(Photo by Jeff Jones)
The Heart of REFIT®️
An Interview with Catherine Ballas
By Sarah Komisky
Catherine Ballas can be summed up in one sentence. In her words, it looks like this: “I love sweatpants, high tops, and people.” Seems fitting for the girl also known as “DJ Capps” decked in a flat bill and flannel, giving her fitness instructional students high fives before she begins a class. It also seems fitting for the entrepreneur who values community, strategizing to create a space where everyone is empowered and belongs. To Ballas, being a CEO of a fitness program, REFIT®️ Revolution, looks a lot like being unapologetically herself. Furthermore, she’s a businesswoman who finds the most fulfillment when she is creating alongside of her BFF’s, co-founders Angela Beeler and Emily Field.
With a natural high-energy vibe and friendly nature, Ballas doesn’t take herself too seriously as she makes a silly face in-between her whip/nae nae or when she spontaneously moonwalks her way off camera in a YouTube video. This girl is not your typical fitness instructor and that’s a good thing. Her interaction is more like being with your bestie – laughing, being silly, and ultimately, having a good time. In many ways, that’s way better because it’s a familiarity we all can relate to. And for Ballas, her interactions are as real as they come quoting on an Insta post after an instructor training in Seattle, “Love these people. Love my job.”
Unlike a gym, there’s no intimidation at REFIT®️. There are different faces. Different sizes. Different sexes. Different ages, and the youngest being the beloved REFIT®️ kids. And the common denominator in it all is fun. Watch her for a few seconds and she makes you feel the urge to get up and dance (even if you feel you can’t). In fact, she makes everyone feel like that. Scroll the YouTube comments and the sentiments are a variety of “Catherine, this looks so fun!” The thirty-five-year-old simply has a knack for making people feel welcome, even her virtual audience.
Full of swag, Ballas’ dance style is reminiscent of pop icons Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars, a nod to her own influences. However, she humbly assesses herself. as an “OK” dancer in comparison to her cousin, Mark Ballas, from Dancing with the Stars.
Growing up in a family of talent, Catherine was a self-taught dancer who was encouraged by her grandpa to express her creativity through dance at family functions with the other grand kids. The competition as well as the performance became the foundation for her love for the craft.
But it was her faith at the center that ultimately inspired and continues to inspire her to create.
“God as the Creator is something that has always been fascinating to me as His child and created one,” says Ballas. “He made me to create and that’s a reflection of his character and who He is. Whether that’s creative problem solving, creating choreography, a new business model, or creating an avenue for people to feel accepted, I see that expressed throughout what I do.”
Defined as a cardio group fitness experience that is movement plus music in a 55-minute workout plan, REFIT®️ focuses on body, mind, and healthy living. According to their mission and vision statement, “The heart is more than a muscle. That person is more than a body…relationships are as important as results.” Fitness for REFIT®️ isn’t just for the fit, it’s for the willing.
The catalyst of the business began with humble beginnings in 2009. Through a series of events that came at a time when the three friends from Waco, Texas were teaching fitness classes at a local church. This evolved into a YouTube channel that offered free choreography for people to be blessed with. Responding to the needs of the people for a fitness program, they all knew it was time to launch out in business. Wanting to expand their horizons with a fitness format, they got together and wrote out their vision and values that became the framework for REFIT®️ Revolution and the shaping of a culture and community they have today.
In 2013, the REFIT®️ fitness program was created as REFIT®️ branched out and licensed instructors apart from the three original founders to teach their form of fitness. Today, REFIT®️ has both female and male (REFIT®️ Dudes) that lead all over the U.S.
She notes, “From the get-go, our intension was never to be the biggest deal in Waco, but it was about how we could impact people with REFIT®️ in deeper and wider ways.”
Today, REFIT®️ creates spaces of belonging that result in transformation with a fitness program that is made to accommodate a variety of goals. The beauty of it is that it encourages others to go at your own pace through various modifications. The goal – no matter the fitness level, you can join in!
When asked how she would like to impact the current generations she shared, “I imagine the pressure to perform, to look, be and act a certain way is probably like nothing it’s ever been before. I think our REFIT®️ people feel a relief from that pressure and an acceptance that they might not find anywhere else. They can literally let their hair down [laughs] in our classes. I think my heart is that they can know at the end of the day that they are loved, accepted, and known, and that they are going to be OK.”
But it’s not only body shaming and insecurities that impend healthy living. Ballas also candidly touched on other obstacles. One being the internal dialog that we wrestle with, along with our natural tendency to simply stay on the couch and watch Netflix. Both real struggles that can stop us, any of us (including herself) from staying motivated.
“Most of our participants would never enter the door of a gym. I do think that’s where REFIT®️ has been very intentional about people having that ‘welcome home’ experience right when people walk through the door. That they are celebrated for stepping foot out of their car. Because we get it, we’re not immune to that feeling.”
Apart of what REFIT®️ has also done has been to re-shape traditional fitness culture, which has zeroed in on results and outward appearances. Their approach is about the person as a whole.
“Our philosophy is, we’re going to focus on the inside and the outside will work itself out. Because lasting change happens when you deal with your insecurities, your fears, your failures, when you gain new perspective on life,” she expresses. “Our approach is to love the whole person, body, mind, soul ,and spirit, and not just their body. You can get that anywhere. But we’re really going to drill down into, do you love who are, how you’re made, how you were created, and then, how can we support you in that?”
Their personal touch on every aspect of the program is one of the pivotal qualities that makes REFIT®️ set apart. From the beginning, not only do they want to know your name, but they want to make themselves available before and after class just hang out to. Valuing self-care they presently continue to make sure people feel connected every step of the way by encouraging participants to connect with one another.
One of the newest ways they are doing this is through monthly gatherings. In light of their recent After being voted the best fitness program in Waco, the team threw a “Best of Waco” party at the end of class dedicated to celebrating the people of REFIT®️ saying, “It’s always been about we over me, it’s never been about one person or personality.”
They also strive to provide an empowering environment with a value conscious music selection from family friendly top 40, to old-school songs that is straight up good ol’ clean fitness.
However, when it comes to the church, dance can be a little misunderstood. While viewed sometimes as strictly negative, Ballas hopes to have more conversations with people who might seem hesitant or even critical of the program sharing, “I think anytime you talk with people instead of at them, you are going to go a million miles further.”
Self-described as three “normal” ladies, these women also aim to live a set-apart life staying true to their morals and values in what they present whether it be what they wear or what kind of music they play. On the art side of it, the fitness instructor hopes to bring unity to the table in the fitness world. The desire is to show people who they are and what they’re about as a community.
“We’re in such a marginalized, divisive, inflammatory culture at the moment and you pick the spear and there is that conversation happening. We want to be a reprieve and an offering that is fun, that is clean, that is positive, that is building up and not tearing down. Wherever people are on their fitness journey, their spiritual journey, that they would be able to feel that value of acceptance and belonging and find freedom in that place.”
At the end of the day, Ballas’ heart is for readers to know it’s been her friendship with her co-founders and her relationship with God that has propelled REFIT®️ forward saying, “Having two business partners who are like-hearted, like-minded, and of the same Spirit, that with the grace of God has kept us together and have kept this community together. I think having those marvelous comrades has been so spectacular. We have a lot of fun together. It wasn’t a five-year business plan when we started, it was friends taking the next step, holding one another’s hands in the process.”
For all things REFIT®️, visit refitrev.com for info on their Waco studio, where you can find a class near you, on demand content, their YouTube channel, and so much more! AND, tune into our “Health Section” monthly to check out REFIT®️ YouTube videos and exclusive MM content as we partner with this awesome fitness program!