Since meeting her early this year, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know wellness entrepreneur and fitness instructor Emily Cook Harris.  Her contagious upbeat energy and natural charisma while coaching at The Fhitting Room drew me in right away; so when during our brief post-class chat Em mentioned she would be in Paris several months later, I was happy to re-connect.  We continued our conversation on this side of the pond (and even squeezed in a quick workout) and back in New York as well; each time I speak with Em, she affirms herself to be an inspiring leader who is genuinely determined to (as she puts it) “do good in the world.”  Em’s journey in the fitness and wellness industries is extremely inspiring and it’s heartwarming to see her positive impact continuing to grow.

ECHarris 1In Love With Movement.  A lifelong dancer, born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Emily Cook Harris has always been fascinated by movement, believing in its ability to “uncover one’s best self.” This interest led her to pursue a B.S. in Kinesiology and Exercise Science at Louisiana State University (where she graduated Magna Cum Laude) and to move to New York City during her senior year, for a fabulous internship as an exercise specialist at the NBC Fitness Center.  “I love that right out of the gate I was able to put my degree to work. I genuinely enjoyed what I did every day and was lucky to be exposed to so much right away.”

Core Values = Education + Anything is Possible.  “My family has always emphasized and prioritized education while instilling in me the belief that I could do anything I wanted with my life.  Education has played a major role in my development – even in terms of my work ethic.  It is a passion for me.” 

ECHarris handstandInjury, Awareness and Gratitude.  By the time her NBC internship ended, Em had landed a full-time job as an exercise specialist for MetLife and began working full-time in the city of her dreams.  She continued to pursue opportunities in dance as well, performing in various productions, including a 4-month-long nationwide tour of The Music Man in 2011. Sadly, near the close of the tour, Em suffered a terrible injury when she shattered her tail bone.  “The power of movement – how strong and confident I felt as a dancer – is something I had always taken for granted.  I didn’t realize the gravity of this until my injury.  Those six months were some of the most challenging I’ve experienced.  I realized how much movement was a part of my life and how much it affected me emotionally.”  Em went on to point out that this experience has made her a better coach and trainer today, as it’s given her a new awareness and a deeper understanding and appreciation for movement and the body.  “Movement has a power far beyond the physical; it affects how I feel as a human.”

Em headshotBuilding EMPOWERED.  After less than one year in New York, Emily Cook Harris decided to build a business that combines her passions for fitness and education. EMPOWERED was the result: a team of fitness and lifestyle coaches that specializes in total health transformations.  And in line with Em’s passion for education, 10% of the company’s net proceeds sponsors girls’ education worldwide.  “I launched EMPOWERED in 2010 – one step at a time – as I still had a handful of other jobs as a personal trainer and a group fitness class instructor. My first client was actually a friend of mine who had mentioned she wanted to have a lifestyle change.  I knew I needed to charge her something in order for her to be more invested, so I charged her $5 per session.  This first experience was so rewarding because it was much deeper than a physical workout.  Our conversations were uncovering important issues and connecting dots for her, and I learned that the secret sauce of what I enjoy most personally as a coach is talking things out with someone.”  Over the next several years, EMPOWERED grew slowly and steadily, one client at a time, mainly through referrals, until the company began receiving press and the team began to expand.

empowered fitweekFITWeek.  September 12 – 17th (next week) is FITWeek, a wonderful initiative launched by EMPOWERED in 2014. It is designed to bring the fitness community together to raise funds to support education.  The concept was a natural evolution for Emily Cook Harris, after she hosted several successful fitness fundraising events in 2012 and 2013.  “I knew that so much more could be done with greater studio involvement.  In our first year (June 2014), we raised over $4,000 dollars in New York; we are now in our third year and visibility and involvement is expanding significantly.”   With over $10,000 raised to date, the 2016 edition will be held in New York and Dallas and plans for expansion are in the works.  * 100% of this year’s proceeds will support global & local education nonprofits She’s the First & DonorsChoose.org.    

* The Best Part: Even if your city is not yet participating in FITWeek, you can still get involved simply by checking out their website and indicating your interest and potential role.  

So why not do more than read this article, and take part in supporting education while getting a kickass workout next week?  Or share this article with friends who live in New York or Dallas, or with a studio owner or fitness coach in any city who may be interested in taking part in next year’s FITWeek? It takes so little to do so much.  You got this. (Actually, WE’VE got this.)

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