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Jill Palmquist with Bahram Akradi

While I appreciate the opportunity to express my perspectives here, sometimes I read something that is more relevant than anything I could write on an issue. This piece from my colleague Jill Palmquist about the rise of women at Life Time really resonated with me, and I see value in sharing it with you. — Bahram Akradi

Life Time has always been synonymous with transformation: Our mission champions positive change one moment, bite, class, conversation, and day at a time, inspiring people to get healthier, stronger, and happier. To find confidence, courage, and balance. To somehow become kinder, perhaps more generous, maybe even a little less self-obsessed. All of this adds up to becoming your best self, and a better human being.

Sometimes change is drastic — there’s a diagnosis, death, divorce, broken femur, or jackpot win.

Other times, it’s smaller and stealthier, until things are just . . . different. You eat less sugar and your jeans fit. Or you meditate and start to notice your mind shifting. Or, one day, there’s suddenly an inexplicable number of whiskers on your chin.

Lately, I’ve observed a couple of things that are different at Life Time.

The first was in a CEO-led marketing meeting around a large, executive conference table. Counting, I realized 11 of the 18 seats were occupied by women. While I’m not that good at math, it was clear that women were taking up more than half the seats.

In the past, our company has gotten a bad rap for a lack of gender balance in leadership. And while there was some to truth to that, what is important now — at least to me — is who I saw around the table that day.

I have worked with, admired, and been friends with many of these women for a long time. They run various aspects of the business, and every day they show up, strong and smart. With constant forward motion, they make decisions and get things done.

This change in who has a seat at the table has happened over time and naturally, because these were the right people consistently doing the right things.

There have also been significant changes driven by the pandemic, which was challenging — yet I’m proud to report that things at Life Time are now pretty fantastic. As a company, we transformed, found opportunity, and emerged stronger than before. And while several things contributed to this, one of the key factors is alignment.

Today, the teams across our athletic country clubs are aligned on our shared priorities, objectives, and strategies. Our corporate teams have intentionally melded even more into the day-to-day of our locations with the goal of providing the very best offerings and opportunities, all to improve the member experience.

This is one of our most important differentiators. Our clubs are like laboratories, bubbling with information. Working like scientists, we do research, test hypotheses, and gain as much understanding as we can. Showing up as anthropologists, we study behavior.

For many team members, the clubs are our third space, where we connect, commune, and create that energy that really can only be found at Life Time.

Which is why I was just “doin’ my job” when I recently attended a new class format that goes deep integrating the mind–body connection.

Many of the same women from those corporate meetings were also in attendance, and there was an almost suspicious amount of laughter — the kind you might hear when all the aunties get together to throw a shower. Then a hush fell over the studio as we settled in.

This is a class where you start on the floor, find a collective breath, then rise together. In the darkness of the room, the rhythm of the music and pounding of feet began to synchronize, creating a physical, almost sacred alignment.

Not everyone there was a mother (or a woman), but I felt a deep, almost maternal energy. Firm and intentional. Profound and unconditional. It seemed to grow, exponentially, as it was transferred between us.

Jessie Syfko Ruof, the creator of this program (who’s half evangelist, half unicorn), said it better than I ever could: “It’s not an accident that every single person in this room is working for this company, on this day, at this time, on this planet. You are all needed. We are all together, yet you are unique. Which means there is a magic you bring that can come only from you.”

This is the alchemy that is Life Time: a business that has residence in those boardrooms, and a brand that is reborn and renewed every single day. Embodied through extraordinary individuals who are committed to their purpose, devoted to each other, and united in a mission to help others.

And isn’t that how the world changes?

Jill Palmquist

Jill Palmquist is the Chief Storytelling Officer for Life Time.

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