Pandemic and sheltering at home have certainly given my children, myself and our family an opportunity to create memories and moments that never would have happened otherwise. We just need to embrace this and know that as long as we are safe and healthy then we will come out on the other side of this craziness better and stronger. Just believe!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mara Kimowitz.
Mompreneuer of the year in the category of fitness and wellness by NJ Family, Mara Kimowitz is the proud momma to 3 amazing humans age 11, 9 and 7. She is the creator and founder of the StretchSource System of Assisted Stretching and StretchSource System Certification Course, and owns the StretchSource Studio in Boonton, New Jersey. The studio provides 1:1 stretch session, group stretch classes and continuing education for industry professionals.
The StretchSource System Certification Course is nationally recognized for continuing education for personal trainer through NASM, for massage therapist through NCBTMB and for exercise instructors through AFAA. Kimowitz is dedicated to helping people with their flexibility and mobility so they can continue participating in the activities in life that make them happy without physical limitation or discomfort.
Mara’s husband is a doctor and essential worker. When learning became remote, Mara became a home-school teacher and full-time childcare provider in addition to solo-entrepreneur. Having her business closed by NJ state order, Mara was forced to create new ways to stay connected to her stretch community and find ways to give back to the local community impacted by Covid-19.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
On a clear Monday morning, I heard a knock at the studio. I opened the doors and was instantly shadowed by a biker guy towering at least a foot over me and had at least 200 pounds on me. All I could see was the biker club emblem sewn onto his leather jacket. What do I do with him?
I stretched him of course! Affectionately known as Ghost by his biker club, my new client needed to be stretched! He had been run over by 3 cars within 5 seconds. The doctors told him the only reason he walked away was because of his physical size. Did I tell you he was HUGE? He was a big guy and now little me, was going to be his stretch trainer. Thankfully, I designed the StretchSource Methods of Assisted Stretching to not only provide the best stretching to a client, I developed it to protect the well-being of a trainer working with people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels. I felt confidant and comfortable stretching Ghost, after years of fruitless physical therapy and multiple surgeries I knew that I was going to make a difference in his life and frankly he has made a difference in my life too. Ghost has continued to be a loyal stretch client and a good friend.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on pivoting StretchTribe group classes to an online format. We offered StretchTribe as an in-studio group class for people who needed to stretch, wanted to learn how to stretch on their own and yoga wasn’t for them. Due to Covid, we are unable to resume in-studio classes. We are working on ZOOM to offer our classes virtually so that people can stay home, stay safe and stay flexible. By offering StretchTribe classes, the StretchSource community can stay home and still have us to guide them through their flexibility journey. Virtual StretchTribe connects our community and is also being offered for corporate wellness and employee engagement during remote work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have cleaned public toilets to meet my goals. I am not very good being told I am not going to succeed. If you want to get me to do something, then tell me I am not able to do it, I will get it done. My parents were struggling financially for many years before I graduated from high school. If I wanted to go to college, I was going to have to take out large school loans and I didn’t want the debt hanging over my head. I went to my dance teacher, Elena Comendador, a highly respected instructor at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center as well as a cancer survivor, to discuss my future. This little woman had a lot of strength and determination. I adored her, she took a lot of interest in me and I felt supported by her attention.
I explained to her that due to my parents’ financial situation I had decided not to pursue the convention path of collage and rather pursue a dance career. I was taking classes at a studio called Steps Studio and auditioning as much as I could. At Step’s Studio, I was be able to join a work fellowship program to pay for my dance education and I wouldn’t be amassing debt. She greatly discouraged my decision and told me I would “fail greatly and become fat”. She believed I needed the structure of a collage dance program so that I wouldn’t lose focus. Well, I set out to prove her wrong and that I did.
I moved out of my parent’s house at 18-years-old into an artists’ house in Union City, NJ. There I paid 350 dollars a month for my own bedroom and shared bathroom. Every day I woke at 6am to head into NYC where I took dance classes at Step’s Studios to keep up with my training. I also worked as a physical therapy assistant at a top NYC office, to pay the bills. The work fellowship program had me cleaning the studio at night to pay for my dance classes (aka cleaning public toilets). Every night at 8pm when classes at the studio were winding down, I would be given my tasks for cleaning, usually cleaning toilets till midnight before my schlep back to Jersey. I attended auditions weekly, trying to land a spot in a dance company.
My life was wake and work for a year, until at age 19 I was picked to perform with the Mark Morris Dance Group in the production of the Hard Nut and would eventually go on to work with the Metropolitan Opera of NYC as a contemporary concert dancer as well as other internationally premier dance companies. Though my determination my ultimate success was not what Elena had planned for me, it was that meeting with her that sealed my fate. I am forever grateful for the time she spent with me and her support in those early years of my professional dance career.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Where do I begin? I am a Pisces. My birthday is February 26. Pisces are fish, adaptable in nature and able to go with the flow of the water. My life is all about pivoting constantly as an entrepreneur, mother of three incredible humans and wife to another entrepreneur. Add on a pandemic and sheltering at home and the waves got a whole lot bigger and keep switching direction. I no longer feel like a fish flowing with the water. I feel like a fish battling with trying to swim up-river. I am now a full-time cook, house-cleaner, camp counselor and therapist. Oh! — and let’s not forget my husband is a doctor and essential worker meaning I am basically a single parent. My biggest challenge is not losing my shit! Can I say that? I’m in the business of fitness, wellness, and self-care. It’s ironic because finding the time in my life for those things right now is nearly impossible but if I am not well, I can’t take care of the wellness of my family. You know how I know I am not well and about to lose it? When I become paralyzed. When I feel like I can’t pivot and adapt like the fish I am. That’s when I know it’s time to rethink my situation and make necessary adjustments.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My fitness, wellness, and self-care are less about doing things by myself and more about spending quality time with my kids and staying active with them. I recently joined my kids for a 4 miles bike ride to get their favorite Pelican Ice. I often find myself the recipient of a fantastic foot massage from a loving 7-year-old. I even took up surfing with my kids for the first time. Thanks to Covid, we are now a surfing family! Society teaches us that self-care is time to oneself. A time to meditate, eat better food or get a massage. I define self-care as “Your commitment to your own personal journey that ends with health and wellness as the destination”. This journey could be walked alone or with others. I feel gratitude for this time with my kids that I otherwise would not be afforded. We are taking care of each other and ourselves together. The biggest challenge for me is learning to pivot my mind-set, accept the circumstances and continue powering through.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Whenever I tell people I have 3 children ages 11, 9, and 7, the immediately response is, “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” And I do! My children are still at an age where they need to be watched so someone needs to be home with them. Finding childcare under the present climate is nearly impossible. My husband is an essential worker and therefore not available. I am the chosen one! Being home with my kids means I am unable to be in my studio attending to my clients, studio operations and business.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have to completely rely on my staff to run the operations of the studio and report back to me. I am grateful specially to two StretchSource Trainers, Ellen and Daniel, who have really stepped up and given me the ability to be home with my kids. There are many other matters related to the business outside of the studio that fall on me. My time focusing on my business comes when my children are preoccupied with eating, bathing, sleeping or splashing around in the sprinkler. I am a master of multi-tasking and time management. I recently had a business call and scheduled my children for ZOOM music lessons at the same time. How lovely to have a business call while a cello and viola play in the background.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
My greatest advice is don’t feel guilty, no matter what! When you are using your time to be with your family, then you are supporting the family perfectly. And if you are using the time to do business, then your supporting the family perfectly. As long as you don’t feel guilty and create mental warfare on yourself then you are doing things perfectly, so just keep going. Guilt Free Is My Motto! No Regrets!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
When the sheltering at home came into effect, I knew my kids would need interaction with other children. I immediately created a pod with another family that would be following the same rules of conduct. We have expanded that pod to include 4 families at this point. We get together with those families daily.
I know there is a lot of hype around over-use of iPad and electronics. I was a child who barely watched T.V. and didn’t have a computer until I was a teenager and didn’t have a phone until I was in my 20s. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that my kids are happy, healthy, smart, confident children who are allowed a full-electronic, no guilt day. Sometimes 2 days a week if it’s raining! Under the present climate if a day of electronics is going to provide me some sanity and time to reboot then that’s going to be great day for my kids. My kids and I get our days of downtime and then we are full-on with activities the other days of the week with swimming, kayaking, playing in the sprinkler, Legos, creative creations, cooking, and hanging with our pod.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Yes, these are unprecedented times. Uncertainties and concerns are very high. The decision and pivoting fatigue are real. We are at war with an invisible enemy. But there are also times that can be remembered as quality memories with family or moments of boredom that resulted in creativity, reinvention and exploration. My daughter was scheduled this summer to attend her first full summer of sleep away camp. Like so many other children, she was disappointed to miss the experience of summer with her friends and away from home. But being home this summer meant other great opportunity. She was home for us to celebrate her summer birthday with her. She was home to enjoy the fireworks with us on the 4th. She decided to try surfing this summer for the first time. She is enjoying the bonding time with her siblings…..most of the time. We have had many moments of deep conversation that we wouldn’t have had in the rat race of daily busy life. Pandemic and sheltering at home have certainly given my children, myself and our family an opportunity to create memories and moments that never would have happened otherwise. We just need to embrace this and know that as long as we are safe and healthy then we will come out on the other side of this craziness better and stronger. Just believe!
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
There are two simple words that have huge impact. I think the most important thing to say to someone who is struggling is, “I understand”. Words can be very healing. Thanking a person for sharing with you, for trusting you with their feelings. Letting them know it’s ok to feel anxious and maybe share if you are feeling similar. It’s ok to feel anxious, it’s not ok to act out in a way that is harmful or destructive. Being anxious is not the problem. Neither is fear. It’s when those feeling prevent us from doing what we need to in life and we act out poorly that it becomes a problem. Sometimes simple recognition of the feelings and acknowledgment is all someone needs to work through it and feel better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I used this quote in my high school yearbook, “The one regret I had in life was never sitting in the audience and watching myself perform.” I don’t know who created this quote, but I read it somewhere and loved it. I was a professional dancer for many years. As a dancer, you spend hours and years of your life taking dance classes to improve your technique and in rehearsals perfecting choreography for a show. Once you hit the stage, you put everything into the performance and at the end of the show you bow in gratitude for the audience who came to support you. As a dancer, you are taught to push yourself through sweat and tears, lay it all out on the stage for other people to enjoy, and you still show thanks to the audience at the end. What about being grateful and appreciating yourself for all your hard work? What about taking a moment to enjoy yourself and what you have accomplished?
As a professional dancer starting my career as a teenager, I set out to reach the following goals, dance in a music video, be in a commercial, model for a dance magazine and perform on renowned stages around the world. I reached all these goals within five years and decided to retire to pursue my personal goals to become a mother. I have used this quote to guide me through my dance career, my life as a mother, wife, friend and as a business owner. I make sure to pursue things in life that bring me joy. I have made sure to sit back in my chair and take the time to watch and appreciate all the wonderful things I have created and built. Being grateful has gotten me through some of the most difficult times in life. I am very grateful and have no regrets!
How can our readers follow you online?
My business has a social media presence both on Facebook and Instagram at @stretchsource
I have a business presence online through Facebook at @mkstretchlady and on Linkden @marakimowitz
My website is www.stretchsourcetraining.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!