Presenting the 2020 IHRSA Rising Stars

CBI and IHRSA are pleased to present 20 of the industry’s most accomplished and promising young fitness professionals.

Whether it’s simply serendipity or a matter of fate, “Surround Yourself With Greatness,” the theme of IHRSA’s 39th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, also serves as an appropriate introduction to this year’s installment of “IHRSA’s Rising Stars.”

The 20 young fitness professionals profiled here already have demonstrated their passion and commitment to the industry; their intelligence, expertise, and skills; and their ability to set and achieve grand goals.

As IHRSA embarks on its “230 Million by 2030” membership initiative, these individuals—and countless others like them—will provide the energy, enthusiasm, insights, innovation, effort, and ability to execute that, when combined, possess the power to turn such visionary objectives into reality.

IHRSA’s Rising Stars are key to the industry’s strength and its future success. Let us introduce this year’s standouts.

20 RS Antolino Taylor Rising Stars column

Taylor Antolino
Marketing Director
Newtown Athletic Club
Newtown, PA

A Division I soccer player and cum laude graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, Taylor Antolino embodies perseverance and leadership. Armed with a passion for fitness and a bachelor’s degree in communication, public relations, and marketing, Antolino joined Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) in 2015 as fitness and digital marketing manager. Then in 2016, she was promoted to her current role. Today, Antolino, 26, oversees a staff of eight; leads the implementation of technology to enhance the sales process and member experience; co-manages the club’s membership sales CRM and sales teams; and has been integral in the NAC Have a Heart Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million to date for Augie’s Quest.

“Taylor is a standout, and I see no limits to what she’ll accomplish,” says Linda Mitchell, director of public and government relations for the NAC. As for what she likes most about her role, Antolino says, “It’s seeing the glow, smiles, and adrenaline that our members have when they leave the club.”

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Lia Bahut
National Fitness Manager
Solinca Health & Fitness
Lisbon, Portugal

One glance at Lia Bahut’s resume indicates that she’s driven, energetic, and constantly learning. “I believe in putting forth my best effort to reach the top,” she says. As the national fitness manager at Solinca Health & Fitness, Bahut oversees 21 clubs, 200 group exercise instructors, and 300 personal trainers throughout Portugal.

Leading the Les Mills Passport Project at Solinca, she helped to boost its member usage rate by 70%, and increase attendance at group exercise classes by 74%. For this accomplishment, Bahut earned the 2019 Innovation Award by the Manz Company, which represents Les Mills in Portugal. Among her extensive list of fitness certifications is the CanRehab Level 4 Cancer and Rehabilitation course, which inspired her to create a free exercise program for cancer survivors, with oversight from a multidisciplinary medical team. An active volunteer in local youth projects, Bahut, 35, currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in exercise and health on a scholarship.

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Brandon Bairos
Director of Club Operations
Fit Factory
Quincy, MA

In his eight years in the fitness industry, Brandon Bairos, 25, has served as a personal trainer, fitness manager, regional supervisor, personal training director, program sales and operations director—and now, director of club operations. In 2014, he joined Fit Factory as personal training director, then became program sales and operations director.

Among his accomplishments: increasing monthly revenue in two programs from $130,000 to $180,000, growing program revenue in new clubs to $60,000 in the first year of business, and working with the membership sales team to maintain consultation booking numbers above 60%. Today, he oversees four existing clubs, along with several planned facilities in Massachusetts and Texas. Supervising 11 managers, Bairos makes it a priority to understand each employee’s role to maximize their efficiency and productivity, and encourage them to excel. “I approach every situation with a growth mindset, and am eager to attack challenges and add new skillsets,” Bairos says.

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Shraddha Bhavalkar
Co-founder, CEO
GetSetGo Fitness
Pune, India

Enjoying a successful career as an animator and photographer, working on projects for Disney, Dreamworks, and Evo India magazine, Shraddha Bhavalkar embarked on a personal fitness journey to get in shape. What she discovered motivated her to change professions, and embrace her love of challenges.

“Fitness information in India was a mess, with unhealthy practices and a lack of sustainable solutions,” she says. So in 2016, Bhavalkar, 35, founded GetSetGo Fitness, an online company that teaches sound fitness and nutrition practices for a healthy lifestyle. In three years, the business has built a community of 100,000; changed more than 20,000 lives; conducted more than 80 corporate workshops in India alone; and has a presence in America, Asia, and Australia.

With a team of more than 30, GetSetGo is now in excess of $3 million. “I don’t measure our success in terms of numbers,” Bhavalkar explains. “Every story counts, and every life we transform is an achievement.”

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Nate Capuchino
Senior Manager
Active Wellness
San Francisco, CA

Wholeheartedly committed to helping people improve their well-being, Nate Capuchino was an intern for Club One (now Active Wellness) during college, and later joined the company as a personal trainer at the Federal Fitness Center in San Francisco. There, he exceeded sales goals, taught new trainers, and created new paid programs, including Elite Cross Training and the Federal Run Group. In 2014, Capuchino became a fitness manager at another Active Wellness facility, where he created a variety of classes to increase member participation. A senior manager since 2015, he oversees five fitness centers, and is highly regarded for his mentorship skills. “As a manager, I can help more individuals by teaching and assisting the fitness professionals that ultimately change our members’ lives,” reflects Capuchino, 32.

A colleague observes, “Nate stands out, with his proactive approach, can-do attitude, servant leadership, and ability to shepherd a tight-knit team that works together to achieve goals.”

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Cat Cho
Fitness Director
Torrance, CA

Cat Cho describes her professional role somewhat philosophically: “To magnify and maximize people’s visions, motivations, potential, and outcomes.” And that’s exactly what she does. A UFC employee since 2013, Cho, 31, turned around an underperforming facility to become Top Gym of the Year, and later opened a new location in Huntington Beach, CA.

There she developed the company’s most profitable MMA coaching staff, and nearly tripled monthly revenue goals. Currently, Cho manages the largest UFC training program on the West Coast, with 50 employees in five departments, and a monthly revenue goal of $200,000. With eight fitness certifications to her credit, she was named the company’s 2016 Fitness Director of the Year, and the Top Fitness Director of the Month 11 times, and cinched a company record for the most fitness revenue in a day at more than $125,000. “I love the never-ending learning, the people, and the process. I’m surrounded by amazing mentors and peers,” she says.

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Austin Cohen
Founder and CEO
FlexIt, Inc.
New York, NY

A consumer venture capitalist and entrepreneur across the health, wellness, sports, entertainment, and technology vertical markets, Austin Cohen is also a visionary fitness enthusiast who wanted to simplify avenues to exercise. In January 2019, he launched FlexIt, an innovative club access and sampling program that enables consumers to scan in and out of health clubs, paying only for the time they use.

As FlexIt uniquely accommodates the on-demand nature of the modern, tech-forward, mobile world, Cohen already has grown the business to include 1,400 clubs in 20 U.S. markets. “We help clubs cater to changes in Millennial and Gen Z consumption trends and preferences, and enable people to find the best club to meet their goals in a flexible, forward-looking manner,” he explains.

Holding an M.B.A. from Columbia University, Cohen, 30, also has established partnerships with Iron Grip, Theragun, WeWork, NormaTec, and others, to enhance service and options for both clubs and exercisers.

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Ashley Cook
Account Management, Group Fitness Instructor
Auburn Racquet & Fitness Club
Auburn, CA

Since starting in the childcare department at the Auburn Racquet & Fitness Club at age 16, Ashley Cook has applied her talents throughout the multi-purpose facility, which is situated on eight acres. She has worked in the Kid’s Club, smoothie bar, front desk, and sales department; as a group exercise instructor and personal trainer; and now manages the accounting department.

In this role, she handles all aspects of billing, collections, inventory, membership changes, and more, for the club’s 5,000 members. Noting how efficient the department is under Cook’s leadership, club CEO Jack Drimmer remarks, “We’re lucky to have her.” Holding several fitness certifications, she earned the club’s Employee of the Year award in 2016. “My ability to take on different aspects of the health club business, along with my ‘How can I help?’ attitude, have helped propel my career,” Cook, 25, points out. “I love the way the fitness industry can add to someone’s life, and impart new meaning to it.”

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Anthony Dionne
Division Director
Quebec, Canada

In less than two years, Anthony Dionne rose from being the manager of a single Econofitness club, where he increased the member base, to the regional manager of 20 clubs in the 70-gym chain, where he successfully motivated employees to improve sales and drive greater results. In 2019, he moved to Quebec to become the director of a division, and quickly grew it from eight to 12 clubs, with a corresponding 18% increase in the number of members.

Embracing the company’s mission of making fitness accessible for all, Dionne exudes diligence, is committed to the development of his staff, and thrives on sharing his passion for fitness. At 28, he also recognizes that he’s just getting started. “There are still many projects to come to my territory,” he says. “My wish is to make training available to as many people as possible.”

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Hal Hargrave
The Claremont Club
Claremont, CA

Six weeks after his high school graduation, in July 2007, Hal Hargrave was paralyzed from the neck down in an auto accident. This life-changing experience prompted him to embrace a new personal purpose: to improve the lives of others with paralysis.

In 2008, he founded the Be Perfect Foundation, which has raised more than $7 million, sponsored approximately 250 clients, purchased 55 wheelchairs, and adapted several homes and vehicles for those who are paralyzed. Hargrave, 30, also serves as the owner and manager of The Perfect Step, a paralysis recovery center housed at The Claremont Club, where individuals with a variety of neurological disorders participate in customized exercise therapy to enhance their independence and quality of life.

Managing a staff of 15 and a weekly client load of more than 100, Hargrave is responsible for nearly $1 million in annual gross revenues. “My real purpose is the individuals I can affect every day,” he says.

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Austin Head
Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Trainer
Fitness Formula Clubs
Chicago, IL

While caring for his brother with special needs, Austin Head, 26, knew as a child that he was destined to help others. Immersing himself in that mission, he now holds six fitness certifications, leads 30 group ex classes per week, and conducts multiple personal training sessions at Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC). The most in-demand instructor at FFC, he notes, “My goal is for students to feel like they belong, be present and focus on themselves, and have an incredible time.”

Head also developed The Treadcast Podcast, a popular 30-to-40 minute FFC treadmill workout, along with the chain’s most successful boot camp, called Tread, Rowing, Turf. He applies his boundless energy to numerous volunteer projects as well, including Spin to Break the Cycle, an annual group cycling workout to raise money for Up2Us Sports; One Day 100 Bikes, which provides bikes for students and healthcare workers in Africa; and the Windy City SweatOut, which contributes to Augie’s Quest.

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Itsuwa Hosaka
Assistant Manager, Facilities Development Division
Renaissance, Inc.
Tokyo, Japan

Upon joining Sport Club Renaissance in 2007 as a fitness trainer, Itsuwa Hosaka envisioned that the club could be more than just a place to exercise. “I wanted to make it possible for people to meet others, and feel the joy of achieving their goals here,” she explains.

In 2009, she began to pursue that goal as assistant manager of the facilities development division at Renaissance, Inc., where she has overseen the concept development, design, and construction of 30 facilities that are utilized by 30,000 people. Itsuwa, 35, also led the creation of Cocul Renaissance, a new concept for busy women that combines exercise and relaxation, excitement and peace of mind. It offers premium fitness equipment, a cycling studio, dancing studios, hot yoga, and a sauna and spa. “I design facilities with precise attention to details, like space and usability, so that our staff can be proud, and our customers can value and enjoy them,” she says.

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Nathan Hyland
International Business Development Manager
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Chandler, AZ

Described as “a rainmaker who’s driven to create positive change in the fitness industry,” Nathan Hyland has a long list of accomplishments after just eight years at the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

As NASM’s live events manager, retention manager, and education advisor, Hyland, 33, proposed and pioneered the organization’s sales retention department, scaled the Gymternship program to health clubs in 28 states, and helped launch NASM’s first virtual classroom. In his current role, he’s grown the international channel to 42 countries, while planning and presenting at 18 live events on four continents. The recipient of the Annual Award for NASM Values in 2013, he also won a full scholarship to California University of Pennsylvania through the Pursuit of Excellence Award, earning his M.S. in exercise science in 2018.

Outside of work, Hyland is a volunteer coach for an at-risk youth program at his boxing gym in Tempe, AZ.

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Katy Momirovic
Lead Fitness Specialist, Personal Trainer
LifeWorks of Southwest General
Cleveland, OH

Katy Momirovic joined LifeWorks of Southwest General in 2014 as a fitness specialist and personal trainer, and since then, “She has worked every day to achieve our mission—to help members leave the club feeling better than when they arrived,” notes Karen Raisch-Siegel, executive director of LifeWorks.

In January 2019, a new role was created specifically for Momirovic—lead fitness specialist. Momirovic now develops fitness incentive programs, monthly group personal-training challenges, wellness talks, and new member onboarding processes. A Balanced Habits-certified food coach, she’s increased participation in the nutrition program, and implemented a weight loss regimen. When the club’s fitness coordinator took maternity leave, Momirovic, 29, assumed this role, motivating the fitness staff, implementing personal-training promotions, and serving as the wellness advisor. “I’ve always had a passion to impact as many people as possible,” she explains.

Raisch-Siegel acknowledges, “Katy is a staff member who you genuinely don’t know what you’d do without.”

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Greta Radzevičienė
Head of Operations
Lemon Gym
Vilnius, Lithuania

While earning her bachelor’s degree in economics at Vilnius University in Lithuania, Greta Radzevičienė joined UAB Impuls LTU health club in 2013 as head administrator. She soon realized that she wanted to build a career in the fitness industry. In 2014, she was promoted to project manager of the company’s new line of budget clubs, Lemon Gym, the first low-cost chain in the Baltics.

Radzevičienė was instrumental in negotiating the locations, build-out, presale, staffing, sales, marketing, and more. Today, she’s head of operations for the 15-club chain that serves 30,000 members in Lithuania, Lativa, and Estonia. An IHRSA Institute alumnae, Radzevičienė, 28, also earned her M.B.A. at ISM University of Management and Economics in Vilnius, and is pursuing her EREPS fitness instructor certification. “The best thing about this industry is helping people become happier and more active,” she says. “I welcome more challenges, greater development, and meeting new people.”

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Nikki Reifschneider
Hospitality Director, National Account Executive
True Fitness
Fort Lauderdale, FL

At 34, Nikki Reifschneider has navigated numerous avenues of the fitness industry, including corporate wellness, university fitness centers, group exercise, strength and conditioning, and equipment sales. Joining True Fitness in 2018 as hospitality director, she acknowledges a learning curve, “I was ready for a new challenge, a change in my day-to-day, and an opportunity to grow professionally.” In a short time, Reifschneider increased the company’s hospitality base 30% year over year, earned the 2019 Service From the Heart Award from Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and was selected to support other True sales teams. Previously, she spent four years at the University of Miami as assistant director of fitness and personal training, and two years as assistant director of group exercise.

Reifschneider holds three fitness certifications, serves as a personal training course instructor for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and has an M.S. in exercise science and health promotion from Florida Atlantic University.

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Angelynn Rozario
Manager, Strength & Conditioning Coach
FirstFitt Gym
Viman Nagar, Pune, MH, India

Angelynn Rozario witnessed her mother’s newfound passion for fitness when she left a 25-year career as a school teacher to join the industry. Rozario, 29, followed suit, stepping away from a job in media and advertising to become a group exercise instructor, and earning multiple certifications in group exercise, personal training, and strength and conditioning. In 2013, she began teaching Zumba at FirstFitt, and, in 2015, she was promoted to club manager, and now oversees finance, sales, marketing, recruitment, human resources, and more.

As a strength and conditioning coach, Rozario also trains youth golfers and skaters, and she volunteers as a personal trainer for senior citizens who suffer from conditions such as fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease. “I get a sense of purpose from helping older adults move and work out a little bit steadier, stronger, and pain-free,” she says.

Currently studying Capoeira, Rozario is developing a strength and conditioning program specific to this Brazilian martial arts practice.

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Sarah Schum
Sports and Summer Camp Director
Club Fit
Briarcliff Manor, NY

A lifelong athlete, Sarah Schum is passionate about inspiring a love of sports and activity in others. As Club Fit’s sports and camp director since 2012, she strives daily to do just that for kids of all ages, including the youngest, for whom she has developed the newest line-up of Toddler Sport classes. In 2016, Schum also founded Player Development Hoops (PDH), an organization of 14 boys’ and girls’ AAU basketball teams, ranging from 4th-11th grade.

Operating out of Club Fit, PDH emphasizes empowering young athletes, both on and off the court. The growing program, which recently added a personal trainer, and strength and conditioning coach, has brought added value to Club Fit as a sports training provider.

In addition, Schum, 30, serves as the varsity girls’ basketball coach for Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, NY. “I love being a role model,” she reports. “Teaching and molding kids is unbelievably rewarding.”

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Jacob Thomas
General Manager
Razor Sharp Fitness
Racine, WI

With a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and numerous fitness certifications, Jacob Thomas earned his athletic trainer certification (ATC) in 2012, and became fitness director at Razor Sharp Fitness. He designed an 18,000-square-foot indoor track, created the club’s SPS Sports Performance and the CrossFit Racine program, and grew annual personal training sales from $240,000 to $300,000.

Within a year, he was promoted to general manager, overseeing two facilities, 60 employees, and 4,500 members. Both facilities have experienced increased revenue and profitability, as Thomas strives to foster an environment of servant leadership and belonging for the staff and members. “I’ve worked to build a culture of inclusion and empowerment for members and staff to create communities of engagement and growth,” says Thomas, 34.

Serving on the local chamber of commerce and the board of Young Professionals of Racine, he also encourages his team to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, the Racine County Food Bank, and Thoughts for Food.

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Kelly Weideman
Co-Founder, Business Development Director
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Described by several colleagues as a “trailblazer,” and the “hardest-working woman they know,” Kelly Weideman is universally regarded for her vibrant attitude and relentless ambition.

Invested in helping others, in 2015, she co-founded Evolt, an innovator in body-composition measurement. The system uses a quick, noninvasive scan to determine the Body Wellness Index (BWI), a comprehensive calculation based on the integrity of lean body mass versus total fat mass. Growing the business to 1,000 locations globally and one million Evolt Active app users, Weideman, 31, channels her energy and vision to inspire her team and impact exercisers and the industry. “Our team’s passion is out of this world, and we’re blessed to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

With a diverse background in business, certificates in small business management, business sales, and fitness, from the Human Performance Centre in Gold Coast, Queensland, Weideman is “an absolute gem,” one co-worker points out.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.