Thursday, June 1, 2017

LINDA SHELTON: Fitness & Lifestyle Insight from an Industry Icon

Linda Shelton, inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2007, is an internationally recognized fitness expert, trainer, lecturer and health writer with 45+ years of experience.  She is an industry leader for her innovative, scientifically applied, and cutting-edge programming. Linda was a founding member of AFAA, co-authoring their Exercise Standards and Guidelines and Primary Certification. Linda specializes in content and education development for many current fitness brands, including Zumba, BODYSHRED, Barre Above and PILOXING, to name a few.  Wearing diverse ‘hats’-  she has produced, directed and/or choreographed over 1,500 fitness DVDs and virtual classes, authored eight books and was the Fitness Director for Shape Magazine for 23 years and 7 other Weider/AMI publications. Linda currently serves as Chief Content Development Officer and Producer/Director for WELLBEATS™, a recognized leader in the Virtual market, inspiring millions of class plays worldwide.

Fitness & Lifestyle Insight from an Industry Icon

Interview by PLYOGA COO Thomas Ascough

PFit: Linda!  It is so exciting to get the opportunity to know you better and learn from one of the brightest minds in the fitness arena.  What makes your journey so SPECIAL.. so far?  
LINDA: Thomas - thank you for your kind words. You’re right; I have had a uniquely special and impactful fitness journey, which has spanned decades. Part of the 'special' is that I didn’t plan this direction; it wasn’t my life’s goal at the time. What has evolved into my career, started as a ‘thought’ when I was very young.

 I made the decision when I was 11 to become a secondary physical education teacher and I wanted to coach sports. I made this decision because I wanted other girls to ‘feel’ themselves, their true essence through movement—their power because sports… moving put me IN my body, grounded, attached; I wanted others to feel the same. I had so many friends who didn’t understand the importance of using your body to move, counteract stress, ‘to become’. I wanted to make a difference in girls and the field of physical education. I did teach, started in 1969. You must remember, this was the late 50’s, early 60’s, hard to be an athlete as I was in those days, not the opportunities of today. 

When I was 24 and then 26, I had two accidents that changed my life—I broke my tailbone and then subsequently, I severely herniated a disc—I was told I would never walk again without a cane, forget running or the career I had planned and my hopes to continue as a semi-professional athlete, dancer, and teacher were dashed. I ended up needing surgery. I was one of the first 1,000 in the world to have what is now a common surgery in 1979—a micro-lumbar discectomy—I’m a success story. I walked 5 hours after surgery and ran 4 months later.  Once I ran, I made the decision to go back to school to get my masters in exercise physiology, open an aerobics studio and went full on into the adult fitness world with the same dream to inspire people to move—there wasn’t even an industry yet.

PFit: I love this.  So many choose to create their life around what others 'label' their 'future limitations.'  You chose to define and create life by each opportunity and progression!
LINDA: This was the huge shift I made, unplanned, went with the flow, my intuition and my passion. This led to my fully embodied career which led to one thing after another in a newly emerging industry-- to train instructors, to develop programming, to travel the world doing what I loved. It lead to my media career with Shape Magazine and other publications for 30 years; I never planned on or even thought I could write and did; catapulted me into production – producing and directing exercise videos—both in front of and behind the camera—never on my bucket list or even in my dreams and program development-writing educational manuals and making a significant impact on the way instructors are educated. 
So the long way around it is if I have to look at the ‘special’ that is my career, I have had the opportunity to impact millions—both consumers and fitness professionals, through a very diverse medium:  writing books and working for magazines that were world renown—early days there wasn’t the web so what I wrote was the authority to millions;  teaching live workshops, video, teaching classes—ALL  to do what I set out to do over 50 years ago—which is to teach girls, now expanded to women, men of all ages, to live their best life; to be inspired through movement; to give them longevity and bliss in their lives. And the journey hasn’t ended. I’m still doing what I do which is a blessing—I still feel relevant in our industry;  that I can continue to proliferate what I know into programming, education, knowledge for those that need it.

PFit: This is a special message to us and everyone who is looking to really spread their wings.  It is amazing to see the journey laid out and allow everyone to visualize how every step creates a new experience.  What is your latest project?:  
LINDA: The ones I can talk about:) . [1] I’m the Chief Content Development Officer for WELLBEATS.  Me, the native So Cal girl, has spent the last 6 years living part time in Maple Grove, MN, creating fitness content for facilities, corporate, hospitality, kids and active aging via a technology delivery streaming system and app. Built a stage, have a fantastic MN crew, and trained an amazing talent pool to create what I believe are cutting edge, current workouts. We continue to expand our offering to impact even more people (  [2] Last year, I was fortunate to get hired by Zumba to create and co-develop STRONG by Zumba, write their educational material and work with the phenomenal Zumba education department. [3] I’m always taking on new projects that are of interest to me, that have potential and could make an impactful contribution. I have a number of them in the works right now soon be revealed. I’m very excited about launching new programs in 2018 which I consider huge game changers in the industry.  Hate to leave you hanging on these but I just must. [4] Lastly, finally getting my website complete and live soon, it’s been a huge haul but is coming this summer.

PFit: We totally understand the importance of keeping things quiet for now and we appreciate you sharing what you can share.  The website must be such an exciting thing to have in the queue.   How can people be involved with you more and follow your work now?
LINDA: My newly launched website will be live soon: This website is the portal to industry biz as well as production and consumer site. I’m launching all of my business via this one site.  Someone can always reach me at, or friend/follow me on facebook or twitter: lindasheltonfit

PFit: Great of you to give our audience a way to reach out to you.  I love that about many industry icons.  The best ones are part of the community and part of the growth.  No Ego.  
Why are your latest projects a must for you right now?!
LINDA: I learned a long time ago to trust my vision however it took me years to have faith in this gift. I do now. I’m not ready to retire though I’m past ‘retirement’ age so I’m still at it. I can’t crush the excitement that consumes me when I’m presented with an outstanding opportunity—to collaborate and help other achieve success and to roll out a project that will ultimately be a game changer to others whether it be professional, consumer, or both.

Projects of this nature contribute to my life’s blood, passion and well-being.  Its what drives me professionally. The personal satisfaction I get is indescribable as anyone would tell you. You know yourself.  At this stage of my life, I only want to work with like-minded people, no drama and the ability to blow the roof off.  When a project is brought to me, my ability to have a vision of the entire project being successfully completely to its full potential, both viewed from 35,000 ft. as well as the imminent needs in the trenches is my what keeps me charged up.  I feel I still have this ‘thing’ inside of me that, when a project is brought to me—when I can see the ‘legs to it’,  I just jump in. Can’t help myself!

PFit: Thats so cool.  It truly rings true how when people are not doing what they love, they cannot wait to retire, but when they are doing what they love, they keep finding ways they can continue to work.  Glad that has been your experience.  Your professional goals are defined by who you are. What is your inspired and favorite way to start the day?
LINDA: My favorite way to start the day is first and always ‘doggie time’ with my two golden retrievers—it’s a must to lie in bed and snuggle with them. Next a cup of coffee and a walk in my garden every morning, even in winter unless it’s raining (gardening is a massive hobby and keeps me grounded). Lastly before the work day begins, is to make my ‘to do list’ consisting of my panic pile, urgent, and to do. —yes, I’m a list maker and love to cross them off and get a grip on the day’s demands. If the day allows, I’ll exercise first thing, otherwise mid-morning to turn on my brain, turn on my body, feed my soul, and embrace the day.

PFit: I make lists too, but find that when I am done with a big job, it was not on the list and I get none of the 'crossing off' excitement.  I need to get better at that. It makes me happy to cross things off.  What makes you personally happy each day? What is the main thing you do to keep a positive outlook in general?
LINDA: What makes me happy on a daily basis is [1] time spent doing something worthwhile, [2] helping someone else succeed, [3] personal interaction with someone I care about, [4] time with my dogs, [5] non work time with myself, [6] moving my body, [7] getting out in nature, [8] completing my to do list!

The main thing I do to keep a positive outlook is to remind myself life isn’t static, it’s constantly moving and changing, therefore ride the tide, stay flexible with life’s curve balls, acknowledge the blessings and trust.

PFit: Ride the Tide.  Do I see another Trademark in your future?  Motto or Book title?  Speaking of: various books, movies, or songs carry a message that stay in one’s head and motivates people?  Is there anything like this that has had an impact on you?
LINDA: Songs that emotionally hit home:
·         Climb Every Mountain, from Sound of Music 1967 - 
·         The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha 1965
·         What the World Needs Now is Love 1965 –

These songs were my mantra when I was young, impacted me deeply to find my way. These three, I was 15-17, when I was beginning to ‘see’ my future and wanting to believe my dreams to teach and coach. They still affect me as strongly when I hear them. Music is an emotional driver for me and most songs have some kind of impact –whether they drive my energy, turn my brain on, inspire movement etc. There are too many now to name them all, though these three, I always get an emotional hit from still.

PFit: Music is so powerful and has different meaning to everyone.  I guess everything is through the eyes of the beholder.  Any books that have impacted your decisions?
·        LINDA: Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Your Life, by Spencer Johnson
The Traveler’s Gift: The Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, by Andy Andrews
·         Strength Finders

PFit: Songs... books.. what about people?  Do you follow anyone daily that resonates for how you run your business or life?
LINDA: I actually don’t ‘follow’ anyone in particular; I do however have a spanned overview of those that are impacting the world currently in our field, in technology, in other fields to help me continually learn in business and then adapt for myself on a regular basis and it varies. I read a lot. When you’re a visionary entrepreneur and a sole proprietor, I’ve learned that you need to find the tools that allow you to run and expand your business when for the most part, there is only ‘you, myself and I.’ Right now, I’m developing a lot of fitness/wellness products involving technology for my clients—I’m constantly looking for unique individuals, most are not known, who are doing extraordinary, forward thinking ideas to create user engagement.

PFit: Are there any major events coming up to look out for you at?  Perhaps events where you can be counted on to be there year after year?
LINDA: [1] I’ll be at IDEA in July in Las Vegas. Not presenting but there to support a 35-yr. anniversary, mingle, meet ‘n greet. I’ve been to 34 out of 35 conferences so pretty much go every year. [2]  I’ll be presenting at the Zumba Convention-two lectures in July in Orlando.  [3] Next year, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back on the circuit presenting, both nationally and internationally, with some of the new projects I’m working on. Very excited to be back. Conferences still to be announced so I can’t:(

PFit: Great to see you will be getting back out there.  As a person who looks around the fitness space, what are your favorite products in the industry that you feel have the most benefit for people to know about?
LINDA: There are a ton of useful gadgets and tools our industry offers. I’d have to say that it depends who you are talking to and what the benefit would be to them. A newbie needs to know something different than someone who has been training for a while.  Affordability, space and longevity of use are always a factor.

PFit: What is your favorite thing to spend money on than?
For myself: I’m a ‘spa chick’! Anytime I can get away and indulge in full spa services at an amazing location, I’m in!—it’s a mini vacay for me. And, I admit it, I love clothes—what can I say. I’m also into my home and garden, so finding unique treasures is a fun R&R way to spend a day off.
For others: Love finding fun, personal, uncommon items for friends-when I see them and send them off as surprise. Lastly I spend money monthly supporting animal rescue—well worth it to save a precious life.

PFit: Very cool!  What is the one thing you never leave your house without (besides your cell phone)?
LINDA: I never, ever leave the house without food-protein. I’m hypoglycemic and can’t go much longer than 2 hours without eating. I learned in my teens to ALWAYS travel with a snack in my bag or I turn into someone you don’t want to be with if I get hungry and can’t eat on the spot.

PFit: Wow!  Us too.  You will never see us without a bag of food.  When some place tells us we cannot bring it in, we make up some long medical sounding word as to why we have to have it, and everyone just gives us a nod.  Haha! Have you discovered any indulgent recipes that are pretty good for you, that people could benefit from knowing? (Where can we find them?)
LINDA: Ha! I’m a cook, love it and I have a few indulgent recipes. I cook like I teach—I’m a free-stylist so create as I go or find a recipe and change it. I’ve been cooking and creating recipes since I was very young.  I have a great recipe I created for a Margarita—I call a ‘Slimerita’, no sugar and 105 calories. I have a decadent NY Cheese cake recipe that is a hit, to name two favs. When my new website is up, recipes will be on there. Also, anyone wants one now, happy to share.

PFit: Excited for this WEBSITE!  Also excited to know a little about your family and how they have impacted you.  Do you have kids? 
LINDA: I don’t have kids of my own, though I have ‘kids’ in my life; I’m an ‘Aunt’ to many. My kids are my two fur babies. The kids that are in my life—have impacted me even more vehemently how important movement is at a young age and how much movement is ignored as part of lifestyle for so many. It has inspired me to continue to find ways to get kids moving—for their bodies, their brains, their emotional well-being.

PFit: So so true.  People inherit recipes and ways of life, and not necessarily a predetermined path to disease and problems.  Teach them young!  
What personal beliefs keep you focused and believing in your drive forward? Any quotes to live by?
LINDA: Trusting my innate intuition in any situation is what keeps me believing in myself that I’m on the right path or I need to make a change. I’m intensely loyal, which has its pluses and also minuses—it’s been a learning experience for me, still, to know when it’s time to just walk from a situation. What keeps me focused is my passion and dedication and to only work on a project that I believe in and with people I both trust and like. I only want to do business with those that, at the end of the day, we can go out to dinner and talk about life, having nothing to do with business---this is important to me. I need to know what I’m doing will ultimately result in personal ROI—emotionally and financially.

One of my favorites:  “Opportunities multiply as they are seized”---Sun Tzu

And my own:
1.  “Laughter is infectious; a conscious mindset is contagious, well-being is communicable…Pass it on!” --Linda Shelton
2. “Be resilient and thrive’…celebrate YOU! --Linda Shelton

Quotes from others:
“Try something different… surrender” –Rumi
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” – E.E. Cummings

PFit: You have seen so many evolutions in the industry.  What’s next for the education of the industry in wellness and fitness?
LINDA: Education has become the cornerstone of our industry in so many ways, as important if not more important than ever. Our field is changing as technology and the enriched multi-media opportunities available to those who are our potential clients are readily accessible online-for free! At the same time, we all know that such an important part of what we do is the drive for better ‘engagement’ and an ‘immersive experience’ to keep folks exercising for life. Here are some of my considerations for Industry growth when it comes to education:
  • The word ‘fitness’ doesn’t include the entire picture anymore for our clients and students—we need to become a more ‘(w)holistic’ industry, where exercise is not the panacea; more is required that we know, learn and encompass as an industry to assist folks to get healthy—this means education beyond a specific genre or format.
  • Wellness, still a buzz word—we need to redefine the relationship between health, wellness and fitness to better serve customers.
  • Instructors, need business tools and marketing skills; more education on how to enhance and embrace business, not just how to teach a great class.
  • We need to get back to certain basics. The same 83% of Americans that weren’t exercising in 1980 still aren’t exercising and they’re more obese and have lifestyle disease than before. At our conventions, we still entertain ourselves—all well and good to be forward thinking and creative—it’s what drives us—however, we still are entertaining the population that shows up, NOT the population that doesn’t—we need to find a way to get to this group of people who don’t want the hardest, most unique cool moves—they need to be able get off the floor by themselves, defend themselves, be strong in their lives and we still don’t spend enough attention this group—if they aren’t going to show up to class, how do we use technology-to draw  them in—different skills than teaching classes.
  • This said, and I’ll get on my soapbox for a moment—Today, so much is handed to instructors in the way of pre-choreographed routines,  the art of thinking on your feet, understanding the ‘why’ and being able to create on your own what is best for your class as the goal is missing. To me, the ‘art of teaching’ has become a lost skill. As an educator, this is one aspect of our industry that I would love to see more of again. Doesn’t mean that pre-choreographed is bad or should go away, I’m just seeing less of the skills that I know make a well-rounded instructor disappear.

PFit: WOW!  So now that you just handed the "Golden Checklist"  to the fitness pro, I wonder if I could find a way to put a "mic drop" sound here.  Many people work long and hard for their dream, that you have personally continued to nurture for yourself and them.  What is your ultimate dream experience that you need to have in life that is hanging out there?
LINDA: I need to go run in the Alps like in Sound of Music, life dream

PFit: Take some pictures when you do it.  I would love to see them,  
I like to throw in a fun end to this. Imagination time!
If you could transform and become any animal in the world for a day, what would you be and why?
LINDA: I’ve always said that if I was an animal I’d want to be a wild horse so I could just run unencumbered, feel the wind, free and ‘be’.

PFit: We just saw wild horses in Mexico.  Magical!  You have a time machine, and you can go anywhere in the past.  Where would Linda Shelton go and why?
LINDA: I don’t really feel there’s any time in history, before I was born that I’d feel the need to experience, especially as a woman. If I could go back to any of my own life history, it would be to re-live two periods in that time: [1] my 20’s when I was competing in sports and dancing—it was the 70’s and a magical time of exploration for me, and [2] presenting and teaching globally at the beginning of the industry, it was my early 30’s—it’s hard to explain a more exciting time in our business, however both of these experiences brought me here to this current place in time.

PFit: Well Linda!  It has been a fantastic honor to get to know what makes you tick a little more.  I personally love how open and giving you are, as far as your knowledge and the keys to the future in fitness.  Thanks so much for sharing insight that many will find invaluable.    

Linda Shelton (coming soon)