Sportlady, we have eliminated just about all the products I’m not behind and wouldn’t use myself. Now, if influencers work out here today and somewhere else tomorrow while advertising products that, like, say, protein shakes, don’t match our values, then that’s out of the question for us.
Patricia, how do you see that?
Patricia: I wouldn’t call myself an influencer. I can totally understand Jasmin’s thoughts. She’s built her business for more than 35 years and believes in a certain philosophy that doesn’t fit with a “here-today-there-tomorrow” mentality. Unfortunately this may be unavoidable – especially when working with the more well-known influencers. Because of their reach, after all, they get requests from brands weekly, get booked, and advertise this or that product. However, this unfortunately means the credibility of the individual influencer also suffers. And the more well-known they are, the less they usually interact with their followers, simply because they no longer have the time to answer every individual question and message.
Naturally, cooperation and advertising depend on whether the influencers rely on the compensation they generate via their channel. Patricia, you work full-time for the Bavarian Golf Association. How many hours a day do you use – aside from your yoga and other exercise classes – exclusively for Instagram?
Patricia: It varies. There are always phases during which I’m online more, for example when my husband isn’t home, and others when I take a step back. Sure, I’m on Instagram at least once a day. It also always depends on what I’m posting. Some topics get tons of feedback, or I might actively ask my followers a question. Roughly speaking, I spend about an hour a day on Instagram. Jasmin: And how do you do the pictures? Do you integrate that into your exercise classes? Patricia: During my classes, I don’t do anything on my mobile except control the music. Sometimes I’ll film the Shavasana at the end of the class, but I’ll never post anything live from a class. In those moments I’m a yoga teacher, not an Instagrammer. Jasmin: I understand! Today I was in Yin Yoga at our studio and thought to myself that if someone were to film us right now and share that on social media, I’d really consider it very disruptive. It just doesn’t fit with the private atmosphere – be it in yoga or fitness classes. Patricia: One way I solve this is by putting up a picture of the entrance before studio and a video in which I talk about how I liked it after. I take 80 per cent of my photos myself using the self-timer. I find this more authentic than always having the perfect photo. Of course I also know the influencers who meet once a week with a photographer to produce pictures. But I don’t even have that kind of time.
Maybe it’s not all about reporting from the class itself. Maybe social media followers care also about all the things that happen around class: What’s for breakfast? A healthy recipe for banana bread? Five tips for falling asleep easier?
Patricia: Those are topics that maybe could best be presented by an authentic trainer from the studio. Maybe she could also show targeted content that really helps followers, motivating them to try something new, such as five yoga poses for detoxification and boosting the immune system, for example. This might not require external influencers but interesting, credible trainers and employees serving as the faces of the studio who take followers behind the scenes. Jasmin: Yes, I think we can do more here. But for us it’s also important at the moment to have just the right amount. How much is necessary? When is it enough? It’s important that we deploy available capacities well. Whatever the case may be, I’m very excited to work on this topic. We should make more time for it in our studio every day; otherwise the day-to-day business always dominates. Maybe we also have to educate, train and integrate into our daily operations each individual person. And recognise and develop the potential of the right trainers and employees.
Thank you for the interview and the exciting discussion.