NO Excuses! It’s simple — just make time for your wellness. The “daily grind” is something we (society) made up. It’s not real. You can change the fake scheduling chaos as you need. With seven kids, a husband and my work schedule, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed, but taking care of me makes it all feel doable!
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Miller. Courtney is the owner of Pure Barre Ashburn and Pure Barre South Riding, both located in northern VA — a short drive from Washington DC. She has an amazing village that keeps her looking “together” — an awesome studio team, friends, family and church. Courtney and her husband have seven energetic sons and those boys are the answer to every “why” question that she receives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
As a child, I was overweight — around age thirteen, I was fed up with being depressed and self-conscious. On a whim, I joined the cross-country team and never looked back. Fitness became crucial to my overall health and wellness. After college, I worked in Title 1 public schools in New Jersey and DC. My husband and I expanded our family and by child number three, I decided to stay home, but quickly realized I needed to do something outside of the home that was my own. I started teaching Pure Barre part-time and then as the opportunity rose, I decided to open my own studio. Shortly thereafter, I opened a second location. My husband and I now have two Pure Barre studios, seven sons and three fur-babies.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- NO Excuses! It’s simple — just make time for your wellness. The “daily grind” is something we (society) made up. It’s not real. You can change the fake scheduling chaos as you need. With seven kids, a husband and my work schedule, it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed, but taking care of me makes it all feel doable!
- Keep going — it never ends! This wellness process is a marathon, not a sprint. You always need to take care of yourself. Remember your mind, body and soul need to be treated like a car — regularly fine-tuned, oiled and gassed up. Without proper care, the car just won’t run — and neither will you!
- Start with a plan and write it out at first. Plan your workouts, your nutrition, meditation, massages, etc. These are your non-negotiables. The rest of your life must work around these obligations. They are not up for cancellation. It can seem boring to plan it all, but just remember, “no one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Getting to know yourself in a whole different light. This may not necessarily be an “interesting story,” but this past year I have transformed completely. Owning a business in and out of itself will have you learning new things constantly. Add the juggle of a busy home life with seven kids, and it is multi-tasking on steroids.
The first year alone of the Ashburn studio is a blur — so much of myself went into it and I truly felt I had gotten better about delegating and releasing some of my control in the subsequent years. I was proud of where we were, and I felt more of a “balance” in my life. In September of last year, at 34 weeks pregnant with my 7th son, I met my doctor because things just didn’t feel right. In less than 20 minutes of my arrival, my son was delivered via emergency c-section for failure to thrive. We still have no idea what caused the lack of oxygen, but are thankful beyond words they were able to save him.
Our son had a “cooling” treatment to reset his brain and organs, resulting in weeks in the NICU. Now, almost nine months later, his weekly doctor appointments and therapies are fairly overwhelming, and we are trying to stifle worry as he misses milestone after milestone. Over these nine months, my team has carried me. They took over the studios, especially my manager Michelle, and showed complete ownership. I thought I was proud before, but seeing them blossom and grow before my eyes, to see them completely be able to take over without hesitation — that made me realize all over again how blessed I am to have such hard-working, enthusiastic ladies in my life.
The story here is, it is hard to let go, to fully delegate. Once you have the right people, let them fly. Let them have a piece of the story and help build your business in ways you never would have imagined. I felt such freedom in losing control and gaining pride in watching my team take over.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Taking on too much at once. I have a difficult time drawing the line, creating boundaries, and especially keeping them. I have heard it from many others — “hire slow and fire fast.” I always want to see best in people, but they don’t change. In fact, if you see warning signs, those behaviors will likely worsen over time. Make a change before it affects your team.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
When people feel better, they do better. With exercise, you start for yourself, but here’s the funny thing about working out — it starts to positively affect everything! My mission from the start of my Pure Barre studios was to create an encouraging/supportive environment, and then for that community to take the awesome feel-good, do-good energy in studio past those four walls and into our local communities.
Eight months into being open, we created a barreTHON event. BarreTHON is a 24-hour fundraising event to support local organizations. In just three years, we have raised over $100,000 for autism, hurricane relief, Children’s Hospital, local foster care groups, and LLS. We hold 24 classes during those 24 hours that are free, but we provide the option to donation to a cause. The energy from those 24 hours is indescribable — completely infectious!
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’d have to credit so many people! For starters — my husband, my amazing staff over the years (some who are still with me and others that have moved on, but left a lasting impact on me and the studio space), Pure Barre corporate, other small business owners, my church community, and friends who have been our rock along the way!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
#FourDayWorkWeek. We need to change up the unrealistic work expectations — fatigue is literally running us into the ground! Allow employees more “me” time. Doing a 4–3 work/play days split gets us closer to a “work-life balance.” For most of us, it’s hard to unplug, but we need set days to work and set days to just “play” and unwind.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
My main takeaway has been realizing that when you “do what you love” there are still moments it feels like just a job. Certain elements or responsibilities that you could do without still need your attention and focus. Also, at the low moments/days, it’s easy to feel like a huge failure because “you LOVE this” and yet, if things stray off course for even a second, it’s easy for me to get into a negative head space and begin thinking that I can’t do what I’m good at or believe in.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide!)
Robin Arzon. I recently read her Medium article and loved her reflection on the myths of “work-life balance.” Every point that she raised was completely true and relatable. It becomes even less possible when you have kids! I’m inspired by Robin’s drive and work ethic. I know how hard she works to have the success she does, and I admire the passion and effort behind that.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
All of those “hot topics” pique my interest, but I’m most passionate about children. I think that by getting kids involved in the community and raising the next generation to be one that serves others is pretty crucial to lasting success of any cause. Plus, kids have this uncanny ability to bring you back to simple things in life and just appreciate every moment.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Facebook — Courtney Miller or Pure Barre Ashburn & South Riding
Instagram — @elizacourtney
Thank you for these fantastic insights!