Woman on a Mission
Hair by Donnie Lancaster for 6th Street Station
Fitz Koehler is on a fitness mission. She aims to help massive amounts of folks live better and longer. She’s an international fitness consultant, TV personality, publisher, business owner, corporate spokesperson, mentor and mass media producer.
The Fort Lauderdale native grew up in an athletic, sports-oriented family and learned as a young person the value of good diet and exercise. “I developed some pretty bad eating habits as a teen and suffered as a result from weight gain and a poor self-image,” Fitz explained. “But when I was fifteen, I got a job at Spa Lady fitness center and I found out I was actually a natural at teaching fitness.”
This marked a turning point in Fitz’s life. She chose a path to a healthier lifestyle that later led to a thrilling career.
Fitz earned a B.A. in Political Science with minors in Communications and Education from the University of Florida in 1995 and a Master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Sciences from UF in 1998. She recalled, “I was fortunate to work at the Student Rec and Fitness Center teaching aerobics classes during college and even served as a fitness director for the cruise ship Crystal Harmony one summer on its voyage through Europe. That experience gave me a taste for global travel that I still enjoy.”
While in graduate school, Fitz met her future husband, Rob Koehler, who was already working in law enforcement. Today he’s a Lieutenant at the Gainesville Police Department and is, according to Fitz, “perfect in every way.” Now married sixteen years, the couple have two children, Ginger, eleven, and Parker, nine—both students at Meadowbrook Elementary School.
Fitz decided early on to form her own company, Fitzness International, LLC. Under this business umbrella she has worked with a wide range of celebrities, including Brooke Shields, Donnie Osmond, Cheryl Tiegs, Vanessa Williams, The Wiggles and Olympians Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Fitz also takes time to devote her considerable expertise to one very special enterprise, The Morning Mile. The Morning Mile is a before-school running and walking program geared toward preschool, elementary, middle school and high school students which allows them to exercise by doing laps in the half hour before school begins.
“I incorporated the best practices of existing programs and created a guidebook, along with key pieces of equipment for easy duplication and major success,” Fitz explained. “The kids show up to expend some youthful energy, build endurance, burn calories and increase their level of health and fitness. It was designed to create lifelong habits they can carry in to their 90s, promote pride in their accomplishments, and encourage discipline and focus. It’s also just a lot of fun for them in a totally healthy, friendly, stress-free atmosphere.”
Now instituted in over one hundred and sixty schools, including 26 in Alachua County, The Morning Mile recently celebrated reaching its millionth mile. “What’s so rewarding about this program is all of the unforeseen and unpredicted benefits,” Fitz commented.
She explains that besides combating childhood obesity, The Morning Mile promotes family values. Parents, and even grandparents, join in running with their children and grandchildren. Teachers have noticed a dramatic increase in calmness and focus in students who participate, as well as a decrease in tardiness. Academic performance improves and kids are able to socialize in a mutually supportive way, happy to share their successes and encourage each other. These running/walking achievements are rewarded with a simple coffee stirrer for each lap, and then a necklace and individual sneaker charms for every five miles they walk or run.
“We play fun music for the kids to listen to while they exercise, and what you hear on top of that is a lot of laughter, excitement and camaraderie,” Fitz noted. “When they can’t run because of a storm, they are really disappointed.”
For Fitz, The Morning Mile is a personal investment in the next generation. But the program’s success wouldn’t be possible without sponsorship. It takes a one-time $1,250 tax-deductible donation by a private sponsor (corporate or individual) to set up a Morning Mile school operation.
“It’s a great marketing tool for businesses that want to invest in children, health and education,” Fitz said. “We display a large banner on the school field with their name
on it. By partnering with The Morning Mile, they are promoting the physical and academic well-being of local students, while garnering genuine loyalty and appreciation from the community. If we can raise a generation of strong, healthy, balanced children, we’ll save American tax-payers billions of dollars, while significantly slashing our growing rates of disease.”
Fitz brings her passionate speaking talent to a number of large national and international forums. Her client list includes ABC and CBS News, Office Depot, Disney, Tropicana and Oakley. A frequent guest on TV news and talk radio, she likes to joke that she has a PhD in harassment, but people simply respond to her enormous enthusiasm for health and fitness. In the past, Fitz has demonstrated her full-contact kickboxing skills on ESPN and was featured in the big screen action movie, Exreme Force.
When she isn’t speaking on fitness for companies in faroff places like Jamaica or Singapore or doing the New York/Chicago/Los Angeles triangle of media events as a corporate spokesperson, Fitz is working on fitness DVDs like her Flip-Flop Abs video. It hits the core spots of the abs, back, and hips in three twelve to fifteen-minute workouts. Her online magazine, Fitzness.com, is read by millions each year. She said, “I don’t want to help just a few people get healthier; I want to reach the masses!”
Fitz also enjoys mentoring men and women throughout the country—people like herself who are strongly motivated to create their own businesses and fulfill their professional dreams. “It takes vision, discipline and determination, but anything is possible if you want it badly enough. I’m a true believer in the risk/reward principal of the private sector. I’ve received a lot of support in my life from great, capable friends and associates. I just want to give back as much as I can.”
With such an impressive track record, Fitz is indeed on target to accomplish her long-term mission to, as she puts it, “blanket the nation with fitness.”